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WIU Ag Alumni Leads Student to GROWMARK Essay Contest Win

January 21, 2022

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MACOMB, IL - - "Wonderful is how I would describe him," said student Sidney Stiers when asked about her teacher and mentor in the field of agriculture, Western Illinois University alumnus Kent Rigg.

Stiers was recently selected as a runner-up in the 29th annual GROWMARK essay contest. This year's theme was, "What, in your opinion, has changed for the better in the agricultural industry as a result of the pandemic?" She was awarded $500 and her FFA program was awarded $300. Rigg, her FFA advisor at Williamsfield High School, is a 2001 graduate of the WIU Agriculture Education Program.

"My family has participated in this contest in the past, but what really made it easy for me to choose to participate was the fact that I loved the topic," said Stiers. "FFA and agriculture have impacted my life, and both this organization and Mr. Rigg have encouraged me to go outside my comfort zone."

When looking into his future, WIU was practically a given for Rigg. Not only is he local to the area, but he sensed an atmosphere of family at the University that he wanted to be a part of. Even now, in his current role at Williamsfield High School, a family atmosphere and close-knit community were crucial reasons he was drawn to apply and stay there for the past 13 years. Now, he serves as a mentor and a "second father figure" to students, especially those he advises in FFA.

"I love the opportunity to give students advice and steer them in the right direction," said Rigg. "Even if a student only tries something once and decides it is not for them, at least they tried it once."

While Stiers was originally hesitant about joining FFA and participating in various events, with help from Rigg and a little bit of courage, she soon found events that she loved and was able to learn which events were not for her. Rigg's advice to "try everything once" has held true for her, as well as her peers, pushing her to apply for positions and get more involved.

Even while facing the many challenges the pandemic has posed to them, including event cancellations as well as drops in involvement, this has been a successful year for Williamsfield FFA.

"There have been many challenges, but this has still been one of our most successful years," said Rigg."I am grateful for the ambitious students who have been active even during the pandemic. During these difficult times, many people have been forced to see how important Agriculture really is and how it impacts everyone. Now that there are shortages and not all products are always there, people are starting to pay attention. We have known the importance of this industry for a while, but it is interesting to see others discovering it."

As a WIU grad, Rigg is grateful for his education and vast knowledge of the agricultural field, and for his happiness within his current role as a teacher and FFA advisor. He hopes recent and future graduates of WIU will have the same experiences in their post-graduate careers.

"I would advise recent graduates and soon-to-be graduates to find something they love doing," said Rigg. "Working in a field and career you love is essential. If you find yourself in a job that you don't absolutely love going to, don't hesitate to move or find something new."

For more information about WIU's School of Agriculture, visit

Posted By: Rachel Greene (
Office of University Communications & Marketing