Career Day Scholarship 2020

Chicoine and Vander Veen awarded 2020 O'Brien County Career Day Scholarships

Emily Chicoine, a 2020 graduate of South O’Brien High School, and John Vander Veen, a 2020 graduate of Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn High School, were recently awarded O’Brien County Career Day’s first-ever scholarships. The scholarships were set to be awarded during the 2020 career day in April; however, that was canceled due to COVID-19.

The mission of O’Brien County Career Day is to provide opportunities for high school students to learn about the vast variety of professional careers within the county borders and to encourage those students to return to the area after graduation.

“O’Brien County Career Day is a workforce recruitment strategy aimed at bringing the area’s top talent back to the county after graduation to fill the many high-quality jobs that we have available,” said Kiana Johnson, O’Brien County Economic Development Director.

To be eligible to receive the scholarship, students had to have received a high school diploma or a high school equivalency diploma from a participating school between the years of 2017 to 2020. Applicants must also be a resident or plan to become a resident of O’Brien County and/or be employed or self-employed in the county.

Curt Strouth, Community Development Director with the Sheldon Chamber and Development Corporation who served on the scholarship application review committee, said that initially, only one scholarship was going to be awarded; however, with COVID-19 causing the 2020 career day to be canceled, the decision was made to award two scholarships this year.

“Both John and Emily turned in outstanding applications and clearly demonstrated their commitment to returning to O’Brien County which is extremely important to our committee,” Strouth said.

This fall, Chicoine will attend Morningside College in Sioux City, and pursue a double major in agronomy and agribusiness, while also running on the track and field and cross-country teams. She appreciates the supportive and welcoming environment in O’Brien County.

“The O’Brien County communities are very supportive and give off that small-town feel where everyone knows everyone, and it is a great feeling,” Chicoine said. “I would not trade the friendships I have made or the opportunities that I have experienced since I moved here during my junior year. O’Brien County is definitely an area that I would like to come back to raise my family in.”

Vander Veen will attend Dordt University this fall and major in agronomy. He plans to return to his family farm, raise crops and livestock, and work alongside his father at their Pioneer Seed Agency in Hartley. Vander Veen says it has always been his plan to return to O’Brien County and continue doing what he loves every day.

“I will be the third generation to farm this land, and it is important to me to carry on this legacy,” Vander Veen said. “Since both of my grandfathers farmed in O’Brien County, returning to take over what they started means a lot to me. I cannot think of a better place to work or raise my future family. Rural communities still have a lot to offer, and I intend to do what I can to help them continue to thrive.”

Strouth and Johnson admitted that the scholarship committee had a difficult decision selecting a scholarship recipient which led to the decision to award two scholarships during this inaugural year.

“On behalf of the O’Brien County Career Day Committee, I wish to thank all of our scholarship applicants for applying, and I encourage all youth to consider returning to O’Brien County when they begin their careers,” Johnson said. “We look forward to our county’s future and know that these youth are our leaders of tomorrow.”

For more information on O’Brien County Career Day, contact Strouth at 712-324-2813 or or Johnson at 712-957-1313 or