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Two local young scientists hailed at White House event

When a serious infestation of aphids or plant lice recently threatened to gobble up the green in their school's greenhouse, Celine Patrick and Ashlee Tarro solved the problem without harsh pesticides.

For their work, a recent White House event for students who excel in science honored these two local members of the National FFA Organization.

Tarro, 15, of Auburn, and Patrick, 15, of Lake Tapps, members of the Sumner High School FFA chapter in Sumner, received the invitation to the 2014 White House Science Fair Tuesday. The event honored the accomplishments of student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions throughout the U.S.

This year's event included a specific focus on girls and women who have excelled in STEM and whose work has inspired the next generation.

Patrick and Tarro took first place in their category and division at the 2013 National FFA Agriscience Fair. The annual competition during the National FFA Convention & Expo features the research and results of FFA members who plan on pursuing careers in the science and technology of agriculture. Their accomplishment earned them the special White House invite.

The duo's research was critical to creating healthy and safe plants for Sumner FFA members to take home to their mothers as Mother's Day gifts.

"We explored alternative methods for their control," Tarro said. "All three of the methods that we tested proved safe, though some were more labor intensive than others."

Both students this school year took an elective science class. Patrick studied biotechnology; and Tarro studied honors chemistry.

In the White House East Room, Patrick and Tarro listened to remarks by President Obama and mingled with other guests, among them their peers, professional scientists, senior government leaders and private sector representatives.

"We are happy to have Celine and Ashley as our honored guests," said Dr. Danielle Carnival, senior policy advisor at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. "The previous three science fairs have been favorite events of President Obama as he is always eager to learn more about what the most promising and impressive young scientists, engineers and inventors have been up to across the country."

The National FFA Organization provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education to 579,678 student members in grades seven through 12 who belong to one of 7,570 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The event was webcast live at www.whitehouse.gov/live.

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