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FFA Students Offered Educational Opportunities

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National FFA Week Feb. 16-23

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

EAST TEXAS – This week, Feb. 16 through Feb. 23, has been designated as National FFA Week. This year, nearly 700,000 FFA members “… will celebrate the role agriculture plays in our lives while sharing the message of agricultural education as part of National FFA Week, the national organization stated on its website.

Established in 1948 by the National FFA Board of Directors, the week always runs from Saturday (Feb. 16) to Saturday (Feb. 23). It also always includes George Washington’s birthday on Feb. 22.

The FFA strives to recognize the legacy the first president left behind as both an agriculturist and farmer while incorporating science, business, academia, technology and much more into classroom as well as hands-on learning modules.

In an effort to honor the FFA, The Messenger spoke to several FFA Advisors in Houston and Anderson Counties to find out why FFA is still a vital part of education in East Texas and where do they see their individual programs in the future.

Starting in Slocum, FFA Advisor Lance Thomas said FFA is important today because it still instills   leadership in kids.

“It teaches them a responsibility to themselves and others. Right now, I’m watching the students as they rebuild a bunch of lamb and goat cages for the Anderson County Livestock Show. FFA teaches students how to take care of themselves and be available to take care of others also,” he said.

As far as what he sees for the Slocum FFA program, Thomas chuckled.

“It’s funny that we’re talking about this because right now the students I’m watching are in eighth grade. This is my fourth year being in Slocum and our numbers keep getting bigger and bigger. We get them started in junior high and get them to find something fun and something they like, whether it is animals, shop stuff or whatever,” Thomas said.

“For a school our size,” he added, “probably three-fourths of each class (9-12) is in an ag class. We are growing as we speak,” he said.

Up the road in Grapeland, before you even enter the FFA building, placards attached to the side of the building indicate the Grapeland FFA has a legacy most other programs wish they had. National Championships are displayed on the outside of the building, while inside the District, Area and State Championships adorn the walls.

The Grapeland FFA program has helped finance students’ post-high school careers through numerous four-year scholarships and certifications earned while in high school.

Grapeland FFA Advisor Shellee Goolsby said she believed FFA was important because it helped prepare students for both college and future careers.

“Depending on the pathway a student chooses, either college or career, it helps prepare the student for what lies ahead. Animal science – if they go all the way through – it can help them with a pre-vet program. A welding certification can help a student land a job at Vulcraft or somewhere similar,” she said.

As to what the future holds for the Grapeland FFA, Goolsby said she anticipates it will continue to grow.

“We are offering more pathways which appeal to a variety of students. Right now our pathways are ag mechanics, animal science and plant science.

Attempts to rontact the Elkhart FFA were unsuccessful as of press time.

 

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.