At the end of the last school year Pitman High School FFA students made their voices heard during a Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting, pleading for more support for their campus’ young agricultural program. The group returned Tuesday night to share just how far their program has come in the past four months, boasting an increased enrollment, two new instructors and a portfolio of ag-related events the FFA chapter has participated in.
The group’s June appearance in front of the Board of Trustees marked the second time that PHS FFA students brought their concerns to a meeting, speaking out about the negative impact felt from PHS entering fair season with just one ag teacher and the inequality of ag programs in the District, while Turlock High School maintained five ag teachers at the time. Statistics were also presented, showing the lack of interest from PHS students in taking ag courses, resulting in a drop of offered ag classes.
As a result of the students’ June presentation, both Career Technical Education and Program Equity Director David Lattig and the Board encouraged the PHS FFA students to help grow more interest in the ag program, and during Tuesday night’s presentation the group returned singing a happier tune.
To generate interest in the PHS FFA chapter, its members participated in the school’s Club Rush for the first time ever, setting up a booth on the PHS campus during the event and informing passing students about ag and the opportunities the FFA can offer. PHS FFA President Carolyn Boster told the Board that since Club Rush, enrollment for the club increased drastically, with one student even switching into ag classes immediately after speaking with the FFA members.
“We’ve come so far since the last time we spoke to the Board,” said PHS FFA fall reporter Carlee Thomson.
On Sept. 11, the FFA chapter’s efforts at Club Rush were rewarded when 150 students showed up to their meeting, which also featured an ice cream social afterward. Boster noted that 150 members at a meeting is a 30 percent increase from meetings in the past, and the group also highlighted its new Facebook page, which has amassed over 100 likes.
To continue their outreach efforts, the PHS FFA chapter will be attending more events throughout the school year, including the Walnut Elementary School Carnival and Senior Day at Modesto Junior College. The chapter was also chosen to be tour guides for the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau’s Ag Adventure day, where they will teach 1,000 third graders about the ag industry.
One request that the PHS FFA students made at the end of last school year was that the District seek out teachers for their program who are accredited to teach agriculture and would work well with their remaining FFA advisor, Luke Gocke. According to Gocke, the new PHS ag teachers Adeline Amador and Nicolette Schiber have exceeded the chapter’s expectations.
“They fit the bill,” he said.
Amador and Schiber recently accompanied students on a weekend retreat to leadership camp, said Thomson.
“We love them so much, and we had a great time,” she said, adding, “Class is going really well.”
The FFA members ended their presentation to the Board with, quite literally, the fruits of their labor: giftbags filled with produce harvested from the TUSD farm, courtesy of a new Farm Management course offered at PHS.
“I really like the fact that you’re reaching out to all grade levels, including your own, sharing your spirit and your love for agriculture. I think that’s really important that you’re sharing your love for agriculture,” said Board Member Ken Malech. “That love and that passion that you have and that I see right now is only going to translate into more students wanting to join FFA.”