Turlock High’s FFA program has been a California powerhouse for the better part of the last decade, having earned eight consecutive Chapter Group titles at both the State and Stanislaus County Fairs in addition to laying claim to Most Outstanding Project awards during seven of those years.
Many students have come and gone during the eight year stretch of success, but one constant in the FFA program has been its advisor—Chad Russell.
“We definitely have been very blessed as far as our success in the past eight years,” Russell said.
The 2000 Bulldog alumnus assumed the role of FFA advisor and ag teacher exactly eight years ago, making him arguably the most successful advisor in the program’s history. Last November, Russell was recognized in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Jeff Denham. He was also a recipient of the Yosemite Regional Occupation Teacher of the Year award from the Stanislaus County Board of Education.
While at THS, Russell secured University of California approval for several agriculture courses to help facilitate professional paths for his high school students, whether that is an immediate career in welding or a college degree. He also forged relationships in the surrounding agriculture community, which has afforded his students the ability to work on real world projects. His students are sought after for welding jobs due to the reputation Russell has built around the quality of his students’ workmanship.
But after eight long and exciting years, Russell will no longer represent Turlock High as he will soon be taking the next step in his professional career when he assumes the position of welding professor at Merced College.
“I wanted the opportunity to focus on the welding area a little more than what I do here,” Russell said. “I put a lot of thought into it. It was a very difficult decision to make, to leave a place that you went to high school and had been at for eight years and had success.”
While Russell has had fun and success with his FFA students, ag mechanics is a field he is deeply passionate about. With his move to the collegiate ranks he will now not only get the opportunity to focus on ag mechanics a little more, he will also have a greater impact on the industry as a whole.
“It’s going to tie me into the industry a little bit better. I’ll be training people to go directly into the workforce,” Russell said. “I’m going to be training some adults and some younger people to go out and get a job in the welding field right after they leave my program.”
When fall arrives Russell will get to work shaping a new welding program as he sees fit. But while he will be on a new campus teaching college students for the first time in his life, Russell will not be completely amidst strangers.
“There was a lot of disappointment (when I announced I was leaving), but quite a few students who graduated this year, maybe 11 or 12, have actually signed up at Merced and are taking classes with me next year,” he added. “So they’re moving right along with me.”