American dreams – Meeting the needs of today’s agricultural students
Forget what you may have known about the Future Farmers of America from years ago. A longtime myth exists that FFA students have to live on a farm or ranch to be a member, but today’s FFA student is more typical of a suburban or urban setting. Today’s students are utilizing technology in classes such as Veterinary Medicine, Agri-Business, and Small Animal Production to become the newest generation of Ag entrepreneurs and farmers and ranchers.
With 205 students in grades 9th -12th and three full-time teachers, Guthrie’s FFA program is one of the largest chapters in the state of Oklahoma. The program is consistently recognized with Superior Chapter Awards and regularly sends students to state and national competitions. “Although we are proud of our students competition achievements, competitions are not the only way of judging a students growth,” said Guthrie High School FFA teacher Marty Jones.
But how do you know if students are growing and learning if they are not tested with a traditional standardized test? Just ask one of the three FFA teachers at Guthrie High School how their students are demonstrating growth and measurement as well as developing leadership and critical thinking skills that employers are desperately craving. “Our students have to think on their feet, you have minutes and seconds to respond to an animal in distress,” said Guthrie High School FFA teacher Clay Drake. “We constantly remind students that these animals are relying on them and it’s their responsibility for its needs,” said Drake.
Welding students are graded on their improvement in areas such as bevels and understanding the role critical temperatures play in the heating process. Ag students are learning about the life cycles of pigs, sheep and goats, while others have the ability to give detailed descriptions on the muscular system of animals and how much money they will bring in at market.
Students who are raising and showing animals are 100 percent responsible for feeding and caring for the animals, this also means caring for the animals before and after school and during holiday breaks, while students and faculty are gone. The FFA teachers equate the overall student experience to better management decisions they will make in life. Including time management, participating in sports verses feeding animals and finding someone to trade or support them in their absence.
Sometimes investing your own sweat and tears provides the most valuable life lessons. Dealing with the death of a farm animal is one of the life lessons that are faced by farmers across the world. Imparting these difficult but important lessons to students is just one part of the mission of Guthrie High Schools FFA program.
Clay Drake, Marty Jones, and Jordan Miller have big dreams for their students and their program. All three teachers are new to Guthrie High School for the 2014-15 school year and both Jones and Miller are first year teachers, but nothing is holding this group back.
When planning for the school year and dreaming of what the program could become, the teachers had a vision to build new barns to house animals and teach students. Superintendent, Dr. Mike Simpson is proud of the history of the FFA program, but also on the legacy the instructors hope to leave. “It is great to see such inspiration and commitment to the Guthrie High School FFA program. Their hard work and determination to provide students with a solid and lasting education will serve the students and the community for years to come,” said Simpson.
Building a barn is not part of the Guthrie Public School budget, so the teachers set out to fundraise the $100,000 necessary to build the barns. The teachers and committee of community supporters (not all former FFA students) have raised in cash and pledges $106,500. Two sold out dinners have brought in much of the money as well as several large private donations.
The teachers have recommended to the Guthrie Board of Education that the new facilities be named the Ralph Dreessen and Ernest Davis Agricultural Education Complex, both longtime advocates of the Guthrie High School FFA program.
Anyone interested in making a donation may contact Drake, Jones or Miller at 405-260-6372.