Organizational meeting held two weeks ago, Wednesday
by Joash Tiarks
Two weeks ago Wednesday, a small group of parents, staff, and students gathered in the Okaw Valley High School Ag classroom to initiate the process of forming an FFA Alumni Association.
Aspen Cassady, now in her second year as the ag instructor at the high school, had planned this meeting since her first day on the job. The National FFA Organization and the National FFA Alumni Association have played a pivotal role in her own career development in the agricultural field, and Cassady says she wanted to see the same opportunities made available to as many students as possible in the community.
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Membership in the alumni association is open to any and all adults who desire to support agricultural education and the FFA. All that is required to join is the filling out of a simple form and the payment of a minimal annual membership fee of $15. But what all does membership entail?
“The alumni association is essentially a support group for the FFA chapter,” explained Cassady. “Each school has the opportunity to have a chapter which consists of high school student members. Alumni programs are intended for those who have graduated high school and would like to give back. FFA alumni associations are at no cost to the district. It’s entirely funded through donations, membership fees, etc.”
A student may have no real interest in farming itself but strongly desire to pursue technology and incorporate computers and GPS into the numbers of harvest planning, prediction, and tracking. This diversity presents certain challenges, as well as opportunities, for both student and Instructor. For instance, how does the instructor find the time and resources to meet all the students’ needs? This is where an alumni association can step in and assist the ag program to see that the young person receives adequate attention. Any interested adult may join and donate time or money toward helping provide the experiences each student needs to pursue their goals and interests.
At Wednesday’s meeting Cassady outlined several of her goals for the association, the first of which would potentially expose the students to a key link in the global chain of the agricultural world. She would like to send as many students as possible to the Washington Leadership Conference, during which the participants get to interact with the Secretary of Agriculture and some even get to meet the President of the United States. This exposure can raise awareness of how national and global issues affect local and regional agricultural choices and careers.
Additionally, the FFA advisor would like to build a greenhouse for the students, to update some of the equipment in the shop, and to acquire a plot of land in the near future to practically demonstrate to the student what it takes to run a business. All of these projects would give the students a hands-on look at much of what is involved in today’s complex agricultural market. A local businessman has already made a garden space available to the students for planting this summer, the produce of which they may then sell to turn a profit and invest back into the program.
This is not the first time the idea has been proposed to form an alumni association in the school district, but this time Cassady says she is determined to see it through.
“Most importantly I want to increase the visibility of the (FFA)program,” she said. “There are a lot of areas we do not touch on right now.”
Having shared part of her vision for the Ag program at Okaw Valley, it seems Cassady may have the energy and backing to make it a reality for her 70 or more students.
“Our election meeting is May 1. Basically, rosters will be sent into the state, and the program must include at least 10 members, which has already occurred, for the program to be active. Meetings will be held the first Thursday of each month.”
Cassady says she feels the school administration is very supportive of the effort and just as eager to see this next generation of farmers, business people, and leaders succeed.
“It’s all about valuing the future of our young people and the future of agriculture,” she said. “We need more out there advocating for the future of our students because if we never set the bar, show our students what they can do in an ever-evolving field and be there to mentor and support them, then the impossible never seems possible.”
For more information or to join, contact Cassady at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the high school at 665-3631.