More than a dozen members of Future Farmers of America (FFA) Chapters from throughout the St. Tammany Parish Public School System attended the School Board meeting Thursday night for their annual report and update on awards won and soon to be won.
Board members were told that Creekside Junior High School and Fifth Ward Junior High School FFA Chapters have been named among the top five finalists in the nation for the National Middle School FFA Chapter Award. In October, several FFA members from those two schools will be attending the national convention in Indianapolis to make presentations in that national competition.
Earlier this year, St. Tammany chapters were recognized as outstanding chapters at the state level in Louisiana: Folsom Junior High, Lee Road Junior High, Pearl River High, Fifth Ward Junior High and Creekside Junior High.
At the Board meeting, Senior Supervisor of Instruction Denise Parker introduced the FFA members in attendance, their parents and teacher sponsors, saying that St. Tammany has long had a tradition of excellence in the school-based agriculture programs of which FFA has been an integral part.
In a variety of FFA competitions in the past year, St. Tammany FFA students have received over 85 livestock show awards in poultry, beef, sheep, and swine. “But these awards came not just showing their animals, but in judging livestock as well,” Ms. Parker stated. “Our students also garnered awards in horticulture, floriculture, and forestry. Some of our students attained top honors in Public Speaking and Parliamentary Procedure as well. National FFA Scholarships, State Literary Rally, and Science Fair Project awards have also been given to our students to recognize their hard work, dedication and achievements.”
Activities for members include Community Service Projects, Industry Based Certification Programs, and Dual Enrollment .
St. Tammany public schools have FFA programs at six junior high schools, Fontainebleau Junior High, Fifth Ward Junior High, Creekside Junior High, Folsom Junior High, Monteleone Junior High, and Lee Road Junior High. Five high schools also have programs as well, Pearl River High, Fontainebleau High, Northshore High, Lakeshore High, and Covington High. “These teachers are instructing about 1000 students in our high schools alone,” Ms. Parker said.
Ag teachers involved with FFA include Annabeth Neason at Creekside Junior High, David Lindsey at Monteleone Junior High, Tommy Peters at Fifth Ward Junior High, Ray Core at Folsom Junior High, Suzy Thomas at Lee Road Junior High, Payton Monteleone at Covington High, Todd Tarifa and Peter Cannizzaro at Northshore High, Doug Fischer and Billy Mayfield at Pearl River High, Amanda Lee at Lakeshore High, and John O’Bryant and Terry Toney at Fontainebleau High
Fontainebleau High School received a $2500 “Food For All” grant from the FFA this year. It will involve planting a vegetable garden that will provide low-income families with fresh vegetables to enhance their diets, Ms. Parker explained.
The Industry Based Certification opportunities are growing in popularity. “Our high school students, in addition to receiving high school credit, can also receive valuable portable credentials, IBC’s, and/or dual enrollment,” Ms. Parker noted. “Last year, our high school students received credits in NCCER Core, Meat Processing, Welding Level One, and Canine Care.” Eleven students received dual enrollment credit, giving them a headstart on college credits.
Community service projects conducted by FFA members range from teaching elementary students about a healthy lifestyle with “Body Walk,” (a larger than life-size overview of good personal healthcare practices) to the “MooDat competition, participation in the Parish Fair mini farm, and tractor safety workshops.
The culminating event of the school year is the FFA Banquet, a time where parents, students, and teachers can gather to honor all their student achievements.
The Board then heard from William Mayfield and Victoria Novitsky, seniors from Pearl River High who have been elected Louisiana State FFA Vice President and State Treasurer respectively. They told how agriculture programs and the FFA have impacted their lives. Mayfield said the FFA has helped him build confidence in public speaking and become more active in community service. “Through the FFA I have learned many skills that lay the groundwork for my future. I know that I can now accomplish anything I set my mind to,” Mayfield stated.
Miss Novitsky said, “This organization teaches leadership through experience, putting skills learned into action. I have performed better as a student and have become a more responsible citizen as a result of my FFA participation over the past five years.”
“While some view the FFA as just another club or a farming thing, I view the FFA as a life-changing experience,” she said. Her blue corduroy jacket is a symbol of unity, she told the Board. “A unity of members across the world by being an advocate for agriculture.”
“With all of our FFA students’ awards, accomplishments, and honors, they do have very bright futures,” said Ms. Parker.
Board President Stephen J. “Jack” Loup, III congratulated the FFA members for all their recognitions and wished them well at the National convention in October.
The National FFA Organization encourages all agricultural education students to explore careers in Agriscience. Founded in 1928, the group’s mission is to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population by viewing agriculture as not just planting and harvesting, and also seeing it as a science, a business and an art.
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