gmhTODAY 15 gmhToday July Aug 2017 - Page 45

FFA Equips Students for Lifetime Opportunities Written By Laura Corea-Hernandez, PIO, Gilroy Unified School District T he roots of the National FFA Organization go back to the Great Depression when many farmers lost their land and livelihood. Originally known as Future Farmers of America, the organization was established to ensure that middle and high school students have access to agricultural education. Today, California has the nation’s second largest FFA chapter with more than 74,000 members, including an enthusiastic cohort of students in the Gilroy Unified School District. Participating in FFA allows them to pursue a broad range of agricultural career pathways to become future biologists, chemists, veterinarians, engineers and business leaders as well as production farmers. The FFA motto says it all: “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.” Along with core sub- jects, students in the FFA program learn practical career and life skills. One day they might be competing at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, and the next, networking with their peers at a state- wide conference. One such student is Julianna Figone, a Gilroy High School senior who’s looking forward to starting her freshman year in the Agricultural Science program at the University of Idaho this fall. Figone comes from a multi-generational family of agriculturalists. Her grandpar- ents were also in the FFA at Gilroy High School. Through FFA she is pursuing her dream to one day become a Water Resource Attorney representing farmers. “I joined the program because of my family’s tradition but I have learned so much more. FFA focuses on an individ- ual student’s interests, which has helped me to reach my goals,” Figone said. Gilroy High FFA students benefit from a range of education experiences: carrying out in-depth agricultural and horticultural projects, learning organizational leadership, honing public speaking and job interview skills, collaborating on community service projects such as Toys for Tots and Wreaths Across America, assisting with farm clean-ups, and more. Another FFA enthusiast is Gilroy High freshman Yliana Salcido. She’s already finding the agricultural science and biology classes are rewarding, and raising a pig at the school farm is some- thing she thought she would never get a chance to do. “I have learned so much and know I’m going to learn more with each year,” Salcido said. “I am definitely going to stay in the program.” Teachers Elida Moore and Chelsi Faria lead Gilroy High’s FFA Program. Both are Cal Poly San Luis Obispo grads and FFA alums. With help from the Gilroy FFA Boosters Club, the two teachers are leading FFA students in a revitalization of the campus “Greenhouse,” which stood unused for nearly a decade. Fundraising and grant efforts have provided more than $80,000 for repairs and improvements. This fall the Greenhouse will reopen, ready to support students’ horticultural projects, from flowers to crops to landscaping. Gilroy High School senior, Hannah GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN JULY/AUGUST 2017 Comin, aspires to be an Equine Veterinarian. Grateful to have Moore and Faria as her teachers, she said, “They really push you out of your comfort zone to what your potential is. They are going to find the right position for you to become involved.” According to Moore, FFA encourages students in learning, giving back to the community, and career planning and development through its conferences. “These students really do develop into the wonderful leaders that we have and they will be involved in shaping tomorrow’s future.” Along with traditional agricultural careers, FFA students can also pursue emerging agricultural science, engineering, and technology fields. Juniors Yelena Perez and Sierra Sanchez said the program has opened doors beyond what they’d imagined was possible in terms of careers. Perez aspires to a teaching career in the agricultural field. Her response to students curious about FFA: “The program will do a lot for you, doors are going to be opened that you didn’t know were there.” Sanchez, who received a Floral Certificate from the program, said her career ambition is to serve in the U.S. Air Force and work with drone technology. “Joining the FFA program gives you many opportu ѥ́ѡɽ՝)ѥѥ̰ɕ͍́ȴ)̸͡$ٔЁɥ)ɹͼՍt)=ѡՑ́͡ɔ)́ѡЁѡeɔݕ)ɕɕѼՔɕ)չѥ́ѡɽ)ѽ乍(