March 6, 2020 Achievements

FFA story continues with new chapters

Sioux City Career Academy FFA Reporter Valerie Rosales and Agricultural Educaiton Teacher and FFA Advisor Taylor Weidauer
Sioux City Career Academy FFA Reporter Valerie Rosales and Agricultural Educaiton Teacher and FFA Advisor Taylor Weidauer.

Many students across Nebraska and Iowa are members of the premiere students’ organization geared towards preparing young people for careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture. That is the FFA.

While the organization was founded more than 90 years ago, it remains a vibrant part of many communities in agricultural-heavy states such as Nebraska and Iowa. In fact, in 2019 the organization welcomed four new chapters in the Cornhuskers state, and six new chapters in the Hawkeye state.

Hay Springs, Kenesaw, Orchard and Potter-Dix community schools in Nebraska, and Clear Lake, Sioux City, Ogden, Mt. Pleasant, Ames and Moville in Iowa established a new FFA chapter last year. Each reports itself off to a strong start with ample support from their school administration and their individual communities.

Nebraska upstarts

It may have been easier for Hay Springs Schools Introduction to Ag Science/Ag Business teacher Russell Lechtenberg to get support from his school administrators, as he is also the superintendent. He said there has been tremendous community support, as well.

“I already taught the ag classes and both the board and I wanted an FFA chapter,” Lechtenberg said. “They used to have an ag program here years ago. I think it was in the mid-‘60s it was dropped.”

Fellow FFA District 12 school Potter-Dix, located in Potter, hired Alyssa Lewark as their new ag teacher in April. As a former FFA member, she was thrilled to learn that they also wanted to establish an FFA chapter.

“Several big farming families and the school board pushed for FFA,” she said. “There has been a lot of community support.”

Kenesaw Schools are in District 6. The school and the community wanted an ag program, so they hired Siera Meyer as an ag science teacher. Having also been an FFA member in high school, she was aware of the many benefits of the program.

Jessy Hilkemeier had been living in Orchard — which is in District 4 — for about 18 months when the shop/vocational ag teacher position opened.

“I was familiar with the school,” she said. “I have an ag education degree; it was a natural fit.”

Iowa upstarts

It was a little different for Woodbury Central High School teacher Kelsey Schramm. The school, located in Moville, Iowa, already offered ag courses, but had no FFA presence. The school made it a prerequisite for the ag teacher to establish an FFA chapter.

Schramm, the ag welding, ag construction and animal science teacher, dove right in. She said with generous help from the administration, she was able to get the legwork done for starting a new chapter and even wrote the charter.

“The staff, community and administration — everyone has been very supportive,” Schramm said.

A unique concept in ag education is provided by the Sioux City Career Academy. The career academy is an ultra-modern facility in downtown Sioux City, Iowa. Its urban location does not detract from its capacity to inspire young minds about agriculture.

It currently offers six sections of ag classes and has an FFA chapter with more than 100 members. Every agriculture student is an FFA member, said instructor/advisor Taylor Weidauer.

“Less than five of our students have any ag background,” Weidauer said. “But, there is more to ag than farming. Ag is everywhere. That is why we offer ag courses here, to allow students to explore career pathways.”

Weidauer hails from Colorado. She moved to Sioux City two years ago. Her husband has family in Le Mars. She has a degree in agriculture education and was hired to teach at the academy. The community expressed its desire to have an FFA chapter opened, as well.

“With ag ed comes FFA,” Weidauer said. “But the community was the driving force. They overwhelmed us with support.”

View the full article by Jon Burleson on the Midwest Messenger.