For many FFA chapters, this year has been the most unique, while also being the most challenging. However, we have come to learn that it is truly what we make out of our challenges that shows our resilience. For example, the FFA members and advisors at the Newton College & Career Academy have worked hard to continue their legacy within their community and in the National FFA community.
This year, one of their members — Doster Harper — was announced as the 2020-21 National FFA President. However, that is only one of their many achievements within the FFA community. Out of 42 proficiency categories, the Newton College & Career Academy FFA Chapter had students with an application in 19 categories!
For example, last week, we told you about Meredith McCrorey and how she created a livestock show for students with special needs. McCrorey placed top four in the nation for the Unique Kids Showing Pigs event. In order to achieve great accomplishments, it takes a lot of hard work, determination, and dedication — from students and advisors alike.
First thing you should know about the Newton College & Career Academy is that it does not operate quite like a typical high school. They have a base school with three traditional high schools — each with their own FFA chapter. Those FFA chapters focus on pathways in horticulture, plant science, and leadership. But if the student has an interest in animal science, veterinary science, forestry and wildlife, or agriculture mechanics, then they apply to NCCA. From there, the student goes to the base school for the first hour and then drives to NCCA for the rest of the day. This gives the student the opportunity to continue their passion and education for agriculture in certain pathways. Out of 800 students enrolled at the NCCA, their FFA program currently has 200 members and three FFA advisors.
Marcus Pollard, one of the Newton College & Career Academy FFA advisors said, “Our county approach is really about catering to the desires of the students in regards to their pathways.”
Pollard also said the NCCA FFA Chapter is an SAE-driven chapter. If they don’t have it, they will find a way for the student to have their preferred SAE. From aquaponics to bees, livestock, and everything in between, NCCA FFA members have many opportunities. However, the NCCA FFA advisors truly believe that it is up to the students to follow their interest and select their SAE.
NCCA’s FFA advisor Cecily Gunter said, “Anytime you come here what we have going on is going to be different, just depending on what the kid wants to do — even on the livestock side. Last year I had a barn full of 16 cows in it, this year I have one.” Gunter continued, “It is no fun for the teacher and no fun for the student to do a project that no one is interested in.”
However, with great ambition also comes a price tag. In order to have the resources for students, the NCCA FFA advisors work hard writing grants and reaching out to the community to provide opportunities for their students. Recently, the NCCA FFA Chapter was awarded a USDA Farm to School grant for $100,000 — they were the only FFA chapter in Georgia to receive one.
The Farm to School Grant Program has offered annual grants to schools, school districts, nonprofits, state agencies, and agricultural producers to plan, implement, or provide training on farm to school activities. For the NCCA district, it is the biggest federal grant in more than a decade. This will provide increased opportunities for students and their SAE’s.
The award said, “Through this initiative, students enrolled in all 23 schools located in Newton County would benefit by the creation of Blue and Gold Acres, a fully functional farm located on the campus of Newton College and Career Academy. Blue and Gold Acres would increase agricultural awareness to students by providing hands-on learning opportunities centered around STEM, Agricultural Production, Biosecurity and Agricultural Advocacy. By utilizing community partners and resources, Blue and Gold Acres will be able to provide students a comprehensive and diverse look at farming and growing food.”
The Newton College and Career Academy FFA Chapter truly believes in the idea that a successful program comes from students being able to find their passion in agriculture. They are a pillar in their community, their state organization, and the National FFA Organization.