For many FFA chapters and members, grants allow them to fulfill their passions and ideas with extra help monetarily. These grants can come from different organizations — either from the National FFA Organization, individual state FFA organizations, or even from organizations outside of FFA, like the United States Department of Agriculture.
For the past six years, the Pennsylvania FFA Foundation has facilitated the Learning by Doing Grant, which provides funds for projects to enhance agriculture education and student learning. During that time the Foundation has awarded $96,000 in grants to FFA members, agriculture educators, and FFA Chapters across the state.
The pandemic also caused a huge increase in applications due to students’ projects being cancelled or strained. For example, students had to figure out how to adjust to canceled livestock sales and postponed chapter fundraisers and events. On top of canceled events, students and advisors saw a decrease in school funding due to the pandemic and a transition to online learning. However, when times were tough, community members and businesses stepped up to help. The Pennsylvania FFA Foundation saw an $18,000 increase in funding for the Learning by Doing Grants — making it a total of $30,000 awarded to FFA members, agriculture educators, and FFA chapters!
“Throughout the years, agricultural companies have shown their continuing commitment to FFA members in Pennsylvania,” said Sarah Sparks, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania FFA Foundation. “Experience is often quoted as life’s best learning opportunity. Through this grant program the Foundation has been able to enhance curriculum, provide tools and equipment, and expand the ‘experience’ opportunities available in agricultural education classrooms.”
One student who received a Learning by Doing Grant is Ellis Turner from the Central Columbia FFA Chapter in Pennsylvania. Turner started as a ninth grade-first year member with an SAE project of running his own business of raising and selling freezer beef. To do so, Turner had to earn a processing permit and a permit to sell retail cuts to consumers. However, he didn’t stop there. The next year Turner expanded his SAE project by adding freezer pork products to his program, on top of the freezer beef. Turner raises the animals, processes them, and then sells retail cuts to local customers. Not only has his SAE taught him life skills, but it has taught him business skills to last a lifetime — all during a pandemic. This grant will allow him to expand his business and help his customers.
In addition to student grants, advisors were also awarded grants to help their classroom succeed. Douglas Brown, one of the agricultural/environmental science instructors at Central Columbia in Pennsylvania received an award. Brown was awarded the grant to help him obtain an online/remote learning tool that will expand their power tool and hand tool safety unit. Brown said, “This program will provide up-to-date videos of power tool safety, industry certified information, lesson plans for up-to-date instruction, the ability for students to obtain hands-on instruction and learning virtually, student assessments that will be conducted remotely as well as stored for future references and reporting. This program will deeply expand our units of instruction during this remote learning period as well as into the future.”
Not only does this help students get through the pandemic, but it will also help develop the students’ future. Brown continued, “This programming of curriculum increases our rigor and relevance as well as provides another certification opportunity to our students as they pursue their chosen career pathway.”
Through the Learning by Doing Grant, the Pennsylvania FFA Foundation is helping students gain experience by maximizing their opportunity to grow and succeed in high school and paving the path for a successful future. In total, 12 advisors, 25 FFA members, and eight FFA chapters received a grant.