Like many FFA chapters, the Kansas Royal Valley FFA Chapter has continued to push their students to achieve as much as they can, while also providing them with every opportunity possible. Answering the call to become a student, a volunteer, and a committed citizen, the students in return create their own FFA experience. The Royal Valley FFA Chapter is unique in many ways and can’t wait to see what the future holds for their chapter.
The Royal Valley FFA chapter has been rebuilding their chapter for the past six years — they had lost it for eight years. In 2013, they reestablished the chapter with the help of community members and dedicated students. Planted in a rural community, the school district had community members with previous FFA experience that believed it was crucial for the students to have FFA as an option.
Their alumni community went to bat for the young chapter while trying to be reestablished. Kim Clark, the current FFA advisor said, “It would not be possible without our alumni going to bat for us and talked to the school board members and the administration, telling them how important FFA was to the students and the community.”
Clark also attributed their reestablishment to the reliable students who previously had been involved in 4-H who helped lay a strong foundation. With driven students, in addition to the support of the community, the path to a new chapter was created . Having someone support your efforts makes a big difference when starting on a new endeavor.
Now that they are established, Clark says the best thing she can do for the students is provide them with every opportunity possible. With such a diverse background of students — either involved in agriculture in their everyday life, or not at all — Clark must find a balance for her students.
Often times, Clark allows students with the ag background to help teach and give examples to those students who don’t have ag experience. This allows the students to learn from their peers while also giving the ag students an opportunity to tell their story. Clark explains, “When a student walks in the door, they are all on the same level. They all have equal opportunities to be successful. We open up our opportunities to everyone.”
Emily Albright, Royal Valley FFA president, loved the member diversity that the ag classes bring. As one of the students with an ag background, Albright really enjoys learning from other students. With 35 percent of the student population living on a Native American reservation, there is a lot to learn from one another.
Albright said, “They have their own agricultural beliefs and ways of life. They share their agriculture experiences with us and we share our ways with them. For example, they have buffalo and care for them, where we have cattle and the differences in caring for our livestock.” This paves the way for a unique opportunity, learning from one each other, realizing there is not a wrong way – the most important thing is care for the livestock.
Another difference that sets Royal Valley FFA apart is their unique plant systems pathways program. Unlike most schools, they don’t have options for mechanic or animal science programs but are still successful in all FFA areas.
With their plant systems pathways program, they have a unique, state of the art greenhouse system with the capability of growing plants hydroponically. With a 48 x 30 ft greenhouse, the students can complete experiments while also generating sale of goods in a short time period. Starting April 15 and wrapping up by the end of classes in May, the students work hard to provide goods for the community. They have the capability to grow tomatoes, herbs, lettuce, and cucumbers. The items are used for more than just sales. For example, they use these ingredients to spice up the salad dressing at school with fresh herbs from the FFA greenhouse.
Many perks of a greenhouse include allowing the students to conduct experiments on their own in their classes. Clark encourages students to come up with an experiment on their own and to follow through with it the whole semester. In addition, the students can grow a variety of items that they sell to local FFA chapters, that in return helps with their plant sales.
With so many things to be proud of, the Royal Valley FFA is working hard to continuing the FFA tradition and creating a strong foundation for their chapter. Albright says, “One of our goals this year is to get younger members more involved and active. Every member on the officer team is a senior, except for one. We want to pass down a strong chapter with members who hold the chapter to a high regard. We want the younger members to step up. The end goal is to be able to come back and hear that FFA is still going strong.”