It could be the enthusiastic teachers, the strong state officer team, the dynamic curriculum, or all the above that has contributed to the success of the West Virginia FFA program, but there’s no doubt the Mountain State has reached a milestone.
At this year’s 90th annual West Virginia FFA State Convention in July, the chapter celebrated a record membership of 5,360 members.
“We are adapting to stay relevant with our curriculum, SAE, and FFA yet we are staying true to our core values,” said Jason Hughes, West Virginia Lead Coordinator and State FFA Advisor. “We are promoting the importance of the three-circle model and have the philosophy that every student who enters an agriculture classroom should be an FFA member automatically.”
In just one short year, the state has gained more than 700 members. But as Hughes points out, it’s been a work in progress. West Virginia FFA has added 13 new programs/chapters in the past eight years.
Today the State Association stands strong with 68 High School and 10 Middle School Chapters in 47 West Virginia counties, not to mention an alumni membership of 2,795 across 27 chapters. The state also boasts an average 33,000 community service hours annually and awards over $20,000 in state and national scholarships.
West Virginia has also focused on urban areas in the state. Hughes said the organization has been working in Kanawha County to get a program started and with nonprofit groups in the Wheeling and Weirton areas as well.
“Our goals are to continue adding programs across West Virginia and to promote 100 percent membership in every chapter,” Hughes said.
It’s also a goal for incoming West Virginia State FFA President Nick Plaugher as well. Plaugher, who is currently pursuing a degree in agricultural education from West Virginia University, says his team plans to continue steady growth and gain more public support by involving students and participating in more activities across the state, which he says should increase membership as well as boost their national status.
“With West Virginia placing high value on Career Technical Education, Simulated Workplace, and also our Ham, Bacon, and Egg Show and Sale, we may inspire other associations in the future to give more responsibility and opportunity to their students so they may implement the skills they have learned through ag education in our state,” Plaugher said.
Hughes believes the state officer team has been fundamental in getting membership up.
“They have continually motivated members and students across West Virginia and encouraged ag students to be members,” Hughes said. “Their enthusiasm has created an atmosphere where more students want to be FFA members.”
But Plaugher said that enthusiasm has essentially rubbed off on them from the outstanding 102 agriculture teachers across the state.
Students are prepared for more than 235 unique careers in the science, business, and technology of agriculture, food, and natural resources. West Virginia ag teachers are also adamant about helping students solve real-world problems while using the latest technology like drones, GPS, and scientific lab equipment and instrumentation.
The 2018 West Virginia Teacher of the Year, Katlin Thorsell is an agriculture teacher from Washington High School.
“We may be so popular because of the dedication and preparedness of our ag teachers and FFA advisors,” Plaugher said. “Our teachers come eager to share knowledge and are ready to help mold the next generation of not only agriculturists, but productive members of society.”