New FFA Program Helps Students Make the Leap Into College
Going off to college is a big leap into the unknown for most college-bound high school seniors – especially when they’re doing so in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. To help ease the transition, the California Association of Future Farmers of America (FFA) has introduced a new program to make that leap a little more manageable – and to remind the students that there are many pathways to a career in California agriculture.
Funded in part by grants from Farm Credit, the Change Makers Summit: The Future Awaits! is a two-day program aimed at incoming high school seniors, explained Maureen Funk, the California FFA Foundation’s development director.
“The original plan, pre-pandemic, was that prior to their senior year, seniors would take time out and go to a conference at a college campus, experience life in the dorms, and have conversations with FFA alums about what skills they need to develop during their senior year to get ready for their next steps,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for them to stop and reflect for a bit – you’re almost done with this program, what’s next?”
Of course, due to COVID-19, the conference had to be virtual. The first one was held in the spring of 2021 for students about to graduate from high school, with a second session held in August for incoming seniors. FFA is planning to hold the program again this year, but plans are not yet final.
Rob Faris, President and CEO of Golden State Farm Credit, said the program is designed to help students use the skills they have gained and fulfill their life’s purpose after leaving the FFA blue and gold.
“The FFA alumni volunteers help students identify the specific skills they have gained from their FFA education and help them create a career plan that highlights how those skills will help them find success,” Faris said. “The volunteers also outline specific service projects seniors can undertake in their home communities or at college, and the seniors will leave knowing how capable, valuable and marketable they are.”
Farm Credit institutions supporting the California FFA are American AgCredit, CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, Golden State Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit. They are all part of the nationwide Farm Credit System, the largest provider of credit to American agriculture.
Curt Hudnutt, President and CEO of American AgCredit, noted that another key part of the summit is outlining all the careers they can pursue in agriculture.
“Whether a student pursues a career in finance, joins their family farm or has an innovative business idea they want to bring forward, California agriculture – and U.S. agriculture - needs them,” Hudnutt said. “In 2022, the plan is to amplify this message by bringing in former FFA students now working in ag-related businesses to tell the students how they got where they are and help them understand the opportunities that are open to them.”
Funk said 164 students participated last April and another 207 did so in August.
“Our target was 150 participants at each session, so we were very pleased with the outcomes. Both sessions included a broad band of students from all our areas and participation was very good. The interns and volunteers all felt they got really good feedback and that it was a valuable experience.”
Farm Credit has supported FFA for more than 20 years, during which it has contributed well over $550,000. Funk said Farm Credit’s strong support has been extremely important to helping FFA provide programs like the summit.
“Farm Credit is our most generous donor. They commit year over year to the organization, which helps us plan new things, knowing that those funds are coming in. And sponsors like Farm Credit keep our programs affordable for our students. We really value their support,” she said.
For more information about the summit, visit https://calaged.org/change-makers-summit.
About Farm Credit: American AgCredit, CoBank, and Farm Credit West are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. For more than 100 years, the Farm Credit System has specialized in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com.
About California Association FFA and California FFA Foundation: California FFA’s school-based agricultural education program prepares students for successful careers and a lifetime of informed choices in the global agriculture, food, fiber and natural resource systems. California FFA Foundation provides individuals, businesses, foundations and others the opportunity to invest in the premier secondary Agricultural Education leadership development program in California FFA. For more information, visit https://www.calaged.org.