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By Meaghan Downs
FFA students from Anderson County High School know what they did this summer.
They saved a Lexington stream bed from a wild wall of invasive honeysuckle.
They trusted the waiting arms of other FFA leaders during a trust fall exercise at camp and packed more than 55,000 meals for the hungry in Washington, D.C.
And according to the local students and advisers involved in FFA, they’re ready to take what they’ve learned and give back to their chapter, their school and their community.
FFA, an agriculture education focused leadership club at Anderson County high school, is one of the largest clubs with more than 140 members, and one of the only student-run organizations.
Madison Stidham, an incoming senior, said she learned how to build a personal plan of action during the workshops and courses she took over the summer, a living and serve plan geared to involve the community.
“We have to bring back what we learned in our own chapter and our classes and community in general,” she said.
The summer kicked off with the state convention and their national day of service — a hot day of weeding out a wall of non-native honeysuckle from a Lexington stream for six hours.
In addition to their service event, senior Eric Gribbins and student Emily Drury presented their state-qualifying essay projects, which details business plans, income and expenses: Gribbins’ on taxidermy, and Drury’s on equine entrepreneurship. Drury placed second.
“It’s pretty in-depth,” Drew Robinson, agriculture instructor and co-adviser to the FFA club, said of the essay entries.
Stidham, Gribbins and sophomore Chandler Hudnall all agreed that “camp,” or the FFA Leadership Training Center in Hardinsburg, was the highlight of the FFA events this summer.
All students elected to leadership positions in FFA were required to attend both the state convention and the leadership camp.
They took classes throughout the day, from officer courses to committee chair class, occasionally breaking out of session, Hudnall said, to play basketball or softball.
But leadership was also learned at the example of the camp’s director, Pete Dreisbach, a former resident of South Africa.
“ He [Dreisbach] has a deep caring for students who want to lead other people,” Stidham said.
“He’s really big on respect,” he said, adding that students were asked to take off their hats indoors.
According to co-adviser and fellow agriculture instructor Brandon Fawbush, the camp taught the students not only leadership, but team building.
“I guess you can count on your officers and committee chairs to be there when you need them,” Chandler said of his camp experience.
Six FFA members also fundraised their way to the Washington Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C., a week of touring national monuments and meeting Rep. Ben Chandler for a guided tour of the capitol.
The students also packed more than 55,000 complete meals of rice and soy for the Kids Against Hunger organization.
Robinson said events like the state convention, leadership camp and the trip to D.C. help the students network with other students, professionals and businesses.
In Washington, students got to meet with past national advisers and professionals from seed company Monsanto and retail giant Timberland.
“When they go to find a job in five or six years, they’ll have those connections,” Robinson said.
Stidham said she was always interested in animals, and now she has an idea of why she wants to major in wildlife resources or in a medical field.
“It kind of showed me there are careers I could enjoy everyday, rather than a job,” she said.
Chandler wants to be a wildlife biologist or field editor, writing about what he sees for a magazine.
Gribbins wants to work in the engineering field, specifically with off-road equipment.
Chris Glass, assistant principal, said these kind of events give students more options for life after high school.
‘We’re really proud,” Glass said. “They’re really working with our community.”
The FFA has a lot of ideas for upcoming events in Lawrenceburg. Some of those include:
ACHS Impact: the FFA started this community service event last year, and looks to continue it again sometime in the fall.
Open Hands: Robinson said the FFA, along with the FCCLA and other organizations, would like to raise enough money to assist the Open Hands organization with its food pantry and goals for a free health clinic.
FFA is also looking to begin an alumni chapter. Those who have been a member of FFA in the past should contact Robinson at email@example.com.
Young Farmers Program: the FFA is looking to get involved, via the Kentucky Farm Bureau, with a program that keeps young farmers informed of current research and tips in the field of agriculture.