You’ve seen them. The blue corduroy jacket with gold letters and an eagle logo emblazoned on the back. If you grew up in Houston, the sighting of a Future Farmers of American (FFA) jacket was usually part of the Spring Break ritual known as rodeo.
For students in FFA, putting on this recognized uniform has a significant meaning that shatters any casual perception one may have about the reality of being a member of FFA or the power and lasting impact this national program has on the individual and the broader community.
“When I put my blue corduroy on it’s like putting a football jersey on getting ready for a game…I know it’s time. It’s a different experience. It means you’re part of something bigger.” said Raul Puente.
Puente is a senior at YES Prep Northbrook, a charter program based at the district’s traditional public high school, and plans to pursue a career in oil and gas after graduation. It’s something he knows many don’t connect FFA to – a future in the oil industry.
He credits his membership to FFA and the ability to simultaneously take classes at SBISD’s flagship Career and Technical Education (CTE) campus, The Guthrie Center, as genuinely transformative.
“I found myself. I tried art. I tried football. I tried band. Nothing clicked for me until I found FFA,” said Puente. “Putting school and agriculture together sold me.”
From relationships to learning about self, FFA’s lessons run deep and to the heart of what it means to be the best one can be.
FFA is about giving kids opportunities and taking them as far as they are willing to work to go. It’s about hard work and grit. It’s about crying over letting go of your first livestock sale. It’s about learning how to win and lose.
It’s also about being involved and making a difference. Annie Valicek, current president of the Spring Branch FFA Chapter and the Lake Houston District, grew up in a family rooted in agriculture and with an older brother in FFA.
“Agriculture touches every facet of our lives, but right now only 2 percent of our population is living on or working on farms,” said Valicek. “It’s critical that we educate the youth and community about what agriculture is and how they can support it.”
Thankfully, Valicek’s leadership is inspiring her fellow FFA members as well as students in both middle and elementary school district-wide. SBISD’s FFA Program is open to students as young as third grade.
Students in the program, no matter their age, have an opportunity to raise an animal and build critical life skills such as leadership, communication, confidence, and relationship building. They can also explore a vast array of career paths - from jobs in the oil industry to marketing and veterinary medicine.
“Most of the kids that are in FFA end up in industry,” said Kathryn Corona, Guthrie Agricultural Science teacher. “We have lots of different opportunities for kids to enter careers that are related to Agriculture.”
Through courses offered at Guthrie, and active, hands-on learning at the seventeen-acre Agricultural Science Center Farm housed in-district, students see first-hand what careers in veterinary medicine, bioengineering, livestock production, plant science, and landscape design and greenhouse operations involve.
Along with the comprehensive course offerings under SBISD’s CTE Program, students in FFA participate in the Career and Leadership Development Event competitions such as the annual FFA Show and Sale. FFA also provides a range of scholarship opportunities only available to organization members.
Check out our video to get a glimpse inside the annual SBISD FFA Show and Sale – and hear from students about why they love this beloved organization and their blue corduroy jackets.
My Blue Corduroy - Spotlight on SBISD's FFA Program from SBISD on Vimeo. For details about some of the certifications and pathways available to students in Agricultural Science and the CTE Program in SBISD, click here.
Submitted by Melissa Wiland, SBISD Communications