Sometimes starting over isn’t a bad thing. That’s exactly how the Taft FFA Chapter feels, as they re-charted and became a great organization! I had the great honor to learn about the history of Taft FFA, and I think we all can learn something from their story. Lyndi West, the now Taft FFA Advisor, realized that there was a need to have the Taft, Texas FFA re-charted. She was determined to get these kids involved in agriculture again. “Taft is a small farming community. As a parent and teacher, it seemed unfair that students did not know the history or background of their town or the opportunities they could experience beyond the classroom. My parents helped to re-charter the FFA program when I was in junior high in Bishop. I am who I am today because of FFA. I wanted the same for my child and others. So I met with the Superintendent at the time, Dr. Chad Kelly, to voice my concerns. He understood the needs of not only the students but the school and community as well. We discussed my degree of Animal Science and the fact that I had found passion teaching elementary math within my 6 years at the district. After several meetings and “laying it out on the table,” I ended up starting the following year as a half day Agriculture Science Teacher while still keeping my job as a math coach and tutor the other half of the day at the elementary," said Lyndi.
Getting the school re-charted wasn’t an easy task. “Every emotion from stress to passion and excitement played out daily. Even though there was a long break in having an FFA chapter, I knew I had large shoes to fill. Cleaning through the room and finding American Degree awards and hearing of the successes “back in the day” really played a role in keeping my mind set to getting Taft back on the map and a Chapter people would know when they hear the name. I am fortunate to have the shoes of retired Taft FFA advisor, Jerry Haug, helping me each step of the way. He has a passion for agriculture and FFA and I hope I can have the success for Taft that he did. It was great to have a handful of kids who were determined to see the Chapter reborn. They literally worked daily and nightly on making sure the chapter was not only following the state guidelines, but going above and beyond for the support of our Administration and community. My Husband Keaton, a local farmer, my 3 children, and my parents all had a role. Without their support, our chapter could not have been Re-chartered,” said Lyndi.
Lyndi also credits the support from farmers and businesses to help Taft FFA get started with funding. Such as, Mitchell West of Wilbur-Ellis Company and Jimmy Miller who played a large role. Mr. Miller won the Farmers Grow Communities Award through Monsanto and donated the $2500 to the Taft FFA Chapter.
Taft FFA has grown substantially from starting with just 14 members, to now having about 150 members. Taft FFA is extremely involved in community service. “Just as the last paragraph of the FFA creed states, “I will serve my home and community,” we truly strive to do so. Every month the members vote on a community service activity. Any time the community hosts an event such as Halloween on Green, National Night Out, and the Christmas Festival, we are there. The officers also volunteer their time at Ag in the Classroom every October. Last year Emily Pullin, our Queen Representative at the time, chose for our chapter to adopt the Taft Animal Shelter. This has continued to be an ongoing project. The Ag mechanics class has helped to build kennels for the shelter. Recently, our Veterinary Science class received a wash tub and grooming table from the School Board to not only learn veterinary assistant skills, but to also groom the shelter animals and help them get adopted out,” said Lyndia.
Not only is community service important for Taft FFA, but so is teaching the younger generations about agriculture. When asked how Taft FFA uses their creative skills to teach the younger kids, Lyndia said, “The question on the officers minds were “How do we reach the younger students.” So we all put our strengths together and wrote a skit that took the Wizard of Oz and made it “The Wizard of Ag.” The skit was performed for elementary students before the first meeting. Each person on the “corn gold road” brought something different to the wizard which represented a different part of FFA/Agriculture. The officers then took a day to “hang out” at lunch with Jr. High students. They wore their FFA jackets and used it as a conversation starter. This way they were able to talk with individual students and answer their questions and share experiences.”
Raising awareness for agriculture is something that Raised in a Barn is focused on. Which is why the Taft FFA chapter is everything we are proud of. “Our Chapter takes every opportunity to be involved in community events. The more we are out and talking with the community, the more they understand the new generations of agriculturists. The greatest message I hear often from parents is: “I didn’t take an Ag class when I was in school, but after seeing my child involved I wish I would have. Or “I thought it was only for farming and showing animals, I am glad that my child has found a passion for something to keep them in school.” Our School, especially my Principal Mrs. Lopez, makes sure to advertise and promote all of our achievements in the community, online news, Facebook, and the local newspaper. I post a few things on our Taft Facebook page, but talking with people and sharing experiences has been the most successful and rewarding way to bring awareness,” said Lyndia.
In 2014 we were fortunate enough to have grown, needing a second teacher. Mr. Wesley Harris has brought great experience to our program. He has students building items in the shop and building their character to potential they did not realize they were capable of!
The three words that describe the Taft FFA Chapter are; Leadership, Growth, Success. We truly believe in the mission of the FFA. As diverse as a group we have, every student is growing into leaders of tomorrow and finding their personal success.
A special congratulations to the Taft FFA Chapter for continuing growing and raising awareness for agriculture. Thank you Lyndia West, the Taft FFA Advisor for the interview. Also congratulations to the following students on being elected as their chapter’s officers:
President -Roger Garcia (Senior)
Vice President – Tate Turany (Junior)
Secretary – Analis Trevino (Sophomore)
Treasurer – Devin Cortez (Sophomore)
Reporter – April Torno (Senior)
Historian – Megan Torno (Sophomore)
Chaplain – Emily Pullin (Junior)
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