This past year has been hard on everyone, but perhaps one of the hardest things for many of us was the sudden closing of schools and the loss of educational opportunities for students.
One of the hardest-hit areas of education has been the FFA.
“Everything came to a screeching halt,” Beth Massey, agricultural teacher at Greenbrier East High School, said regarding the declaration of the Coronavirus pandemic.
During a typical year, Massey and others are at the school two to three nights per week practicing for competitions at various levels, on trips to the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, IN, or the annual Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, KY, and preparing for leadership roles in various organizations. Unfortunately, students did not get the chance to experience these things last year.
However, now that restrictions are slowly easing, the FFA is working on an initiative to Bring Back the Fun in 2021.
Massey explained that the FFA is a professional organization that allows students in agricultural education to participate in about 20-30 events a year and develop various skills. The Bring Back the Fun program was created by state FFA officers dedicated to getting students excited about the program again.
Although visitors are not currently allowed in schools, Massey and her students are participating in many virtual events and safely getting back out into the community.
Chapter officers have been able to meet to prepare goals for the year, judging teams have competed in virtual contests, and leadership development contests, like prepared public speaking, have taken place, preparing students to compete at the state finals later this year.
“We are doing the things we normally do,” Massey said.
Massey added that on Friday, May 7, students will be able to participate in a live FFA awards ceremony.
Usually, the ceremony involves 300-400 attendees, Massey said. This year only immediate family members can attend, but even though it is not the big event as it usually is, students are still very excited.
Additionally, students from the agricultural department will be at the Courthouse Farmers Market on May 8 and 15, selling hanging baskets, potted geraniums, mixed flower pots, veggie starts and herbs.
This summer, the FFA will be back at the WV State Fair with the ever-popular Ham Stand.
“We are very excited about that,” Massey said.
Also, every summer, students get to go to the Cedar Lakes Conference Center, but last year the center was empty, according to Massey.
Years ago, students and donors helped the FFA chapters in Greenbrier County raise money to build their very own cabin at Cedar Lakes, Massey explained. “It’s our camp and students feel like it is another home.”
This year, the state FFA needs a pavilion built to host outdoor activities at Cedar Lakes so that students can socially distance themselves outdoors. They are currently asking state residents for donations to help build this pavilion.
Donations can be mailed to Nathan Taylor, State FFA advisor, memo: Cedar Lakes Project, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. East, Charleston, WV, 25305-0330.
Part of Bringing Back the Fun in 2021 will be allowing students to attend Cedar Lakes and gain leadership training needed for entering into various careers, Massey stated.
It will take just a little while longer before things are completely normal, but Massey said good things are still happening.