Alumni Value in a Community-Based Agricultural Education Program

Article excerpt

Most everyone reading this publication has committed to memory the mission of the National FFA Organization. If not, here is the mission one more time, "The National FFA Organization is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education." I am and will always be proud of my association with FFA and agricultural education because of the program's specific focus on STUDENTS - students who are current and future leaders of agriculture and America.

A support organization for the National FFA Organization, the National FFA Alumni Association also has STUDENTS in mind as they seek to ease teachers' outside commitments of teaching, bring support to agricultural education programs and give teachers more freedom to do what they do best - teach students. Specifically, the mission of the National FFA Alumni Association is to secure the promise of FFA and Agricultural Education by creating an environment where PEOPLE and COMMUNITIES can develop thenpotential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success.

It doesn't take a genius to see the similarities and differences between the FFA and Alumni mission statements. The primary difference is the focus on community, which of course includes our students. Individuals (students) are and become part of the community. Communities that have been developed through the help of organizations such as the National FFA and the National FFA Alumni Association have greater potential to develop "social capital." This leads to greater "productivity" for individuals and for the community itself. A community with greater productivity is one that is thriving and it is one that can sustain itself.

As an agriculture teacher seeking to develop your community and create social capital that makes your program, students, and community more productive, you have an excellent resource in the National FFA Alumni Association. Research conducted in Georgia and Tennessee indicated that future teachers felt least prepared to utilize their alumni - if one even existed. Perhaps articulating the values of the National FFA Alumni Association will help you identify specific ways and means that the alumni may be able to support your program, students, and community. The values of the National FFA Alumni Association are as follows.

The National FFA Alumni Association values the integral nature of FFA and agricultural education.

An alumni is there to help with more than just FFA activities. If you need help with resources, instruction, facilities, or administrators the FFA understands the connectedness of all phases of the program and they won't hesitate to assist. Don't be afraid to ask alumni for help in any and all areas of the curriculum. Fundraising is important and many folks assume that is all alumni is there for, but the truth is their understanding of all phases of our program provides something far more important than monetary capital - it provides social capital.

The National FFA Alumni Association values agriculture as an essential part of society.

Whether you teach in rural, urban, or suburban America, agricultural education seems more relevant today than ever before for those in the know. Most people, however, seem further removed from "agriculture" than ever before. The alumni is an excellent resource if you are looking to provide curricular and community examples of agriculture and/or agriculture's role in the local and national economy. They can serve as guest speakers. They can help with setting up field trips. They can even help in identifying SAE opportunities for students struggling to find their niche in agriculture.

The National FFA Alumni Association values diversity in serving all populations.

Do all of your students look the same? Are they all from the same part of town? This type of similarity among our students limits the development of our students, programs, and communities. …