By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer
Portales-area eighth-graders now have the opportunity to participate in a vocational/industrial class at Portales Junior High School that can lead to participation in the National FFA Organization.
PJHS implemented the program two years ago, said Eric Greer, the program’s teacher.
Many students do not know what the FFA is, said Greer.
“This way there is a big increase of awareness of agriculture and FFA,” said Greer.
The students will be able to participate in many areas of the FFA program through the vocational/industrial class. Activities in which the students can participate include showing in county and state fairs, creed contests and career development events, said Greer.
Students from New Mexico’s smaller schools have had the opportunity to enroll in the FFA as early as seventh grade, said Greer, putting students who enroll later at larger schools at a disadvantage.
“It’s hard to compete with smaller schools who have a head start,” said Greer.
There are advantages to the students being able to participate at the eighth-grade level, said Bill Graham, Portales High’s FFA advisor. It increases their involvement in the FFA program when they reach high school, said Graham.
“They’ve been introduced to the subject. They have a background,” said Graham. “We don’t have to start from square one.”
PJHS has 16 eighth-grade FFA members, Greer said. By becoming FFA members, students are eligible to participate in all FFA activities, including chapter meetings and judging contests, said Greer.
“FFA is the most diverse student organization that exists in the school system,” Greer said. “All organizations are important, but FFA gives skills they can take with them, such as critical thinking, evaluation and public speaking. It teaches them to work as an individual and as a team.”
The focus this year will be on public speaking and leadership, said Greer. The eighth-grade students will have the opportunity to participate in a creed contest in February at Eastern New Mexico University, said Greer.
At the contest, the eighth-grade students will recite the FFA creed in front of judges. In the ninth-grade contest, students have to recite the creed and answer three questions related to it, said Greer.
The program also provides support for those students who wish to show, said Greer. The students are able to enlist help from their advisors in finding an animal to show, a place for the animal to be kept and transportation for the animal, said Greer.
“That’s all part of being an ag teacher — making sure those components are met,” said Greer.