Photos by Bree Kingston
This article was originally published in the Stephenville Empire-Tribune.
Collegiate FFA Coordinator Bree Kingston, a Tarleton graduate student, joined forces with fellow collegiate members Mason Wintters, Collyn Damerau and Crystal Nabors to raise awareness of their chapter Monday by setting up an information table in front of the Tarleton State University Dining Hall.
"Nationwide membership is growing every single year," Nabors, who is studying for a teaching certificate in agricultural studies, said. "There's over half a million members."
Nabors said National FFA Week is celebrated every year during the week of George Washington's birthday. This year's theme is "Grow."
"We are looking for students to 'grow' in agriculture," Kingston said. "The saying is, 'Without agriculture, you'd be naked and hungry.' So they want us to tell people during FFA Week about agriculture and what it is doing in our lives so they can support us."
Nabors explained the difference between high school and collegiate membership in FFA chapters.
"Anybody can be a collegiate FFA member," she said. "If you are in high school, you have to be enrolled in an ag class."
Collegiate FFA has been around for more than eight decades, but it has incorporated 21st century strategies to attract new people. When asked how an interested party could look into joining, Damerau, who acts as a student advisor, pointed to social media.
"Join us on Facebook. We have our own Tarleton Collegiate FFA page, and you can contact our president, Michelle Dukeman, or Bree," he said.
Festivities for FFA Week will be ongoing throughout the country, and each chapter will mark the occasion in their own way.
"National FFA Week is nationwide," Nabors said. "Every single FFA chapter, collegiate or high school, will celebrate it with their own activities."
Nabors elaborated the week was a period of time to come together as a group, do some fund raisers and to raise awareness by getting the chapter involved in the community.
Kingston reported their local chapter as having 70 dues-paying members, but they were actively recruiting further membership from students walking in and out of the dining hall. And incoming freshmen were a major target.
"Once the high school students get to Tarleton, we coax them into coming and being a part of our collegiate chapter," she said.
The event started on Sunday and will run through Saturday with activities planned throughout the week.
"There is a canned food drive going on all week at the Ag Office in room 105," Nabors said.
She credited Kingston with coordinating the events, who outlined some of what she had scheduled.
"Today we are trying to tell people about agriculture and let them know there is a collegiate FFA chapter on campus," Kingston said.
She also reported Dr. David Frazier, chapter advisor, will speak Tuesday to students about a training they are conducting Feb. 26 in a bid to increase their mentoring presence among high school FFA students.
"Next week we are putting on a workshop for high school students all over Texas," she said. "They can come here to learn about the interview process for when they are interviewing for officer positions at their local or state level."
The workshop will be accessible to high schoolers through Skype as well. The purpose of such activities is to encourage students to extend their high school FFA chapter experience into their college years, thereby increasing their potential in the future job marketplace.
"There's a saying that started years ago," Nabors said. "'It's not just cows, sows and plows.' You don't join FFA because you are going to be a farmer. There's so much PR and leadership growth involved. If you want to go into sales or any sort of public communication, it is a great association to join."