You don’t need to be a farmer, or an alumni, to join Culpeper County High School’s FFA Alumni group.
The new organization, formed this year by CCHS teachers Ted and Laura Delano and FFA Alumni President Brian Jacobs, is looking for anyone interested in helping talented young people maximize their potential.
“We needed support, we have lots of teachers but we’re only good at a few things,” Ted DeLano said. “We have people who have been through the program who are better at things than we are. We want our kids involved in the community.”
DeLano said they attempted to start an alumni association a few times over the past several years, but it never stuck. Now, with an emphasis on career and technical education, more people have shown an interest in joining with the FFA alumni.
“We want to look at that adult connection in the community,” CCHS principal Danny Soderholm said. “If we want our students to be career ready, we want to expose them to as many adult connections as possible. The FFA alumni chapter gives us that ability.”
You don’t have to have a background in agriculture to join, but it helps, DeLano said. He said that agriculture is such a huge umbrella, it increases the number of connections students can make.
Part of the organization process was a meeting where alumni members and students talked about how they could signal boost what the club does at the school. They came up with a student expo, which will be held Sept. 26 at 7 p.m., showcasing student exhibits from both CCHS and Eastern View High School.
Jacobs was keen on starting the alumni association as he was part of the class of 1999 at CCHS that helped revitalize FFA. He said he learned valuable lessons from the club – not just about farming.
“The biggest thing I got out of FFA was leadership,” Jacobs said. “The leadership values of FFA help me strengthen my ability to communicate with others and help strengthen other people coming up through.”
Over the past few years, he said the emphasis has been more on preparing students for college, focusing more on computer programing and desk jobs, Jacobs said. FFA helps prepare students for the work force, something that has been close to Jacobs’ heart for years.
His son, a senior at EVHS, has benefited from the virtual welder program the school offers.
“That teaches the kids who have never had any experience with welding,” Jacobs said. “Instead of going out to a welder, it gives them an idea to how actually function in that environment.”
Soderholm stressed that the alumni association was a joint effort between the two schools.
“I think something that is awesome about the FFA alumni chapter, is it really is a Culpeper community based organization,” Soderholm said. “There’s a lot of collaboration between the FFA alumni, the four teachers at our two high schools and the students.”
That collaboration starts at the top as Dr. Tony Brads, Culpeper County Public Schools superintendent, agreed to be a member of the FFA alumni chapter.
“Dr. Brads sent a great message to Mr. Delano saying good luck on your national competition, and I’ll drop my dues off at the meeting tonight,” Soderholm said. “That buy in and understanding what is happening here at the school level is inspiring. It makes you want to continue.”
Ted DeLano said the FFA membership has grown in the past several years and said students are clamoring to fit it into their schedules. Through the FFA, many areas are covered including animal sciences, mechanics and horticulture.
The program has led to state champions for CCHS, as Dustin Rose and Brent Hanson took first place in the state last year for tractor troubleshooting.
“If you want to work with some motivated young people, this is a chance to do that,” DeLano said.