By Meredith Oglesby, OCJ FFA reporter
When FFA members reflect on their time in the organization, memories of the blue corduroy jacket, friendships and endless opportunities rush to mind. Now, students at Allen East High School have the chance to grow, learn and become leaders through the new Allen East FFA Chapter.
The chapter, which was started in the fall of 2020, currently has 85 FFA members. Chapter members have already been participating in service activities, the FFA fruit sale, FFA week and virtual career development events (CDEs).
“The most exciting part of our new chapter is all of the new experiences that are happening,” said Grace Studor, an Allen East FFA member.
The FFA organization is not entirely new to the Harrod area. Students in the 1960s were a part of the Harrod and Lafayette FFA Chapters. Harrod and Lafayette High Schools later consolidated in 1965 to form Allen East High School, during which the two FFA chapters disbanded.
When Gene McCluer, a former Harrod FFA member, retired as an Extension agent in Hardin County in 2018 he talked to the Allen East superintendent and told him how great his experience in FFA was and encouraged the school to bring back the agriculture and FFA program.
“He [Allen East Superintendent] seemed to understand the benefits of FFA on individual and leadership growth of students,” McCluer said. “He assured me he had a plan to start an agriculture program in the next few years. I can only say thanks to Superintendent, Mel Rentschler, for seeing the importance of this program and following through on it.”
Once the Allen East High School’s industrial technology teacher retired, a classroom and shop space was available for the FFA program. Now, Maverick Liles is the agriscience educator and FFA advisor for Allen East.
The program’s members have not let the challenges of the pandemic slow their determination to grow the chapter and become involved at a local and state level. Members are already impacting the local community through the service events they have hosted this year such as making blankets for nursing homes and creating fidget boards for elementary school students.
FFA alumni member, Jim Hefner, who was a part of the program from 1972-1976 and is a current farmer and engineer project manager at Spallinger Millwright Service in Lima is eager for everything the FFA program can offer to students.
“Be active, be involved, push yourself out of your comfort zone,” Hefner said. “You may not realize it at the time but years down the road you will look back and be glad you did.”
Haley Prine, a senior in the Allen East FFA Chapter, has always been involved in 4-H and is excited for the opportunities available to FFA members through the new chapter.
“I’m hoping to encourage younger members of the Allen East FFA to be more involved in the program,” Prine said. “I hope to inspire future students and build our program into the future.”
Through the FFA program, students will learn not only about agriculture but will also gain skills that are important in a wide array of future occupations.
“Often, as adults, FFA members become the leaders of clubs, organizations, cooperatives, fair boards, church boards and many more,” McClure said. “I fully expect Allen East FFA students will follow in this same path, and many will become our community leaders.”