Jackson County FFA students in national spotlight (again)

Dr. Shannon Lawrence, left, Jackson County High School CTAE teacher, presented national FFA finalist Drew Brooksher and his parents, Andy and Resa, at the August meeting of the Jackson County Board of Education.

Dr. Shannon Lawrence, left, Jackson County High School CTAE teacher, presented national FFA finalist Drew Brooksher and his parents, Andy and Resa, at the August meeting of the Jackson County Board of Education.

The Jackson County School System’s FFA programs are again reaping honors at the highest levels. The West Jackson Middle School team is among the top five middle school chapters in the U.S. for the fourth year in a row, and Jackson County Comprehensive High School senior Drew Brooksher is one one of four national finalists for a proficiency award in agricultural services.

The West Jackson Middle School team is among the top five middle school chapters in the U.S. for the fourth year in a row, and Jackson County Comprehensive High School senior Drew Brooksher is one one of four national finalists for a proficiency award in agricultural services.

“West Jackson Middle School FFA was selected as a Model of Excellence national finalist,” Todd Shultz, director of career, technical, and agricultural education for the Jackson County School System, told members of the Jackson County Board of Education at their August meeting.

West Jackson Middle School Principal Joe Cobb and ag tech teacher and FFA advisor April Davis celebrated the announcement that WJMS is again a top-five finalist in the national FFA Model of Excellence competition at the August meeting of the Jackson County Board of Education. With them are WJMS FFA chapter officers, from left, Joseph Ledford, Jesse Cronic and Michael Howard.

West Jackson Middle School Principal Joe Cobb and ag tech teacher and FFA advisor April Davis celebrated the announcement that WJMS is again a top-five finalist in the national FFA Model of Excellence competition at the August meeting of the Jackson County Board of Education. With them are WJMS FFA chapter officers, from left, Joseph Ledford, Jesse Cronic and Michael Howard.

The team was named outstanding middle school champion in the national competition in 2015 in addition to its ranking in the top five chapters in the country in 2013, 2014 and 2016.

“When I started with Jackson County Schools as an ag teacher 16 years ago, I was told it was the best FFA program in the state,” Shultz said with a big smile. “Awards like this confirm that.”

WJMS’s chapter will compete against four other FFA chapters, three from Georgia and one from Florida, in a presentation and interview process for top honors at the 2017 National FFA Convention & Expo, set for Oct. 25-28 in Indianapolis.

The national FFA organization provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education.

Rather than the individual achievements recognized in personal awards, the standards against which the chapters are measured evaluate the experiences provided for all members.

April Davis, who came to the school system as WJMS ag tech teacher and FFA chapter advisor in 2012, will accompany the chapter’s officers to the competition.

Jesse Cronic, Michael Howard and Joseph Ledford are among those who will make the presentation at nationals, and they were recognized at the BOE meeting where the chapter’s status as a national finalist was celebrated. Jesse, a 12-year-old seventh-grader who shows cattle, is chapter president; Michael, a 13-year-old eighth-grader who is interested in wildlife, is vice-president; and Joseph, a 12-year-old seventh-grader who is in the process of restoring his own tractor, is chaplain.

The three agreed that “being on stage” would be the “best part” — the winning chapter will be announced on stage during the convention.

Davis said other officers who will join them for the trip are Tray Gooch, Austin Robertson, Lilly Farmer, Savannah Page, Morgan McDaniel and Tiffany Holly.

Brooksher honored for proficiency

Dr. Shannon Lawrence, left, Jackson County High School CTAE teacher, presented national FFA finalist Drew Brooksher and his parents, Andy and Resa, at the August meeting of the Jackson County Board of Education.

Dr. Shannon Lawrence, left, Jackson County High School CTAE teacher, presented national FFA finalist Drew Brooksher and his parents, Andy and Resa, at the August meeting of the Jackson County Board of Education.

Drew Brooksher also will learn his fate in Indianapolis when he competes for a proficiency award, which encourages FFA members to develop the specialized skills that will help them in a career.

For Drew, the path through learning about power, structural and technical systems in his CTAE coursework has already led to work-based learning opportunities with Elrod Farms, North Jackson Contractors, and Jackson EMC, where he is currently employed as a warehouse intern.  The son of Andy and Resa Brooksher, he also shows and raises livestock on his family farm.

Drew took second-place in the state competition last year before winning top honors in the agricultural services proficiency area this year. His 22-page application describes his training, experience and challenges, and he’ll be interviewed and questioned about those again in the national spotlight.

His application details installing more than 8,000 linear feet of fence, wrapping more than a million pounds of baleage, plowing and preparing 200 acres of land for farmers, no-tilling more than 50 acres of pasture, baling more than 1,000 bales of hay for farmers, and helping ensure nearly 200,000 customers have electrical service.

“I enjoy helping people get what they want and need,” he said, citing a feeling of accomplishment “when I can use past experiences to overcome new challenges when more experienced people can’t do what I know how to do.”

The proficiency awards recognize outstanding student achievement in agribusiness gained through establishing a new business, working for an existing company or otherwise gaining hands-on career experience. The award is one of 47 proficiency program areas FFA members can participate in to develop experience and leadership skills at the local, state and national levels.

“Drew is the genuine article,” said Dr. Shannon Lawrence, Drew’s CTAE teacher. “He believes in working harder than the other guy, and he focuses on his goals and what will make his life better and make his family and his community better.” Lawrence said the FFA program, combined with classroom work and the supervised agricultural experience “help students gain experience while they are in school so they can do what they want to do after they graduate.”

“This means we can personalize students’ experience to their particular interests,” Lawrence said, smiling at Drew and his parents as they were recognized at the board of education meeting.

“I just know it wouldn’t have happened without him,” Drew said, acknowledging Lawrence’s influence and encouragement.

Like the middle school chapter winners, proficiency award winners will be announced on stage during the national convention following personal interviews and further evaluations. Each finalist receives a $500 cash award and plaque, and the national winner will receive an additional $500 and plaque.

The local FFA chapter members are among 649,355 FFA members, aged 12-21, in 7,859 chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

JCSS serves approximately 7,600 students in six elementary, two middle and two high schools across Jackson County. For more more information online, visit www.JacksonSchoolsGA.org.