Jared Lemmons, agriculture education instructor and FFA advisor for the Pawhuska Public Schools since July 2013, spoke to the Pawhuska Kiwanis Club on June 25 at the invitation of Dr. Landon Berry, school superintendent and Kiwanian of the day.
Lemmons, always seeking to increase participation, said that 30 students participate in FFA with a core group of 15 who are "very active" in the club.
"My goal is to have 70 percent participation next year and build from there," he explained.
Describing FFA and its impact on the lives of the students who participate, Lemmons said, "There are many people who would look to FFA as the reason for their success. I could tell you these stories, but my favorite success story is about an FFA student, who started out shy and not comfortable in public speaking — I’m that student.
"Without FFA, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. These experiences helped transform me into the man I am today and I want to share those experiences with my students," he explained.
For the first two years of FFA, the students gain a bit of knowledge in every area," Lemmons said.
After two years, they can choose to go into a specific area such as agriculture mechanics or agriculture communications. For example, in ag communications, students gain life-long skills in professional/business writing, public speaking, resume writing and interviewing techniques.
Students may choose from among 35 career development events in which to participate, including land or show judging, parliamentary procedure and public speaking.
"I try to get students involved in public speaking, because it’s something love to do," he said.
Lemmons said that what may be surprising to some is that FFA, established in the 1920s, has expanded well beyond traditional rural boundaries. FFA has established chapters in 18 major cities across the United States. Oklahoma ranks fifth in membership nationally.
In FFA, each student has an opportunity to have a supervised agriculture experience, or "SAE," he said. Students can opt for a project showing livestock or an agriculture-related internship.
"They become responsible for the funds of the project," Lemmons said. "They keep records on how much they invested and their return on investment."
In addition, FFA participates in community activities such as serving at the Kiwanis Banquet, holding a highway trash clean-up day, volunteering at Cavalcade and making FFA signs for the south and west side of Pawhuska. The FFA club plans to re-paint the sign on the north side of Pawhuska in the near future, he added.
For fun, the group recently took a float trip paid for with Blue and Gold sales by students, Lemmons said.
This summer FFA will hold leadership and team development workshops and planning activities for the next school year, and will choose specific activities they want to do, he added.
"Having a strong leadership team is important to success," Lemmons said. "Awards at the state level are based on activities in the club throughout the school year."
According to Lemmons, 70 students were enrolled in the Agriculture Education program at Pawhuska High School during the 2013-14 school year.
Agriculture economics is increasingly important in the Agriculture Education program, Lemmons said.
"We also have a fiscal responsibility component in the [Ag. 1] class about checkbooks, insurance, paying bills and budgets," he said.
Lemmons, who hails from southeast Oklahoma near Broken Bow, has a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Education from Oklahoma State University and a master’s degree in Education Leadership from East Central University.
Lemmons is also making his mark in Pawhuska by becoming more involved in the community. He is serving his first year on the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce Board. He led the FFA club to build a picnic table with FFA logo for donation at the 2014 Chamber of Commerce gala/auction.
Since taking over as FFA Advisor, Lemmons has made other extra efforts. He and the FFA club built pens for the livestock show at the county fairgrounds and worked on the FFA barn and adjacent foundation.
"We put up the sheet metal for this building and ordered more metal which was needed. Soon they’ll have this building completed," he said.
During the question and answer portion of the program, Kiwanian Nancy Woodyard shared her appreciation for the extra efforts Lemmons has made.
"I noticed that the day after he was hired, he was out mowing, which impressed me," she said.
At the meeting, Kiwanian Jeff Phillippi, a former FFA club member himself, also commended Lemmons on his work on the job and contributions to the community.
"Even if you don’t realize the impact you’re having, you’re changing the lives of your students. Like you, I was shy at that age and my FFA advisor really made a difference in my life," said Phillippi. "I got involved in public speaking, making presentations, serving as president of my FFA chapter, being on the FFA speech team and the livestock judging team. All of these things have helped me in college and in all of the jobs I’ve had since."