“FFA is a youth organization that prepares students in grades 6-12 for leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education, but we’re more than just plows, sows and cows,“ explains Scott Robison, Rolesville Middle School’s biotechnology teacher and FFA advisor.
FFA changed its name in 1988 from Future Farmers of America to the National FFA Organization to reflect its evolution in response to expanded agricultural opportunities encompassing science, business and technology in addition to production agriculture.
FFA students are future chemists, veterinarians, government officials, entrepreneurs, international business leaders, teachers and professionals in numerous other careers. Prominent former members of FFA include North Carolina Governor James B. Hunt, President Jimmy Carter and country music entertainer Taylor Swift.
“There are more than 7000 chapters that are part of the National FFA Organization and 70 percent of our members are from rural non-farm, urban and suburban areas, like the Triangle,” Robison says.
Rolesville Middle School, which opened in July 2012, was also the first middle school to offer a biotechnology class in the county and recently received a $1500 grant from the Ag Carolina Farm Credit Fund for Rural North Carolina to build raised garden beds that the biotechnology and exploring life skills students will use to grow herbs and produce. A full-size production greenhouse is on the school’s wish list as it looks for sponsors and other ways to raise money for students to grow and learn more about agriculture year round.
“FFA is predominately a high school organization, but because of our biotech class, we were eligible to start a chapter at the middle school level,” says Dhedra Lassiter, principal of Rolesville Middle School. “Our students will have leadership opportunities and exposure to competitions and conferences that they wouldn’t get in the classroom.”
The chapter consists of more than 30 student members who elected officers and held their first fundraiser selling boxes of Florida fruit. A Rolesville FFA Alumni booster club made up of parents and others interested in supporting the middle schoolers meets at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at the school.
Principal Lassiter believes a well-organized group like FFA serves students well. “It’s our job to give students experiences that enrich the whole child and help them grow into happy, healthy productive citizens. The new Rolesville Middle FFA chapter is doing just that.”