Deaf Members Grow Through Inclusion

The National FFA Organization works year after year to implement diverse and inclusive opportunities for all members. The We Are FFA platform, for example, was created to promote the appreciation of diversity through inclusiveness. FFA delivers national programs and provides resources that remove barriers and create opportunities for success for every student, in every classroom and at all events.

As the Kentucky School for the Deaf (KSD) FFA Chapter celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year, members have had life-changing – and inclusive – experiences at the 92nd National FFA Convention and Expo.

KSD opened its doors in 1823 to provide vocational education for students who were deaf and hard of hearing. In fact, at that time, all of its meals were produced with the food that was raised and grown on the on campus farm, which provided students hands-on ag education. It still serves to keep those who are deaf and hard of hearing involved in the agriculture industry, including a dedication to attending the national convention each year, which provides an opportunity for KSD members to learn and network with peers and potential employers.

Many KSD attendees are first-timers, but others have made the trip before. “Every time I attend, there is more and more to see, do and experience,” says third-year attendee Jessie Rice. “It’s very overwhelming and I enjoy it a lot.”

Each year KSD members attend, they find new inclusive opportunities that help them learn and grow. In addition to interpreters that translate the general sessions, members this year were thankful for the concert interpreters. They also felt included when other members took the time to speak to them using American Sign Language.

KSD agriculture teacher and FFA advisor Sandra Smock, and Toyah Robey, KSD principal, note the importance of agriculture education to all students, and how attending events such this allows that knowledge and experience to bloom. “Our school continues to be rooted in agriculture and this is an opportunity to bring our kids here for them to expand their horizons,” Robey says.

“We have to deliver this information to [deaf and hard-of-hearing] students and assist them in their pursuits,” Smock says. “We have to push it forward for them to continue to see it as important and pass it through the generations.”

As the National FFA Organization continues its devotion to diverse and inclusive opportunities for all members, it will continue to grow leaders, like those from KSD, who will change the world.