With today’s busy world and the constant demand for more and more time from the agriculture instructor, it’s vital to have volunteer support groups that are ready and willing to help out. The time that you spend in establishing the foundation for a volunteer group will come back to you and your local chapter by tenfold.
So what is your role? As the agriculture instructor and FFA advisor, you are the gatekeeper and an important resource to the FFA Alumni affiliate, just as it will be a tremendous help to you. Here are some important aspects of your role:
Share your expectations for the agricultural education program. Identify specific areas in which alumni members might provide assistance.
Communicate with alumni members openly and directly. Clarify roles. For example, the instructor generally directs the program, an advisory committee provides vision, and alumni and other volunteers support efforts to achieve the vision.
Encourage FFA members and alumni members to work together. The resulting interactions can be valuable “real world” learning experiences for students.
Recognize and thank alumni supporters.
FFA alumni, as well as other support groups and volunteers, are key in assisting local programs to manage the tremendous amount of information and programs that are available from the various entities that make up Team Ag Ed at the national or state level. In order to make a difference, FFA alumni must be aware of the challenges teachers’ experience.
One of the biggest challenges that agricultural education may face at the local and state levels are based on funding issues. School districts and state departments responsible for agricultural education have to make very difficult decisions to meet financial budgets. As school officials look for ways to streamline their investments in education to get the most out of every dime, agricultural education can be perceived as too cost intensive. An organized alumni group can often convince those same school officials that the program is worth keeping and investing even more valuable resources. Organized alumni groups can speak louder than any agriculture teacher when it comes to creating awareness and helping others understand that a program is essential to the students and community it serves.
What if FFA alumni, either as a coordinated effort or as individuals, would take the time once or twice a year to write a letter or meet with the school board and administration of their school to showcase the local agricultural education accomplishments? The impact of receiving positive feedback in a world of complaints would speak volumes for the local program and make it very difficult to target with the budget ax. To be most effective, this effort must continue, regardless of the economic situation.
It is critical for FFA alumni to be represented “at the table” as key members of Team Ag Ed at the local and state level. Knowledge of the needs of a local or state program is the key to being able to work in a positive support mode. Help build the capacity of agricultural education by becoming aware of the needs of the program and having those involved with managing the program experience the difference. This, in turn, makes FFA alumni and its members as integral a component to the program as classroom instruction, supervised agricultural experience and FFA.
Contact the National FFA Alumni Association for more assistance and information for local instructors and FFA alumni affiliates. Please contact the association at 317-802-4292 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.