For many ag teachers and FFA advisors, agriculture was an integral part of their upbringings, and almost all of them were active in FFA in high school.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth for Charles Whitten.
Now serving alongside Sarah Ward as an advisor for the Much-To-Do FFA at Coe-Brown Northwood Academy in Northwood, N.H., Whitten’s path to FFA began in 1996 when he was a new teacher at the school. He primarily served students with learning and behavior issues. He quickly realized how impactful FFA could be and collaborated with Ward to encourage his students to get involved with the school’s chapter – a mission that’s seen major success.
“I knew nothing about FFA until I came to Coe-Brown, but it didn’t take long for me to see its many benefits,” Whitten says. “FFA gives students – especially those who don’t love being in the classroom – a reason to look forward to coming to school. Being part of the Much-To-Do FFA provides opportunities for students to use their hands, whether that’s outside or in our workshop or greenhouse, and it helps them connect to what they’re learning in a fun way. It’s amazing to witness and it makes coming to work a true pleasure for me.”
Whitten also points out that FFA can provide a pathway to careers that students may not be aware of, and it often opens doors leading to bright futures.
“Many of my students are amazed to find out what they can do in the agriculture industry and how successful they can be doing something they really enjoy,” says Whitten, who teaches courses in landscaping, natural resources and agricultural technology at Coe-Brown.
Ward, a full-time agriculture instructor at Coe-Brown and Much-To-Do FFA alumna, says she’s thankful for the balance she and Whitten strike as they co-lead the chapter, as well as for the fresh perspective he brings.
“Mr. Whitten relates to our members so well, and they truly appreciate him,” Ward says. “No matter what we’re doing as a chapter, he’s always enthusiastic and ready to contribute.”
If Whitten has anything to do with it, that enthusiasm is going to keep drawing more students into something that he believes will serve them for years to come.
“FFA is an incredible organization that offers so many valuable opportunities, and I don’t want my students to miss out on it,” Whitten says. “Even if they don’t want to pursue a career in agriculture later in life, there’s no doubt that joining FFA will positively impact them and enrich their lives.”