“Each ag teacher is only one person, and as much as we would like to think we can serve every kid, well … we reach a point where we don’t have enough time, or energy or skill to help,” says Mountain Crest FFA Advisor Megan Haslam.
The former FFA member who is now in her 12th year as an agriculture teacher understands the needs of a chapter stretched thin on adult support. But this fall, she has a renewed spirit as the Mountain Crest FFA Alumni Chapter is taking shape. She and fellow agriculture teacher Tyrell Stephens and past student Tiffany Frank are spearheading the new group.
“We have 105 FFA members, but with only two advisors, we knew we were doing an injustice to those who seek opportunities in the agriculture industry,” says Haslam. “But now with more adults helping as we begin our alumni chapter, we will be able to provide more intense student support, better mentorship, and a more positive experience in the program.”
Haslam wants for her students what she learned at their age. “As a student, I had countless experiences that showed me I can do scary and hard things and live through them — like saying the Creed and completely forgetting the whole third paragraph,” she says. “I was absolutely mortified and swore I’d never talk to another person again. But then I remember finally realizing that I can walk into a room with a judge and say a speech or give a sales pitch. As long as it was my best, the final placing didn’t matter because I had faced my fears.”
She says FFA helped her “earn grit and courage one event at a time,” which she still uses today.
The additional support of 10 -15 alumni members will also extend the organization’s reach to serve the needs of area residents. “We look to give back to our community on a more regular basis and make more impact,” Haslam says.
She was overjoyed by the generosity of National FFA sponsor Tractor Supply Company that funded Mountain Crest FFA Alumni Chapter’s legacy grant, which will be used to help create the alumni chapter. “I am so excited about the grant! I have been surprised and so humbled at how many people want to help,” she says. “This investment in our chapter will keep on giving long after the grant money is gone because of the expected volunteer hours, fundraisers and scholarships that this will help kickstart.”
Haslam says it’s heartwarming to watch Mountain Crest FFA members each year conducting their fundraisers and carrying out volunteering efforts. “I enjoy seeing how positive our members are, and I love that our kids have developed such giving hearts.”
The gift of time is also invaluable. “There are so many ways alumni can help! It could be anything from coaching a team, reading award applications, shopping for or preparing food to being chaperones … or taking a shift at the school’s concession stand,” she continues.
For anyone starting a chapter, she advises to start slowly and seek quality members. “Find those who are self-starters that want to assist the chapter but not take it over; pick people who see the vision.”
And she reminds other advisors that hitches happen but structure helps.
“Coordinating the efforts of our alumni with the students has been the biggest challenge getting started, but we selected our current chair because she is super organized and keeps us on track,” she adds.
Learn more at FFA.org/alumnigrants.