For many Iowa students, joining FFA is something they eagerly look forward to when they get to high school. The blue corduroy jacket adorned with the chapter’s name on the back and the student’s name on the front represents association, pride, Ag education—and even more so, leadership.
This school year, Pella Christian will charter the newest FFA chapter in the state, adding to Iowa’s existing 235 chapters and 15,400 student members. “We’ve been working on forming this new chapter and offering Vo-Ag classes for three years now,” said Russ Fynaardt, chair of the Pella Christian Vocational Agriculture Fundraising Team. “It has been proposed before, but this time it passed with tremendously positive approval.”
Since Pella Christian is a private school, the program will initially be funded with the help of private donations instead of being part of the school’s general operating budget. The group of volunteers who made up the fundraising team over the years (see below) will soon transform into the advisory committee. In three to five years, they intend to blend the program into the core school programming.
“A Vo-Ag program will be a nice complement to our curriculum at Pella Christian,” said Principal Dan Van Kooten. “It will provide a unique, hands-on program that gives students a place to grow and thrive beyond the traditional classroom experience. For a Christian school, this makes so much sense!”
Chartering a new FFA chapter, however, is no small feat. In fact, you can’t start a chapter without establishing an Ag education program within the school, and there must be at least 20 students committed to being members. Enter Dordt College graduate Ellie Rethmeier. In March, Pella Christian hired Ellie to serve as the school’s first Vo-Ag instructor and take the lead in chartering the new FFA chapter. “I’m focused on creating community in the classroom,” said Ellie. “I know these students are passionate about Ag and supporting each other.”
The program already has an impressive 60-student roster. This fall, two Vo-Ag sections will be offered to students, with a curriculum focused on Ag food and natural resources, Agronomy/plant science, Ag mechanics and environmental science and natural resources. “I’m so excited we finally got the program,” said Jayden Veenstra, who will be a senior at Pella Christian in 2018. “Now I can take the classes I have always wanted.”
For years, Pella Community Schools have opened their Ag programming to Pella Christian students, and many took advantage of those classes. “The kids that really want to be in Ag found a way,” said Jayden. “I’m now looking forward to building our own club.”
Pella Christian Vocational Agriculture Fundraising Team
Frederick DeHaan, Development Coordinator
Russell Fynaardt, Chair
Joel Van Gilst
Dan Van Kooten, Principal
Jay Van Woerkom
Mike Vander Hart