FFA finalists
The nine finalists of Garces FFA’s SAE Showcase. From right to left: Gabby Camou, Tessa Ludwig, Joseph Deniz, Kaylynn Killion, Melanie Haught, Reese Turman, Reese Froehlich, Kate Wegis, Rebecca Gutierrez. (Photo: GMHS)
Audrey Hill
Audrey Hill, Feature Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

By Audrey Hill, Feature Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

Some exciting things are happening at the Garces Memorial High School FFA chapter! Ashleigh Rossi, the chapter’s new leader, is helping guide her student’s success as they work diligently to be our future farmers of America.

“Our FFA program is unbelievable because of [Ms. Rossi] and all her hard work,” says Lou Ann Durrett, GMHS Director of Communications. Not only would the chapter have missed out on the Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) Showcase if not for her, but also the tremendous amount of growth that resulted.

The Garces FFA chapter’s first Supervised Agricultural Experience Showcase occurred on May 2, where every student from the classroom presented their project. SAE projects are a new facet of the FFA learning experience and encapsulate work-based, hands-on learning. They can come in the form of professional internships, small businesses, and almost every other form of animal and plant husbandry learning environment. These projects can last many months and allow students to deepen their education and generate some income! The students’ grades depended on their detailed records for their project and the extent to which they took the project.

Of the roughly 70 students presenting at the showcase, nine finalists were chosen, and the overall winner was freshman Joseph Deniz with his project “Joe’s Chickens.”

“I first started with buying 50 chickens and one rooster, and I gave all the eggs an incubator,” says Deniz. “I managed to get over 5,000 chicks in a year off of those 50 chickens. […] I was selling them every day. As soon as they came out of the incubator, I sold them to local feed stores.”

Deniz hatched over five different types of chickens and raised 13,000 dollars by selling them to feed stores and hobby chicken farmers up and down the Central Valley. Deniz will invest some of his earnings in his show goat project and the rest will be saved for college. He hopes to attend either Cal Poly, SLO or Texas A&M.

In the interview with 23ABC, Garces Memorial FFA Leader, Ashleigh Rossi spoke about why she got involved in FFA: “I started out being the cheer coach for a couple years and I knew right off the bat that the school needed an ag program because I also knew a lot of alumni that had graduated and gone into the ag field. I thought how great it would be for them to have sort of a jumping off point from an educational background.” After meeting the educational requirements to teach the class, and now having taught FFA for several years, Rossi states that “[the Garces FFA chapter] is a really well-rounded program. Some of our students aren’t immediately interested in agriculture, but once they start the program or do some of the activities that FFA offers, they see where their interest in agriculture fits.”

Ms. Rossi’s students learn about the different facets of the agriculture industry in class, but their SAE project allows them to dive deeper into specific areas that spark their interest. To Ms. Rossi, the addition of the SAE project that all students must complete is a necessary addition to the course since it lets them find passion in the subject themselves. Rossi states that she “wanted to give our school and community a chance to see what amazing projects our students were doing. I called it a showcase to give our FFA members the stage to showcase their hard work and knowledge of their projects. When students take pride in their work, it becomes more enjoyable and sparks creativity as well as growth.”

With help from educators like Ms. Rossi and programs like FFA, students learn dedication through keeping records, responsibility by managing money, and the reward of a good work ethic. Congratulations to Joseph Deniz as the Garces FFA SAE Showcase Champion and all the students who achieved personal accomplishments through completing their showcase projects.

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