On October 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of Public Engagement will welcome 4-H and FFA members and their mentors to the White House to recognize the exceptional ways they are impacting their communities.
The White House Champions of Change program highlights the stories and examples of citizens across the country who are “Winning the Future” with projects and initiatives that move their communities forward. Each week, the Office of Public Engagement (OPE) hosts an event to honor those who are working to empower and inspire other members of their communities.
The recognition ceremony for FFA and 4-H members will be broadcast live at www.whitehouse.gov/live on October 9, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Eastern.
Read on to learn more about each FFA honoree…
Ridge Howell, Oklahoma
Ridge is a Native American citizen who not only contributes time to his tribe but also the welfare of all Checotah citizens, specifically concentrating on those elderly members who cannot provide for themselves. As chapter FFA president Ridge has provided leadership to his fellow FFA members to cooperatively grow the chapter and the community through the following projects: Senior Citizens lawn mowing program – For the past two years Ridge has not only organized, but provided many hours of labor for the FFA Senior Citizens Lawn Mowing Program. This program was designed to provide lawn mowing services free of charge for a minimum of two different elderly households per week. Checotah Trash Off Day – Ridge was a major inspiration in organizing and helping with the logistics of a town wide FFA trash pickup day. The FFA members did not haul off standard trash; This day was designed to clean the town of large long term debris that had been sitting for several years due to two long term ice storms, high Oklahoma winds, and the usual dilapidation of a communities aesthetics. Checotah FFA helped remove over 19 tons of debris, damaged furniture, old appliances, and a wide variety of household discards. Community Garden - Checotah FFA received a grant from Farmers Feeding the World and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. This grant provided necessary funding to develop raised bed gardens and purchase seed and plants. This program worked and spearheaded by Ridge Howell has provided over 1200 lbs of produce to date for the members of the Checotah Senior Citizens Organization. Ridge and his fellow FFA members demonstrated to Checotah Elementary students how to plant and raise vegetables, then the seeds were placed in the FFA greenhouse and allowed to grow. The ground was prepared and soil added, then Ridge and Checotah FFA members helped the students pre-K through second grade plant the fruits and vegetables. Ridge working through “in kind contributions,” from his tribe the Muscogee Creek Nation; has maintained the garden throughout the summer delivering fruits and vegetables to the Senior Citizens three times per week. The Seniors who are unable to garden for themselves due to their age are enthusiastic to have home grown vegetables provided for their consumption.
Jordan Paine, Nebraska
Jordan is an active school and community member. She has a passion for agriculture and youth education. Through her 4-H program she has developed a program where youth who live in town can keep bucket calves at her house on the edge of town. Youth are able to feed their calves and get involved in the county fair. This project has helped to teach young people how to be responsible and a little bit about agriculture as well. This past year she was a drive of a project for her school’s FFA program. The school serves 7 rural communities and the school is located outside city limits. Prior to last year there were 20 acres of school property that was unused. Jordan spearheaded a project that has allowed the FFA chapter to design a school farm where students could get involved in agriculture. The school farm consists of a herd of 20 goats and 10 acres of sub-surface drip irrigated farm ground. The sub-surface irrigation system uses substantially less water than traditional irrigation methods. The ground is managed by the FFA chapter. This year they grew wheat on the acreage. Next year they are planning to grow some field corn and some sweet corn that could be sold at local farmers market. This summer we were awarded a grant that is going to allow our school to ad a greenhouse that will be used to raise some ornamental plants but focus on fresh food products that could be used in the school lunch program or sold at farmers markets. Again this project is managed by Jordan’s FFA chapter. Through her projects Jordan is promoting sustainable agriculture and a safe and wholesome food supply.
Jacob Dickey, Illinois
Jacob spent the past year serving the FFA as the Section 17 President, and as the District IV Student Director. As a part of his officer duties, Jacob was put in charge of hosting and presenting a workshop for area chapter officers, called Leadership Training School. Jacob had a vision to transform how leadership is portrayed through pushing members to get involved in their communities by volunteering. Jacob singlehandedly redesigned Leadership Training School. While emphasizing the importance of leadership through the FFA, Jacob also made it a service-driven project, and motivated the students to live a life of service. Jacob sought sponsorships from area businesses and organized a rain barrel painting project. With the help of Coca-Cola and many other local businesses, Jacob received thirty-two fifty gallon barrels, which at Leadership Training School, the FFA members custom painted. As remarkable as this was, Jacob’s commitment to reach out to the community truly shined by the commitment made to donate all proceeds from selling the rain barrels to the Special Olympics. Once put into use, the barrels themselves will help recycle 80,000 gallons of water per year throughout the community. This project was exceptional in all aspects, as it brought together over 150 community members, agricultural sponsors, Special Olympic athletes and FFA members together to support one cause, inspired members to take part in service projects in their own communities, and kick-started a year-long “Living to Serve” campaign benefiting the local Special Olympics chapter.
Pete Dreisbach, Kentucky
Dr. Pete Dreisbach serves as Director of the Kentucky FFA Leadership Training Center. Even though he has been with the KY FFA LTC for 25 years he is constantly working to improve programming and facilities. Two years ago Dr. Pete built a ROPES course on the campus to engage students physically in leadership development. His highly trained staff lead students through team building activities which they take back to their home communities. Each summer approximately 1,500 students attend camp and experience the ROPES course. The work that Dr. Pete is doing is not limited to Hardinsburg where the camp is located, but ripples throughout the entire Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Jessica McAtamney, Pennsylvania
Jessica McAtamney is currently an agricultural teacher at W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences in Philadelphia, PA. Mrs. McAtamney’s leadership skills developed within her class as an Environmental Science and Agro- Ecology teacher. Within Mrs. McAtamney’s Agro-Ecology class, she has led a school wide recycling program. Her students educate fellow peers and school faculty on the importance of recycling and collect all recyclables in the classrooms weekly. With her ingenious way of informing city kids on how to recycle, she certainly has gained the respect from the staff and students as they excel in learning environmental conservation practices. In addition to Jessica’s leadership abilities in school, she has help developed the largest urban public school community supported agricultural program in Philadelphia. “Henry Got Crops” is the name of the CSA, which was erected by students and local cooperative organizations to provide quality fresh vegetables by using urban farming practices. Students as well as people in the community are able to learn skills on how to effectively raise vegetable crops for sale. The CSA has allowed students to appreciate methods of agriculture when dealing with crop management as well as learning the importance of healthy eating. The future goal of “Henry Got Crops” is to produce enough vegetables that will be used for the lunches at Saul High School. Ms. McAtamney’s envisions that Saul High School will one day be a complete model of a sustainable agricultural facility in a major urban community.
Bill Jimmerson, Montana
Bill has devoted a lifetime to agriculture education and the FFA starting in the early 1970s as a ag ed teacher for 25 years and then transitioning to the state level where he has served as the State FFA Advisor in Montana for the past seven years. Bill’s most notable community work has been with Montana’s Native American population. With seven reservations in Montana and a significant representation across the state’s rural landscape, Bill noticed a void in Native American participation in FFA events and conferences. Bill connected with leaders and teachers on all seven reservations and developed an event that Native American students could participate in through FFA all while honoring their native culture and heritage. Furthermore, Bill’s work with the Native American CDE was elevated to the national level where the National FFA Organization chose 2011 as the year to celebrate Native American students in FFA. Many Montana FFA members from reservation chapters attended the convention in Indianapolis and were part of a nationwide roundtable discussion with representation from over 80 tribes. There they discussed Native American culture and its interaction with FFA, agriculture education, and youth leadership. Several Montanans were recognized on the main stage with Blackfeet Chief Earl Old Person receiving the Honorary American FFA Degree.