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“I’ve always been involved in agriculture but didn’t realize how far it could take me. I want to give back to something that has given so much to me.” - Reighly Blakley, Oologah FFA student


4-H


With more than 7 million members worldwide, 4-H is one of the largest youth development organizations in America offering programs not only to rural members but also those living in urban and suburban neighborhoods. The club is open to students ages 8 to 18 and offers science, health and citizen- ship programming through camps, week- end events and afterschool activities.


beating out her brothers to win champion market hog at a spring show last year. The Taylor family has been involved in 4-H and FFA all of their lives, but there are other students, even those living in rural areas, who are new to the organizations. Agricultural instructor and FFA adviser Josh Blair has taught at Oologah High school for three years. When he arrived, there were 47 students enrolled in Ag Ed classes, and the department had one computer. Today, enrollment has jumped to 153, and the ag building has its own computer lab. The program has grown at such a rate that the school added a second instructor in 2013. “This is a very progressive chapter with a lot of history,” Blair says. “The community really supports our school system, but we have to do more to promote ag itself. Fewer kids live on the farm and know where their food comes from—that’s something that has defi nitely changed in the past 10 years.”


Even though Oologah is a rural town, it is close to Tulsa and its outlying suburbs. Many non-traditional ag students are discovering new interests rarely found in the city by studying natural resources, ag mechanics, ag communications and horticulture. “Oklahoma FFA offers everything from livestock competitions to Career


Development Events and leadership activities,” Blair says. “We want stu- dents to fi nd something they can use for a career and have a little fun. You can’t be afraid to work hard and get your hands dirty.” Senior ag student Taylor Stevens used to live in the Tulsa suburb of Owasso and says her parents always have lived in the city. When her family moved to Oologah, she discovered a love for agriculture. “I enjoy the environment. Being “country” is who I am,” she says. Oologah is home to several former state FFA offi cers and this spring another ambitious student will run for the prestigious post. Reighly Blakley and her family are VVEC members who operate a cattle company, own a plant nursery and sell produce at several farmers’ markets in the Tulsa area. “I’ve always been involved in agriculture but didn’t realize how far it


could take me,” Blakley says. “I want to give back to something that has given so much to me.”


On any given day of the week, Oologah’s ag building is a hub of activity where students are applying what they learned in the classroom to diverse, hands-on projects such as welding, caring for livestock or even practicing archery safety skills. In February, the chapter celebrated National FFA Week, promoting ag ed and FFA programs across the country. Blair says the annual event always draws a lot of attention, but the organization is best repre- sented through the everyday dedication of its students. “You can’t go anywhere else and fi nd a better group of kids,” he says.


4-H is the exclusive youth development initiative of the nation’s Cooperative Extension System and is facilitated on a state level by Oklahoma State University. To fi nd a 4-H club in your area or to learn more about the many programs that are available for all ages, please call the state offi ce in Stillwater at 405-744-5394 or visit www.countyext. okstate.edu. Oklahoma’s 4-H leaders and county extension agents encourage you to call, email or visit your local 4-H offi ce and discover how today’s youth can make a difference in their communities.


The (4) hs ✓ Head - Managing, Thinking ✓ Heart - Relating, Caring ✓ Hands - Giving, Working ✓ Health - Being, Living


The 4-H Pledge


I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world.


FFA


FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. With more than 570,000 members in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, ag ed programming and FFA activities are offered to students ages 12 to 21.


For information on the National FFA Organiza- tion and the Oklahoma FFA Association, please visit www.ffa.org and www.okffa.org.


FFA Motto Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.


MARCH 2014 17


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