LAHAINA - Five students and two advisors from the Lahainaluna High School FFA (Future Farmers of America) Chapter recently traveled to Kauai to participate in the 2017 State FFA Conference.
Students who represented their FFA chapters and counties from across the state competed in various state-level career development events (skill or public speaking competitions).
Maui County was also represented by the Molokai FFA Chapter at the conference, which was held at the Marriott Courtyard Kauai at Coconut Beach and Kauai Community College.
From left, Kieran Groh, Marissa Ayonayon, Nate Beard, M’Chellle Aguinaldo and Sheila Aina-Manrique recently competed at the 2017 State FFA Conference on Kauai.
Lahainaluna's team of M'Chellle Aguinaldo and Sheila Aina-Manrique won first place in the State Commodity Display event.
They prepared a display board with photos, captions and a description of all of the agriculture products (commodities) that their FFA chapter grows, raises and sells as part of their fundraising activities.
They also harvested and displayed all of the produce and other commodities LHS students grow on a table in front of the display board.
Lahainaluna students Nate Beard, Marissa Ayonayon and Kieran Groh also participated in this year's State FFA Conference. Their advisors are Keith Ideoka and Jake Rodrique.
Ideoka said, "I have been taking my students to participate in our State FFA Conferences every year since I first began my teaching career here at Lahainaluna in 1990. Every year, my students look forward to going to states, since they get to travel to Hawaii Island, Oahu or Kauai. They also get to meet and gain inspiration from their state and national FFA officers, and they get to challenge themselves when competing in their state-level competitions.
"At our chapter level, our students who go to states get inspired to set higher personal goals for themselves. They get highly motivated to challenge themselves to do more for our FFA chapter, and I've had the privilege to watch them 'grow' to become leaders in our school and the FFA organization," he continued.
"Taking my students to states is also a great way for me to thank my students for their hard work, dedication and for committing themselves to keep our FFA chapter going strong and to keep it growing."
At the conference, Aguinaldo was elected the 2017-18 FFA state secretary.
She will travel with the team of FFA state officers to Indianapolis, Indiana, in October to represent the Hawaii State FFA at the National FFA Convention. The convention is attended by over 50,000 FFA members from all 50 states and the U.S. territories.
FFA is a national student leadership organization for students enrolled in an agriculture course in high and middle schools. Its vision is: "To Grow Leaders, To Build Communities, and To Strengthen Agriculture."
There are 15 FFA chapters in the State of Hawaii.
With young students becoming interested in school gardens and agriculture, Ideoka thinks FFA will grow in the future.
"At one time, when I was an FFA member and then Lahainaluna FFA Chapter president (1979-1982), we had over 30 FFA chapters statewide. Now, we have only 15 FFA chapters. Lahainaluna and Molokai are the only schools with active FFA chapters in the County of Maui," he explained.
"There are many factors that contributed to this decline in schools having FFA chapters and in FFA participation. The usual cause is ag teachers retiring, and there is no one to continue the FFA chapter at their school, or parents not supporting their child to pursue a career in agriculture," Ideoka continued.
"However, with the ever-growing popularity and participation of our younger students in school garden programs at the elementary and middle schools across our state, I believe that this trend will change, and we will have more schools wanting to have an FFA chapter at their middle or high school. In fact, this upward trend has already begun."
Lokelani Middle School in Kihei started an FFA chapter this year, and Kalama Intermediate School wants to launch a chapter soon.
On Oahu, urban schools like McKinley High School and Kalani High School have active FFA chapters and growing memberships.
"This is why I am committed to helping and supporting our school garden programs in any way that I can. These students will eventually come up to us at the high schools, already interested and highly motivated to continue their gardening to agriculture education, so I will have to be ready for them. These students are our future leaders in our community, and some of them could even become our next generation of young farmers who will provide the locally grown food for all of us," Ideoka concluded.