National FFA Organization is alive and well at Poudre High School

It’s almost as if Poudre High School was waiting for Ryan Dreitz to show up.

He arrived in 2013, when he was a senior in agricultural education at Colorado State University, as a participant in a placement program designed to get prospective teachers familiar with the routine of teaching.

It didn’t take Dreitz very long to recognize the agricultural roots of a segment of the Poudre student population and to wonder why there were no ag courses in the curriculum. A native of Brush, Dreitz had been an active member of 4H and FFA and for years had shown lambs he raised at the county fair.

The child of a high school principal and head high school football coach, teaching ran in his blood along with his love of agriculture. Before his placement period at Poudre was complete, the wheels were spinning in his head.

After graduation in 2014 and before the start of school last fall, Dreitz had spoken with Poudre principal Kathy Mackay, obtained a grant from the school district and a job as the sole ag educator at Poudre. It should be mentioned that Drietz has an infectious and unstoppable enthusiasm. It would be hard to tell him no.

Just ask him about the worms he nurtures in his classroom, fed on schredded recycled paper and scraps from the cooking and catering class at Poudre. He’s more enthusiastic about the red wrigglers that convert waste into rich soil than some of his students are. He hopes one day to build a greenhouse at the school where vegetables can be raised in the rich compost he makes to supply ingredients for the cooking classes.

After several decades without an FFA program, Poudre now has a chapter of the National FFA Organization, as well as 61 students enrolled in introductory level agriculture classes. Next year an agricultural science class will be added to the curriculum.

Drietz networked with ag teachers across the state to establish the curriculum. “It’s a growing process,” he explained, speaking like an old pro despite his tender age. His experience with FFA when he was in high school made him aware of the value of the program as an integral part of the curriculum and a guide to its development.

Now known as the National FFA Organization to encompass the expanding nature of agriculture, the organization is built around three interlocking circles — classroom and laboratory, supervised agricultural experience programs and FFA at local, state and national levels.

A wide range of activities are designed to promote student success by developing leadership, personal growth and career skills. There’s an official uniform, the most prominent feature being a navy blue jacket with the organization emblem.

Ag students, all FFA members, attend monthly meetings and a whole series of events ranging from the Colorado Farm Show and the National Western Stock Show to a women’s ag conference and state and national meetings.

Bailey Diehl, a junior from Wellington, who holds the position of reporter for FFA, explained diversity of supervised agricultural experiences that are available ranging from animal science to natural resources, plant system and landscape management, agricultural mechanics and farm carpentry. There are opportunities to learn about livestock judging and carcass evaluation as well as public speaking and job interview techniques.

Students in a supervised ag experience (SAE), one of the three interlocking circles that are part of the National FFA Organization, might work in a feed store or other ag business, such as a greenhouse or dairy, and the experience can continue throughout their high school career providing them with an invaluable internship experience.

There was time when Poudre High School’s ag roots were much in evidence at the school. The school had an active FFA chapter, and for a time it was open to students from other Fort Collins schools and even had members from Loveland. But with time, membership dwindled and FFA was abandoned.

But the Poudre students with agricultural roots did not go away. Today, thanks to the inspiring leadership of Ryan Dreitz, those roots are vibrant and growing once again.

Sidebar:

The first Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry, silent and member auction will be held 4:30 to 6:45 p.m. Feb. 27 in the Poudre High School Auxiliary gym to benefit the Poudre Ag Program. Auction begins at 7 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets contact Ryan Dreitz at rdreitz@psdschools.org.

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