Giving and Looking Back – Highland FFA

I’ve been in Highland’s FFA (Future Farmers of America) program for all four years of my high school career. It’s been one of the most exciting parts of my school years and some of my favorite teachers have come from my FFA classes. Highland’s FFA is known for holding some of the biggest events in school; the Fall Harvest- for elementary students to learn about the farming industry, the LipSync Battle- for students all over to perform and have fun, and Holiday Helping Hands- to give back to our community. These events are held to bring our FFA chapter together and create lasting memories.

On Tuesday the 13th, the Ag(riculture) department held Holiday Helping Hands, an event where Highland FFA collaborates with Legacy. Legacy is a California-based foster organization that has worked with Highland for a couple of years with the FFA program and the Red Cross club! Despite the main event not happening till mid-December, the partnership kicks off a couple of weeks before so we can bring in as many donations as possible. Last year, we gave Legacy so many presents for the children, there was a massive overflow! This year, the Ag teachers hoped to achieve that again. About 200 presents were donated, just by students alone; a fantastic feat, and that doesn’t include what the department hoped to bring in from faculty.

Questions with the Advisors

Interviewing Mr. Leishman, the Ag teacher for AFNR and Government/Economy, I got a deeper look into what working with Legacy has been like. Leishman has been at Highland for years and actually adopted one of his sons thanks to Legacy.

Q: So what’s it like working with Legacy?

A: Legacy’s a great foster organization… The CEO Mr. Hansen is a great guy who is always willing to work with the community – especially at Highland. I know Red Cross has worked with him before and Highland FFA has worked with them over the past few years. It gives us an opportunity to give back to the community which is great for our students because it gives them those community connections… 

Leishman’s favorite part about working with them is the impact they’re making with these children, “ Working with them is good – it’s reassuring, it’s comforting – it makes you feel good and you’re making an impact. I can see the impact as a foster parent for my son, Andrew. I can see the impact on his life and how it made us feel as a foster family to have those connections with the community.” Leishman goes on to say that FFA no longer works with Toys for Tots due to there being a lack of connection and specification. 

“In past years we used to do Toys for Tots but that was just like a blanket or a toy – and we always had more than enough… So that’s when we figured we needed a more specific target and goals to make our gifts a little more meaningful than just purchasing a bunch of stuff to throw at the problem. Instead of giving a faceless child a gift – which is still really good – our students could think, ‘Oh… there’s a fourteen-year-old boy out there, the same age as me, and I gave him something that I would really like too’”. In this, Leishman hopes to create a better connection between the students and the act of donation, to know “that you could make an impact on someone else’s life makes it a little bit more real for us as people who give”.

A group of students by some of the gifts donated

I also talked to Mrs. Moss, the latest student teacher- she teaches a variety of classes as a sub-in for the other Ag teachers! This is her first year with us and Holiday Helping Hands but she has hosted events like this at other schools ^•ﻌ•^ !! 

Q: How do you like working with Legacy?

A: Oh! Working with Legacy is very rewarding and it’s a great opportunity for our chapter members to be able to understand the concepts of helping our community – especially our foster youth by sponsoring them via a Christmas gift. So it’s a great way to give back to the community and I enjoy that we are able to do that for them”. Mrs. Moss goes on to say that while she mostly worked with homeless shelters in the past with other schools, but the student participation here at Highland is great. 

I think this is a great way to do it, especially tying it into a chapter meeting (Helping Hands) and getting them involved. They get to hang out and enjoy playing games and doing things together as a chapter helps spark that community involvement… the Legacy environment that gives the chapter members an opportunity to provide that sponsorship to another child is a really rewarding experience. Of course, it gets them involved in community service and community outreach.

Finally, I spoke with Ms. Dunlap, the chemistry and floral teacher! She helped the FFA officers develop their script, plan the event, and so on. ʕ•ﻌ•`ʔ

Q: So how do you feel about Holiday Helping Hands?

A: I think it’s been a really great turnout and there has been great energy with our event so far! Especially with our “Minute to Win It” games – that was a real hit and definitely got a lot of audience engagement. I think it’s been good and a little different from past years…” Through my experience, I always felt like the event was food and community-based, however this year it was primarily competition-based. Despite that, having these games gets the students more involved and it seems like they have way more fun. “ I also think kids are more competitive here at Highland. It’s a good way for kids to be engaged with what we put on and have positive feedback from them.

Ms. Dunlap feels that working with Legacy has been a “seamless partnership” thanks to Leishman interacting with them on a personal level. 

Reflecting on Holiday Helping Hands ~

Speaking from firsthand experience, I’ve always thought this event has gotten a lot of traction and students feel connected to these kids — especially the toddlers and babies. This year, all of the donation offers were taken by students within the first couple of days. It feels good to know so many students care about others and want to contribute to the people. While it is mostly a volunteering and donation-based event, the FFA students still have a lot of fun through games and the gingerbread house-building competition. Definitely recommend coming out to donate and participate next year 😀

Winners of the Gingerbread Making competition!

The super full cafeteria!!

With love ^w^

Alister !

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s