Thousands of FFA chapters are in Indianapolis this week for the National FFA Convention with a goal of learning, networking and pursuing FFA achievement awards.
One FFA chapter is there to also achieve a sense of normalcy.
Nine members of the Joplin FFA Chapter are in attendance and are proudly bearing their high school's mascot, the Eagle, and new motto of "hope." They are at the National FFA Convention due to their mental fortitude and the generosity of the numerous FFA members, individuals, and agricultural organizations across the state and country.
Princeton FFA Chapter donated all $1,500 of their Monsanto Chapter Challenge prize earned earlier this year. Greenfield FFA shared their bus to Indianapolis. The Missouri Cattlemen's Foundation donated $500 of its disaster relief funds … the list of supporters of Joplin FFA Chapter goes on and on.
"The Princeton FFA donation made it possible for us to buy the FFA Convention tickets," says Jason Cutler, Joplin FFA advisor. "Sharing a bus with Greenfield FFA helps keep the cost lower. Donations from other FFA chapters and ag organizations allowed us to offset the travel cost and help pay for our lodging."
Cutler, a second year agriculture teacher at Joplin High School, say he and his students have been seeking "normal" since that fateful day on May 22, when the city of Joplin felt the fury of an F-5 tornado. The tornado cut a wide path of destruction and left a terrible toll of lost lives and splintered homes, businesses and schools -- including Joplin High School and its Franklin Technology Center, where agriculture classes and shop were held. Four Joplin FFA members' homes were totally destroyed in the tornado, but fortunately, no lives lost.
When classes resumed in mid-August, the Joplin FFA Chapter counted 65 student-members, down from 75 last year. Two FFA officers, displaced to nearby towns after the tornado damaged their homes, did not rejoin the chapter. Cutler now has to travel to three different buildings in Joplin to teach his students. The seniors and juniors have classes in a renovated department store at the Joplin mall. School administrators don't expect the new high school and Franklin Technology Center to be finished until August of 2014.
The remaining members of Joplin FFA have formed a strong bond, working together and setting a few goals. They were able to replace their FFA greenhouse and hope to have it fully operational soon. Another goal set is to assist the community in planting trees to replace the thousands lost in the tornado. The biggest goal – to participate in the National FFA Convention – is an important step in the chapter's rebuilding and renewal process.
The Joplin FFA Chapter has reserved a booth at the FFA Career Show/FFA mall. "It will give us an opportunity to talk with and thank FFA members from all over the country for the support they have given us since May 22," Cutler says. "It is a chance for us to begin preparing for the future."
Cutler acknowledges that he and his students have had to overcome many daily challenges that high school students should not have to face. "We have to choose our attitude every day," he says. "We could feel sorry for ourselves and keep asking, 'why us?' Instead, we choose to move on."
The Joplin FFA Chapter has received many generous donations already, but still has lots of needs. Donations and notes of encouragement can be sent to:
FFA Advisor/Agriculture Instructor
Franklin Technology Center/Joplin High School
310 W. 8th Street
Joplin, MO 64801[email protected]