FFA Chapter continues to grow in second year at Evanston
Evanston – In 2009, when Brenden Ellis arrived in Evanston as the high school’s new agriculture education teacher, he immediately became involved in chartering a new FFA chapter to add to the roster of the Wyoming FFA Association.
Today the chapter has a large, diverse membership and strong support from school administration and the community.
“We’ve got over 60 members,” says Ellis, who serves as the Chapter Advisor and instructor for a number of ag classes. “You’ve got to give a lot of credit to a good 4-H program and surrounding FFA programs.”
“The parental support is fantastic. Anything we need, they are there to help,” he continues. “It’s a big school and we’re not struggling to find kids. All of my classes are full.”
Ellis was hired when former welding instructor Chuck Nixon retired and the school administration decided to add an agriculture component to the program.
“Nixon had a fantastic program,” says Ellis. “We tried to keep that going.”
One project Ellis and his students recently finished is a large barbeque grill that serves as a fundraiser for the Evanston FFA Chapter.
“We rent it to groups to use for their events. We’ve already rented it a few times,” explains Ellis. “We tried to keep it low-cost to help the community.”
To emphasize the scale of the barbeque, Ellis says at one event they cooked 700 hamburgers and 300 hot dogs in only two hours.
“We tried to incorporate as much learning into it as we could,” emphasizes Ellis. “The kids learned how to use all the equipment and built everything.”
Many of his classes incorporate hands-on learning with classroom experience.
“The ag mechanics class is rebuilding a John Deere Model B and a Model A,” says Ellis. “We will rebuild and sell them for a fundraiser.”
Currently Ellis teaches general agriculture classes, animal science and other science-based courses along with welding. Enrollment in these courses qualifies students for FFA membership.
Evanston FFA Chapter members have projects that range from swine, beef and sheep production to raising horses and agri-science research projects.
“I have some kids who are interested in the science part of agriculture, like doing research, and have no ag background,” says Ellis. “I also have students who came off ranches and have been raising cattle their whole lives.”
Ellis was born on an eastern Idaho ranch and educated at BYU Idaho, where he received a degree in agriculture education and an endorsement to teach science classes.
“I can teach science courses and students can get science credit,” says Ellis of the programs benefits. “In the next five years, I’d like to add a plant science course, as well.”
Ellis is also developing his teaching skills constantly by attending various workshops and certifications.
“I’m going to a certified welding inspector course, so I will be able to certify students,” says Ellis of the opportunity for students to get real-world experience in the program.
The chapter also works on a number of community service projects in the community.
“We went to the hospital as a joint effort with the 4-H program and landscaped the inner complex,” says Ellis. “We also made baby blankets and sent them over to the local health district.”
The Evanston FFA Chapter has also been involved in state events, including the Wyoming State FFA Convention, where they competed inpoultry, horse and livestock judging, as well as ag mechanics and Greenhand Quizbowl.
“It’s a bit different from Idaho where I grew up, but the kids have done well,” says Ellis of the chapter’s successes at the Wyoming State FFA Convention.
Wyoming FFA Association Advisor Ron Pulse also offers positive and optimistic comments about the Evanston FFA Chapter and Ellis.
“They have a tremendous amount of administrative support,” says Pulse. “I think Brenden was a good choice. They are on the right track.”
Pulse continues, “Ellis has a steep learning curve. He’s active in our professional learning and his kids are active and engaged. It looks like he’s got a lot of good things going on.”
“There has been more going on in that shop this year than in the last five years,” says Evanston High School principal David Bennett, praising the program.
“He needs a bigger classroom,” continues Bennett, who anticipates the program will do very well in the future with continued community support. “If he continues to build the program, it will continue to expand.”
To kick off this school year, after state fair the chapter will host an opening social to involve new members.
The Evanston FFA Chapter is starting the year with a young officer team, consisting of six freshman students and two seniors, which will provide strong leadership for the growing chapter.
“We just graduated most of our officer team. This year’s team is fantastic. I have a lot of good motivators,” says Ellis.
He also speaks fondly of chapter members, saying they are very involved, have great projects and do well in the program. Though there is minor competition with athletics and other extracurricular activities, Ellis says the chapter has between 25 and 30 members at every event.
As they head into their third year, the Evanston FFA Chapter will undoubtedly continue to grow and be an integral component of the Wyoming FFA Association.
“I’m still just getting situated into things,” says Ellis. “Eventually, I’d like to expand the program to a two-teacher team, but we’ll see what happens.”
Saige Albert is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.