Westwood FFA is back poised to build on its rich history
Sunday, Sept. 1 — Students at Westwood High School will be able to participate in FFA this school year. The district was able to reinstate its FFA chapter by hiring an instructor qualified to teach both ag and science classes.
Wayne Suchorski, who came to Westwood from Surprise Valley, said he is excited to head up the program although he is not yet sure what can be accomplished this school year. He wants to at least form an FFA forestry team and get students involved in welding. A schedule of possible FFA activities for the 2013-2014 school year includes forestry challenges and field trips, weld camps and sectional contests.
The Westwood FFA received its charter in November 2001 when Ryan Bentz was hired to teach ag classes at the high school. During an interview with the Westwood PinePress at that time, he said very little of the modern FFA was “cows and plows.”
He added FFA was about leadership development, public speaking, community service and citizenship. That year there were 30 active Westwood FFA members.
Two years after Westwood received its charter 11 members purchased market hogs or lambs to show at the Lassen County Fair. Although many of these animals were raised in makeshift pens in a shed at Westwood High they showed well at the Lassen County Fair. Daniel Lawrence was awarded FFA Champion Hog and Reserve Grand Champion Hog after taking first place in the weight class in which his hog was entered. Nolan Bussey was awarded Reserve FFA Champion Lamb after placing first in his lamb weight class and first in novice showmanship.
Yet Jenn Ward, who was hired as the ag instructor in 2002, told the PinePress the real victory was not in the awards but in selling an animal at fair, which “is not an easy task.”
The summer of 2003 the school district constructed a barn funded by a $10,000 incentive grant from the state of California, a $12,000 grant from the KBK Foundation and monetary and material donations from local businesses. The next year Matt Johnson raised the FFA Champion Hog. Also in 2004, Johnson successfully ran for FFA Intermountain Section vice president and Westwood won the best small chapter award. Ward received “Gold Star Advisor” and Henry Bietz, superintendent of Westwood School District and principal at Westwood High, received “Gold Star Administrator.”
In 2005 Johnson raised the grand champion market steer and his brother, Kyle, had the Reserve FFA Champion Hog. Westwood FFA competed in the best pen of five, selecting their five best market hogs and finished first.
The spring of 2006 Johnson was elected sentinel at the statewide FFA conference held in Fresno, therefore he put college on hold to serve as a California State FFA officer the following year.
Ward left the position of ag teacher at the end of the 2006-2007 school year and Tamsen DeForest was hired. Before the program was eliminated due to funding cuts, Westwood had another FFA Reserve Champion Hog at the Lassen County Fair when Kyle Johnson won in 2008 and Tahnee Beal took home the trophy for FFA Champion Hog in 2009.
According to Suchorski, about 80 percent of the Westwood High student body is eligible to participate in FFA. To qualify a student must be enrolled in an ag class.
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