Effie Kokrine FFA's Perspective
Alaska, the arrival of Western convenience has affected Alaskan Native life. Rather than relying on subsistence harvest of traditional foods, more people are
suffering from diabetes from eating processed foods. Communities ravaged by alcoholism
leave kids without support, leading to academic struggles and ambivalence about
postsecondary life. In Fairbanks, a group of kids is working hard to change that.
Effie Kokrine Charter School is a public charter school with a population that is 60
percent Alaska Native, and where more than 70 percent of the students qualify
for free lunch. Many students are in foster care or visiting from outlying villages.
members of the Effie Kokrine FFA have been changing the school to benefit its
students, one innovation at a time.
address issues of nutrition, the FFA program started a school garden. In
summer, students earn science credits with class-based activities in the
garden. The vegetables produced are sold at market or preserved for the
cafeteria. When FFA members heard their classmates bemoaning a lack of healthy
options for lunch, they applied for and received a donated “
Let’s Move!” salad bar. The bar is
now a popular stop for students as they load up on healthy produce.
students are not from affluent backgrounds, many of them haven’t farmed before,
and few have thought about where their food comes from,” says Sue McCullough, the
school’s FFA Advisor and an Early College Coordinator at the University of
Alaska Fairbanks. “Teaching them to sow seeds and watching their faces when
seedlings emerge makes it all worth it.
Effie FFA students have also been planning for their futures. Each April,
students in Alaska gather for State Convention. For months leading up to
Convention, students train to compete in Career Development Events (CDEs),
competitions that test knowledge in agricultural fields. In 2014, the FFA
placed first in over half of the CDEs and qualified to compete nationally in
to see students reach their full leadership potential – we’ve had a student
from our school serve as a state officer two years in a row now. It’s exciting to
see their confidence blossom,” says Sue. “I hope that students are inspired to
continue to explore the world around them. Even if they decide not to pursue
careers in agriculture, I hope that they can take the skills they’ve learned in
FFA to be successful in whatever sector they put their minds to.”
to food will continue to be a significant issue for Alaska’s population due to
limited local production and its geographical separation from the Continental
U.S. that supplies much of its needs.
state is cut off from the Lower 48, we have a mere three days of food on our
shelves – it becomes a very real food security issue,” says Sue. “I hope the
future of agriculture is made up of students like mine, consistently finding
solutions to their community’s problems through creativity, innovation and
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