In our continuing series on grant funding, the recipients and the use of those funds, Joshua Starling, Executive Director of the North Carolina FFA Foundation, discusses a Tobacco Trust Fund Commission grant and how the money benefitted the state’s FFA program:
“Well, we received a $180,000 grant from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, and our purpose of that was to fund a program, Agricultural Education Improvement Program grant. Basically, what we did was to take the money and dole it out in mini-grants to local agricultural high school education programs that benefit our students and our teachers, really to provide resources…financial resources for them to upgrade their equipment, their labs, their greenhouse facilities, anything they thought would bring them up to date or modernize, if you will, their programs, and their classrooms, and their instructional materials.”
With school system budgets being cut year after year, Starling says the money was much appreciated:
“They were very grateful, and some of them, you have to make tough choices in a school system where you spend those dollars, especially those public dollars, and over time facilities get older, and agriculture changes and continues to modernize we want to make sure that the courses and the things we bring our students is relevant. And the latest technology and the latest resources and this way with the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, with their help for us to be able to do that. Maybe modernize greenhouses, or the latest shop equipment that our students can learn on, or update animal science land labs with the latest technology and those kinds of things.”
Starling explains that not only is FFA a stable organization, it’s a growing organization:
“Yeah, we’re actually at a 35-year high now with FFA membership, we just reached 20,000 FFA members in our state which is a 35-year high, and we attribute that to the quality of teachers we have in the classrooms. and the industry of agriculture, with more than 300 careers in the industry I think our students, and our teachers and our parents know that this is an industry that has opportunities. Whether it be on the science side, in which we’re really growing our course area and our course work that we’re offering on the science side of agriculture, or the production side, and even the green industry with the nursery operations and greenhouse operations both, I think. We’re really offering a vast opportunity to our students.”
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Joshua Starling Executive Director of the North Carolina FFA Foundation