A class for the practically educated | CraigDailyPress.com

A class for the practically educated

Agricultural program gives high school students hands-on experience, college opportunities

Bridget Manley

— As cement drops from a mixing truck, Moffat County High School students scramble, shovels and rakes in hand, to spread it.

Up and down the row of wet cement they bend, smoothing and shoveling, creating a sidewalk leading up to a house recently constructed by Habitat for Humanity on Yampa Ave.

Some may call it hard labor.

These students call it classwork.

Agricultural construction is one of several classes offered through the MCHS agricultural program. These classes provide students with practical experience.

The course offerings provided by the program are as varied as the agricultural field itself, agricultural program instructor John Haddan said. Classes such as agricultural welding, horticulture, animal science, introduction to agricultural science and natural resources and wildlife management introduce students to a variety of agricultural careers.

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During the agricultural construction course, students complete several local construction projects, applying what they’ve learned in class.

“We try to do as many projects as we can,” he said.

Agricultural construction introduces students to a variety of skills, including electrical, plumbing and carpentry. The class is “designed to generate interest in young people who might choose construction as a career,” Haddan said.

Up the row of wet cement, senior Chantae Cook bends with a smoothing tool in hand. She took the course for another reason.

Her post-graduation plans include a career in either wildlife management or motorcycle mechanics, not construction.

Cook, the lone girl in the class, took agricultural construction so she could help out around the house.

“I like to keep myself busy,” she said, adding that in this course, “you’re not sitting in a classroom : You’re actually doing something.”

Cook is conspicuously the only young woman in the class, surrounded by her male counterparts. Still, she would rather be here floating cement than sitting in a classroom.

Ahead of her stands junior Stetson Shepard.

During the summer and occasionally through the school year, he works at a ranch near Craig. He’s taking several classes in the agricultural program to learn everything he can about what he hopes will become his profession.

Eventually, he wants to set up a ranch of his own. Until then, he plans to work as a welder after graduation.

He’s gaining experience in the high school agricultural welding class. Next semester, he plans to take agricultural mechanics.

For students in the program looking to pursue higher education, Future Farmers of America, a national youth leadership program, can help students obtain financial aid for college.

The national FFA program awards more than $2.5 million annually to students who qualify, Haddan said.

FFA components, including leadership development, are intertwined throughout the curriculum. Haddan said FFA is a part of every agricultural program nationwide.

“FFA is co-curricular” and always has been, Haddan added. “It’s not a club, it’s not an extracurricular activity.”