TEMECULA—Saint Jeanne de Lestonnac Catholic High School has brought new meaning to the mission of “extend your hand” through its newly chartered Future Farmers of America (FFA) program.
As the high school curriculum was being formed, an active group of parents approached the school’s administration to introduce a program that engages students in entrepreneurship, project-based learning, agricultural classroom experiences that combine STEM and hands-on experiences, leadership and public speaking opportunities in a one-stop national organization, FFA.
“The mission at Saint Jeanne is to educate the whole person and offer experiences that will stretch our students beyond what they thought was possible,” says School Principal Annette Zaleski. “We are located in the middle of a valley that is known for agriculture. It makes sense that we use this community resource to extend this education to our students.”
One of the core principles of the FFA program is for students to give back to the community. Saint Jeanne Catholic FFA celebrated their very first National FFA Week with a bang! On February 23rd, the chapter held an event called “American Cheese: French Style.” The purpose of this event was to raise money for goats to gift their Sister School in the Congo, a school within the International Network of Schools of the Order of the Company of Mary Our Lady. Goats are a source of value in the Congo. Since the school provides room and board for children in the surrounding villages, goats are a source of nourishment for those suffering from malnutrition. The goats provide milk, meat, and are a source of currency for the people of the Congo.
Local agriculture producers such as Jack Ford and Christina Ng of the Berry Good Food Foundation, Briar Rose Winery, and Vlada Vladic of Seeds for Life donated their time, talent and delicious products to educate us about the importance of the agriculture industry and how we can benefit our surrounding communities. The presenters stressed the importance and health benefits of using organic products, as members of our community learned about the history and the processes of making fine cheese and artisan bread. The event was a huge success with over 200 people in attendance and the school was able to send $2,000 or 40 goats to the Congo! The Saint Jeanne Catholic – Temecula Chapter chose a unique project that directly affected the quality of life for students in our Sister school in the Congo.
“FFA allows our students to live and practice the teachings presented in Laudato Si, Care for Our Common Home, in which Pope Francis calls all of us to take an active role and responsibility in respecting and appreciating the gifts of our earth,” states Sister Ernestine Velarde, ODN, President of Saint Jeanne de Lestonnac School.
“Whether caring for the chickens or selling the produce grown in the garden and greenhouse; engineering the irrigation system within the FFA farm on campus; or discovering the science behind effective and responsible farming, our students are discovering the greatness and value of God’s gifts for today and for future generations.”
The Saint Jeanne Catholic FFA officially accepted their charter on April 26th during the State FFA Convention in Anaheim. Saint Jeanne is the fourth Catholic high school in the nation with an FFA charter. Look for more great news from this unique program in the months and years to come.