Hollister High School’s agriculture and FFA program has earned a ranking of No. 11 out of more than 380 ag programs in the state of California, improving its ranking from No. 15 last year, according to a press release from the San Benito High School District.
The ranking is based on the statistical performance indicators of the following categories: total number of American FFA Degrees, State FFA Degrees, State Proficiency Awards, State Championships and State FFA Executive Committee Members.
“One of the best parts of my job as an agriculture teacher is getting to showcase students’ stories and experiences within the agricultural industry,” Hollister High School teacher and FFA Advisor Grace Erickson said. “Hollister FFA ranking No. 11 in the state of California is a testament to the collaboration of the students, families, staff, administration and community that makes up the Hollister High School Agriculture Department and FFA program. Our families, administration and community have continued to demonstrate their commitment to our students and the program in a multitude of ways, whether it is financial support, work based learning opportunities, volunteering their time for coaching teams or judging competitive events.”
Hollister FFA Chapter President Blake Abercrombie, a Hollister High School senior, said over the past four years, “I have seen just how supportive our community is, whether it’s at our Ag Mechanics Auction where we raised over $100,000 for our students and program or members of the community coming to talk to our students about careers and opportunities after high school.”
Blake said his involvement with the ag fabrication and welding team has given him the skills to apply for jobs in the welding industry, while his leadership experiences through FFA—including conferences and speaking contests—make him eligible for college scholarships.
This past year, 30 students received their State Degree in the Spring, a designation earned, in part, for having spent 500 hours in a supervised agricultural experience (SAE) project; made or invested $1,000 into that project; completed 25 hours or more of community service; and being an active member in the FFA program, says the press release.
Alexis Schreck and Kassidy Shevlin, graduates of the Hollister High School Class of 2022, received their American Degree, which is the highest degree an FFA member can attain. To receive this degree, students must be one year out of high school, continue their SAE project with a profit of $10,000 in that project (or invested $7,500) and have 50 or more hours of community service.
Class of 2023 alumna Abby Bianchi was the State Proficiency winner in the category of Goat Production Entrepreneurship for her goat breeding project; and fellow graduate Austen Underwood was the State Proficiency winner in the category of Landscape Management Placement, for his job with Greener Grounds, a landscape company.
Floriculture teacher Chelsi Soares, who helps students with their State and American Degrees and works closely with them to highlight the work they do through their Supervised Agricultural Experience projects, said, “The time and commitment that students, teachers, school and the community have put into the program is astounding and it really shows today the quality of the program. We, as advisors, work hard to make sure that our students are not only educated in agriculture, but are well-rounded productive members of society when they graduate high school. We want our students to graduate with skills that they can use in the real world, whether they choose to go to college or the workforce.”
FFA Advisor Emily Herzog said that the continued upswing in state ranking is “something I am extremely proud of for our students, program and community.”
Herzog noted that during the past four years, Hollister FFA has annually had at least one State Proficiency winner who gets to represent California FFA on a national level and one national finalist who was top four in the nation. These proficiency awards allow students to reflect on their SAE projects and work experience—and also give students the opportunity to be interviewed about their applications by industry professionals.
Hollister FFA Vice President Kendall Sand, an HHS senior, said she appreciates the support of the agriculture program by the community.
“From conferences to livestock projects, they are our backbone,” Sand said, pointing out the $1.2 million grossed for 290 exhibitors at the Junior Livestock Auction during the county fair.
She credited her “amazing group of advisors” whom she said wake up early “traveling with us, helping my team plan meetings, and work hard at so many things behind the scenes. But above all, they are always encouraging. Because of this, I have stepped out of my comfort zone, found so many new hobbies, and met some of my best friends. I will forever be grateful for the Hollister FFA program!”