Community Agriculture Alliance: Career and Technical Education continues as RISE grant sunsets

Jeannie Jo Logan
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
The Soroco Future Farmers of America group.
Community Agriculture Alliance/Courtesy photo

As the sun sets on the Yampa Valley RISE grant, the Hayden and Soroco Agriculture programs look to the future with continued excitement for their programs. Both districts saw 50-56% participation this past school year, and as students settle into the new year, both districts see increases in participation. 

Hayden, entering its second year, has 80 students enrolled in at least one agriculture class, while Soroco has 73 students. Each district hosts approximately 100 students in their high schools with a projected increase to approximately 70% of each student body actively participating in each district’s agriculture programs. 

The three agriculture teachers are in the second year of implementing new curriculum and cooperative teaching, while continuing to offer long-standing courses our community is accustomed to seeing. Notable successes include; 27 students from both districts earning over 60 welding certifications, 12 middle school students in Soroco earning their hunters safety certifications, and 22 Soroco students obtaining their food server certificate through the national ServSafe food handler program. In addition to these certifications, the RISE grant brought agricultural lessons to all students K-12th grade.

Our elementary students learned career connections through Colorado State University DIGS (Developing Individuals and Growing Stewards) lessons. These lessons were designed to connect Agriculture Pathways through hands-on activities, and offer an opportunity to earn a Junior Ag Ambassador badge.

A key goal for both districts is to enable advanced educational opportunities for older students. To achieve this 100% of middle schoolers received instruction in agriculture-enhanced lessons through quarterly rotations. These classes are a vital foundation for each district’s agriculture programs and will expand student learning objectives. Hayden’s Ag teacher has broadened course offerings from two classes to six classes this year.

Soroco, already having a well-established program, hired another agriculture teacher to provide a total of 14 courses. To strengthen these courses, both districts have constructed greenhouses for hands-on learning of horticulture, natural resources, and plant sciences. Food products labs for better understanding of food sourcing, agribusiness systems to study market demands, and global supply-chain functions. While also enhancing their power, structural and technical laboratories to connect and hone their skills for real world experiences specific to welding, construction trades and electric-circuitry. 

The knowledge gained through hands-on coursework is providing unique opportunities for students. Preliminary examples include one student seeking an artificial insemination certification as her capstone project. Meanwhile other students will receive hands-on instructions in electrical energy through specifically designed electrical boards.

Several students are already applying their skills in their work based learning internships in the food and beverage industry, as well as welding and construction. Hayden and South Routt School District’s will provide the education to match the industry. 

Throughout the past 18 months students and staff of each district have made invaluable community connections. The support from several Routt County and other Colorado nonprofits, plus individual contributions have built educational labs that are providing hands-on, real-life experiences during their high school years. Both districts could not have accomplished the education labs without this support.

Please enjoy a short video highlighting the RISE grant opportunity.

Jeannie Jo Logan is the Yampa Valley RISE Grant Project Manager

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