By Gretchen Teske, GTNS News
For the first time in nearly 20 years, Mt. Pleasant Community School students will be able to join an FFA chapter as Matthew Jones joins the school staff and pledges to lead them. An open house was held for Jones on Sunday, March 24, at Walt’s Tap Room in Mt. Pleasant where the community was invited to meet him and hear about his goals for the group.
Jones, originally from Richland, grew up on a farm and always knew he wanted to make something of it for his career. Not until he got to Iowa State Univeristy did he realize the way he would do so was by teaching.
“I tell the kids all the time, I love school so much I’m going back to high school to spend the rest of my life there,” he joked.
Jones still is finishing up his student teaching, but will graduate in May and begin work at MPCHS in the fall. He said he will begin with teaching ag classes to high school students during the day, then be the leader of the FFA as an extracurricular activity.
“To me the biggest thing is this isn’t my chapter,” he said. “This is the kids’ chapter, this is the community’s chapter. I’m just here to help them do whatever they want to do and experience whatever they’re interested in.”
He said he feels having an FFA chapter is important for students because it can teach them valuable leadership and communication skills they may lack while also learning about an industry very prevalent in Henry County.
“A lot of kids don’t realize just how much agriculture they’re dealing with on a daily basis,” he said.
John Henriksen, Superintendent of the Mt. Pleasant Community School District, said he is excited to see the FFA forming after 18 years without it.
Henriksen said the school had a chapter that ended in 1990 due to not enough interest. Two years ago, a senior approached the school board and did a presentation asking for them to reconsider starting an FFA.
After that student graduated, another student approached the board and explained that he talked to local businesses and students and found there was lots of interest and support.
The school board was pleased with the response and told the student $300,000 would need to be raised. Since fall of 2018, the students raised $210,000.
Henriksen said he was very happy with the student raised funds and looks forward to being able to offer this opportunity to students.
“I look forward to seeing them get involved in the state convention and taking kids to go to national convention,” he said. “FFA and the ag ed curriculum does such a good job of building leaders and really bringing out leadership skills in kids.”
He said the FFA chapter will not only be a benefit to Mt. Pleasant students, but the community as well. He feels that students involved in the FFA program will learn valuable skills that will transition well into the workforce and possibly encourage kids to take jobs available in Mt. Pleasant or move back after they leave for college.
“I think local businesses are going to find the kids who have gone through this programming will really help them in their businesses,” he said.
Jones said fall cannot come soon enough because working with those leaders is what he is looking forward to the most.
“I’m excited to meet the kids and get things going,” he said. “I really love communicating with kids and forming good relationships with them and helping them be the best versions of themselves they can (be).”