Doing Thing By the Book

Rockford Elementary

Rockford Middle FFA Chapter members read their recruitment book to a group of elementary students.

When the Rockford Middle FFA Chapter from Minnesota was asked about writing a book for kindergarteners in their school district, they jumped at the opportunity to share the story of the blue jacket.

Every year, the Rockford school district writes and illustrates a book about their mascot, Rockee. After publishing and printing, the book is distributed to all kindergarteners at Rockford Elementary School.

“When my principal asked me if our FFA chapter would be interested in doing it this year, we were immediately excited because it was a chance for us to share the FFA story in a school district where FFA is fairly new,” says FFA chapter advisor Keri Sidle. “It was an excellent opportunity to get material in the hands of students and families who know little about FFA.”

Written and illustrated by chapter members, the book shows Rockee joining FFA, participating in FFA career development events (CDEs), volunteering in his community, attending the National FFA Convention & Expo, and learning in his agriculture class.

Sidle says, “As the newly joined FFA members began writing their story about Rockee, they themselves had to do some research to learn more about what conferences, awards, and experiences FFA has to offer and what they wanted to share with the public.”

While writing the book, the FFA members included fun facts about FFA, such as information about the more than 1,800 scholarships available to students and that in 2015, FFA awarded $2.7 million to students involved in the organization.

“It’s common that people in the community, students and parents alike, are unfamiliar with the scholarship opportunities their students have as a result of FFA,” Sidle says. “I hope the community can look at the story and fun facts within the book and see the valuable experiences in FFA, and hopefully we will then witness an increase in membership and support as a result.”

Not only did the book make an impact on the community, it also made an impact on the students that served as authors of the book.

FFA member Jaiden Sundeen says, “I realized that I was doing a great thing. Not only was I getting a chance to write a children’s book, but I was also able to spread the word of agriculture and FFA.”

All chapter members involved said they learned the value of hard work, dedication and meeting deadlines.

After completion of the book, the authors traveled to the elementary school in FFA Official Dress to read the book and spend some time talking to the kindergarteners about FFA.

“Seeing the early-morning and late-night hard work pay off as well as the excited faces of the kids was rewarding for all of us,” Sidle says.

Member Mitch Johnson adds, “FFA is great because it allows us to learn many different things but in a fun and hands-on way, which is exactly what this book does for kindergarteners.”

Even though the book changes next year, Rockford FFA plans to continue visiting the kindergartners annually to read their book. Next time, Rockee himself might even be wearing a blue corduroy jacket. Most importantly, the chapter hopes the community will transition from asking the question, “What is FFA?” to asking, “How can I be more involved with FFA?”

– Amy Morgan