DARKE COUNTY – Ohio House Representative Jim Buchy is spearheading an initiative that will offer 4-H and FFA programs to urban schools, in an effort to promote gainful employment and rural values in municipal schools.
“We are very successful (in West Central Ohio) because we have strong families and strong education. And part of that has to do with our youth programs, both 4-H an FFA.”
In a released statement, Rep. Buchy stated that there are 80,000 unfilled jobs in this state, and by extension a need to fill those roles by emerging Ohio graduates.
And one of the largest sectors remains agricultural, which Darke County and the local region know all about.
“Historically west central Ohio is so agriculturally oriented, and its predominantly what runs our economy,” said Rep. Buchy. “Two big contributors to the success of agriculture have been the 4-H and FFA programs in our schools. And its because those two programs teach much more than just basic agriculture elements. They’re well-rounded programs that teach kids all kinds of great lessons, coupled with the family atmosphere that we’ve had for so many years here.”
Rep. Buchy’s thinking was that since these programs were so effective when implemented in agriculturally based communities, why not utilize them in other regions to a similar effect?
Over the past few years, Rep. Buchy has worked with OSU Extension, the Ohio Department of Education, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the Cleveland and Cincinnati teacher’s unions, the Cleveland and Cincinnati city school administration and urban state representatives to outline a pilot program that will run 4-H programs in K-12 schools and the FFA program in high schools.
In conjunction with Dr. Keith Smith, Director of Ohio State University Extension and Dr. Steven Gratz, Director of Career-Technical Education of the Ohio Department of Education, Rep. Buchy has worked to outline and implement a pilot programs specifically in Cleveland and Cincinnati high schools beginning in the fall of 2014.
The process began around three years ago as Rep. Buchy met David Quolke, President of the Cleveland Teachers Union, and spent half a day discussing Cleveland schools. During the course of their discourse, Rep. Buchy suggested the FFA program as a method to battle high dropout rates.
The 50,000-plus Cleveland student population only provided career technical education in one building to around 200 students grades 9-12. An agriculture program was suggested as an inexpensive addition to lessons taught in the classroom, and was seen by Rep. Buchy as an opportunity to share some of the things that make rural schools effective.
Cincinnati was added to the pilot project after Representative Dale Mallory (District 32) heard of the program developing in Cleveland, and as a strong supporter of 4-H believed it would work for his district as well.
Since the annual cost of educating a student in an urban school district is more than $5,000 greater than educating a student in west central Ohio, Rep. Buchy plans to introduce the agricultural values and inexpensive lesson plans to new classrooms as a way to reduce costs and allow state education dollars to be spread more evenly.
“Innovation is the best way we can save money at the state level. In the case of introducing agriculture to urban schools, we are cutting our future costs and providing better job training for future employees in the food processing industry,” said Rep. Buchy.
If the pilot program is prosperous, Ohioans can expect to see similar programs sprouting around the state.
“The idea is to see if we can develop a success story in Cleveland and Cincinnati. And if it has success, which I’m counting on, then they’ll expand the model into many more cities in Ohio,” said Rep. Buchy. “Twenty years from now, I would hope that every high school in Ohio had FFA, and every school has 4-H.”