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Mabton FFA program tops in the state

MABTON - An FFA revival among Mabton middle school and high school students has not gone unnoticed, as it was recently named the outstanding program for the state of Washington. The award was presented during an ag educators event on June 27 in Spokane Valley. The Mabton Junior/Senior High School FFA program was in position to garner the state award thanks to being selected as the top program back in February from a district that includes 32 ag programs in the Yakima and Tri-Cities area. Mabton's was among nine programs that received best-of-district honors out of more than 200 FFA programs in the state. Those nine, in turn, were judged last month, with Mabton being named the state's outstanding program from among that bunch. Mabton was the smallest school represented among the final nine, which included Quincy High School and South Kitsap High School. It was a tough decision, says Dan White, an ag teacher at Kennewick High School. He served as one of four judges from the Washington Association of Agricultural Educators (WAAE) at the Spokane Valley event. "We got down to the point where we brought in two other ag teachers from outside of Washington state, it was that close," says White. One of the keys for Mabton's successful bid, he continued, was the growth from no paid FFA members four years ago to 90 paid members today under the guidance of teacher and advisor Randi Krieg. "It's rock solid, she's got a lot of excitement going on at the school. She's doing a heck of a job with those kids," White said. "The thing that makes it real is her response after they won, she talked about how it wasn't her, it was the kids. That's just how she is." Krieg continues to deflect the credit to others in Mabton. She praised Mabton School District administrators for the freedom to pursue a wide number of FFA community service projects, ranging from older students teaching science to fifth graders to a salmon release to a Halloween trunk or treat event. "We're really focusing on giving back to the Mabton community," Krieg says. "The kids need to be active doing positive things in their community." She says community support from Mabton has been tremendous, and hopes the award will spur even more adults to get involved with FFA activities. "These are the best kids in the community," Krieg adds. One of those "kids" is Jesenia Meza, who serves as the Mabton chapter's president and will be a senior this coming school year. Meza praised Krieg's ability to help Mabton students realize FFA is more than "cows, plows and sows." Meza explained, "She opened our eyes that it's not all about raising animals for us. We can have more community involvement. There's something for everyone in FFA like public speaking, floral arrangement or food science." FFA and Krieg haven't just impacted Mabton Jr./Sr. High, where nearly one-in-four students are paid FFA members, but it's changed Meza's future. "She's inspired me a lot, she works so many unpaid hours and puts up with our craziness," says Meza, who intends to enroll at WSU after high school graduation next spring and pursue a career in ag education. "At first I wanted to be a dentist, but then I just watch Mrs. Krieg and her love of FFA. I just thought it was super cool how it grew into a career for her." The state honor qualified the Mabton FFA program for a regional competition, says White, where it will represent Washington state in a field that will include the top programs from California, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and Hawaii. Winners at the regional level will be recognized at a national FFA event this coming December in Las Vegas. "They should be really proud," White said of Mabton's FFA participants.

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