MP student sees value in adding ag education courses
By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News
Most high school seniors are ready to wipe their hands of school and focus on life beyond the four walls of a classroom. Not Jack Pieper.
Instead, Pieper is trying to leave Mt. Pleasant Community School district better than he found it, and his peers with an educational avenue he didn’t have.
Pieper is from a farming family. His father is a farmer, as is his grandfather and he plans to follow in their footsteps. “I am someone who would have benefited from agricultural education classes,” he told school board members Monday night.
As the district does not offer FFA or ag-related courses, Pieper had to take related courses online. But that didn’t deter Pieper from making agricultural education a corner stone of his academic career – he sought other opportunities. In 2016, Pieper was a presenter at the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute. That experience made him want to work to bring FFA and ag education to Mt. Pleasant.
“I met with agricultural education leaders and FFA youth leaders from across the nation and the world and it made me realize what our Mt. Pleasant students are missing,” he said.
Pieper said 93 percent of Iowa schools have FFA chapters in their districts. “We already have youth getting involved in 4-H, culinary arts and other agricultural-related activities in Mt. Pleasant,” he said. “The goal of my research is to influence you, the board, as well as the greater community to implement an agricultural education program; including hiring a certified instructor to teach the curriculum and advise the FFA chapter.”
Through his research, Pieper found the best curriculum (CASE) and met with instructors at SCC to see how they could combine coures enrollment to allow Mt. Pleasant students to receive duel credit.
“I’m aware of what it means financially,” Pieper said, addressing the $700,000 budget reduction the board members would discuss later in the evening.
With that knowledge, Pieper spoke with local businesses to see if there were any prospective partnerships. And he found some. “I talked with the production location manager at Becks (Hybrid) and he said Becks is willing to help. He mentioned they are willing to let the school use some of their open land for a test garden, research plots, etc.,” he said.
Pieper left the board with a list of 50 other businesses within the community that could be contacted to discuss future partnerships.
Superintendent John Henriksen said right now there are two Mt. Pleasant students that take ag-related courses in other districts – Central Lee and Mediapolis.
“That is one of the temporary solutions that we try to use. For kids who have interest (in ag education) we try to work with other districts and their administration so our kids can take those classes. It’s a small first step,” he said.
When asked what involvement he might have following this presentation, the future Iowa State freshman said he would “help as much as I can.”
The board took no action as it was a report only.
During Monday night’s meeting, the board members also heard reports from Stephanie Stubbs regarding the Christamore Family Treatment Center and its programming as well as faculty members from the exercise science department regarding course standards and curriculum.