Children First: Firebaugh High School's FFA program

FIREBAUGH, Calif. (KFSN) -- Members of Firebaugh's FFA Team are in the Small Animal Round Robin competition at the Madera District Fair.

Among those watching closely is Agriculture Teacher and FFA Advisor Gene Lieb.

"A lot of these kids are first-time showers, so they haven't shown before and it's about giving the opportunity to try new things," he said.

Janet Rios is a first-timer and wanted to make eye contact with the judges.

She's finding knowledge among the feathers.

"The males for turkeys, their colors are brighter," she said.

Mr. Lieb's support is comforting.

"I'm actually having him for three periods this year and I knew what I was getting myself into," Rios said. "He's so fun."

Chisum Demmer has more experience in this arena but not everything goes as planned.

"For sure, I messed up on turkeys and chickens," he said. "I don't know how I did on cavies. It was probably 50/50."

Having a support system makes things easier.

"He just said, 'Have fun out there. Do your best and go Eagles.'"

Mr. Lieb is one of five Ag teachers at Firebaugh High School where 80 percent of students take part in FFA.

"We're getting them outside of the classroom, outside of the 8-3 and getting to do some other things with them that shows their true personality," he said.

The school offers five different Ag pathways including Floriculture, Mr. Lieb's specialty.

"They start in introduction to floral, they go to advanced floral and they finish in a retail floral class," he said. "That retail floral class is where they really get to figure out what is it like to plan a wedding? What's it like to do a funeral? Things like that where the real-world application is transpiring."

Students show off their creativity and Eagle pride.

"For the homecoming event, a lot of people are going to be coming and they're going to see everything decorated nicely and stuff," says Janet Rosas.

With Mr. Lieb's help, they come away with life lessons.

Connections are made outside of the classroom and confidence climbs.

"Just going to FFA events as well, you see people from other districts, and I've made friends," Rosas said.

"As soon as I put this on, I feel confident that I can go out there and show my rabbit really good and do a good job," Demmer said.

"That blue corduroy jacket is just an iconic look," Lieb said. "It's kind of like the Nike swoosh. It's just something that you know they're FFA members when you see that jacket."

Mr. Lieb emphasizes teamwork leads to success.

"We have five dynamic teachers that each hold a special place in the Firebaugh community, and do things very differently but that create a complete program," he said.

Chisum took home a third-place ribbon while Janet took fourth.

"I know that I'm part of something, I'm part of FFA," she said. "It's an experience."
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.