I am writing in response to the July 14 article regarding the $33 million bond that is proposed for the November election. I am proud to see that Payson continues to support its students in preparing for the future.
I am concerned, however, that a program central to my life, and that continues to have a profound impact on the lives of students, is being neglected. I am referring to the agricultural education and FFA programs. I am a 1995 graduate of Payson High School and not only did Agricultural Education make me what I am today, it is what I am today.
I am proud to say because of the impact Wendell Stevens and the Payson FFA had on my life, I graduated from the University of Arizona with a B.S. in Agricultural Education and am now an agricultural education teacher and FFA advisor at Westwood High School in Mesa. I have been teaching agricultural education for over six years.
The agriculture classes had been meeting in a "temporary" building with no shop facilities for 25 years on the PHS campus. Since a mold issue about year ago, Mr. Stevens has been trying to conduct classes in a storage room under the bleachers in the athletic dome. I had the opportunity to observe Mr. Stevens professionally this past year, and as a fellow educator, I am amazed that education could take place in that setting at all. Regardless of the absence of proper facilities, Mr. Stevens manages to provide a quality agriculture program.
The modern agricultural education program is rigorous. Many students now taking agriculture classes are also taking advanced placement classes and aiming for college, not the farm fields. It is also relevant. The lessons taught here use agriculture as the vehicle to teach science, math and English, as well as citizenship and career success lessons (goals, communication, confidence) that have been part of its heritage.
The impact of this program on the lives of students is second to none and it is a shame future generations will be unable to learn these valuable lessons. I encourage the community to take action to ensure this program flourishes in the future by dedicating the funds necessary to build an appropriate facility.
Darcy (Johnson) Cook
1995 PHS graduate
Westwood High School Agriscience Teacher