Students celebrate FFA; ride horses and tractors to school

MANNING, SC (WIS)- It's not every day you see students pull up to school on a horse, a Hiboy tractor or with livestock, but students parked all three outside of Manning High School this week in honor of National FFA Week.

"This week we're driving tractors to school to show how much we love the FFA," said Courtney Parsons, president of Manning's FFA chapter.

The word love may be an understatement for the students who have held the record for having the largest FFA chapter in the state for the past 22 years.

"When I arrived here in 1985 we had 12 members, and we grew from 12 members to 236 members in a few years," said Michael Haynes, Manning's FFA advisor.

Students describe the FFA as a 'youth organization looking to build better leaders for the future' with an emphasis on agriculture education. Once commonly referred to as the Future Farmers of America, the national organization says it changed its name to the National FFA in the late 80s to diversify the program's outreach.

"Everyone just assumes that we drive our tractors and we have our horses and our cattle," said Kayla Therrell, a sophomore at Manning and member of the FFA chapter. "I think [all of those things are] very important part of agriculture, obviously, but there are just so many other doors that the FFA and agriculture opens up for you."

The Manning High School FFA chapter's involvement in the community has proved that. Students strive to give back to the community and have raised thousands of dollars for non-profit organizations, and also regularly mentor elementary school students.

"You learn responsibility, character and all those things form you and shape you into a good leader," said Therrell.

Of course the student leaders also love embracing their roots, which is why they jumped at the chance to bring their tractors and livestock to school during National FFA week.

"Today is "Down and Dirty with the FFA Drive your Tractors and Trucks Country Western Day," said Parsons.

While country western day doesn't happen every day at Manning High School, chapter members say being a part of the FFA is more than a club, it's a way of life. "We believe it, we live it, we breathe it and we eat it," said Haynes. "We just enjoy the FFA."

The FFA students were one of many organizations who were a part of News 10's Cool School's at Manning High School this Friday. The school also showcased its Air Force JROTC, Cheerleading squad, Marching Band Percussion team, Archery team and student leaders in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Student Council. More than 850 students attend Manning High School in Clarendon County.

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