Lyon County FFA Alums Raising $100,000 for Lyon County Agriculture Teacher Appreciation Endowment Program
Proceeds from Endowment Will Directly Benefit Lyon County Agricultural Education Program
A number of people who value their experiences in the agriculture program at Lyon County High School are joining an initiative to raise $100,000 and show their appreciation for Lyon County agriculture teachers and FFA advisors past and present.
The funds will be endowed as part of the Kentucky FFA Foundation’s Forever Blue program. Reaching their fundraising goal will mean $3,000-$4,000 would be available to the Lyon County agricultural education program each year going forward. These funds could be used to support student success through scholarships to FFA leadership camps and conferences, FFA jackets, to help students start SAE projects, or for programs that benefit the entire program and community.
Lyon County native Dwight Armstrong and his two brothers, Jeff and Randy, have long supported FFA as a way to honor their former agriculture teacher, Mr. Ray Fowler. When Dwight learned of the Kentucky FFA Foundation’s Forever Blue Endowment Fund, he saw an opportunity for their donations to make an even more direct impact on the community where they got their start.
Dwight began reaching out to other previous members of Lyon County FFA, asking if they’d like to contribute to the fund. So far, the response has been a resounding yes.
It turns out that the list of Lyon County FFA alumni contains quite a few people who have gone on from their FFA experiences to be leaders both at home and around the United States. Among other positions within the agriculture industry, Dwight served as both COO and CEO of the National FFA Organization for seven years. His brother Jeff is currently the president of California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Randy Armstrong is back on the family farm in Lyon County after retiring from a career in which he served as administrative vice president for Jim Smith Contracting.
Other Lyon County FFA Alumni include David Beck, president and CEO of Kentucky Venues, and Jay Akridge, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and diversity at Purdue University.
One thing these men seem to share is the common thread of having an agriculture teacher who motivated them. Clyde Grace, Ray Fowler and Stanley DeBoe are names that came up again and again.
Beck related a story about overhearing his agriculture teacher, Mr. Fowler, counseling another young man about what path to take after graduation. Mr. Fowler’s genuine concern for that student’s future made a real impression on Beck.
“I realized that he really cared about us,” he said. “It was very meaningful to me. It also taught me that you never know who you are impacting.”
“Being in FFA took young guys like us and planted it in our brains that we could accomplish just about anything we wanted to if we had the desire to do it,” said Randy.
“Mr. Fowler was an incredibly dedicated and passionate ag teacher,” said Akridge. “He insisted excellence in all you did, and taught us how preparation is tied to excellence. That’s so helpful, and it’s something you don’t fully appreciate until after you leave (high school).”
“Lessons learned from FFA have helped me every day of my career,” said Jeff. “Mr. Fowler demanded our best in every aspect of our FFA and agricultural education experience.”
In addition to the Armstrongs, Becks, and Akridges, a host of other families and individuals have joined the initiative as founding donors. Like the others, they haven’t forgotten the influence made by their agriculture teachers, and want to ensure that future Lyon County agriculture students and FFA members have the opportunities they did.
“It takes a lot of time, energy and resources to run an ag program,” said Akridge. “We need exceptional young men and women who can inspire a young person and help them understand opportunities and possibilities. Their ag teacher can be the source of inspiration that gives students the confidence to take that next step in their education.”
“More than the money, it’s the grassroots support of the program and the recognition of what it does for young people that’s important,” said Dwight.
“It’s clear that Lyon County FFA has influenced generations of strong leaders,” said Sheldon McKinney, executive director of the Kentucky FFA Foundation. “They believe in the power of agricultural education to the point that they’ll put their money behind it to ensure that future generations of kids growing up in Lyon County have the same opportunities they did. When people believe in something so much and are willing to support it, I think it inspires everyone to be the best they can be because they have people in their corner.”
By pooling their donations, champions of Lyon County FFA can make a real impact without any one person having to give an enormous gift. No amount is too small as others consider joining this effort. All gifts help tie the program even more tightly to the community.
“Hopefully this gives the program some resources to work with it didn’t have before,” said Akridge. “It puts a spotlight on the ag program – the alumni are sending a message that the program is important to them.”
“I’m a big believer that we have a real need for leadership in our society,” said Beck. “FFA provides you the opportunity to make decisions, apply leadership, and learn to work with others. We hope this can become an example for other chapters. Give your support locally, but do it with the expertise and guidance of the state foundation.”
If you are interested in contributing to the Lyon County Agriculture Teacher Appreciation Endowment, contact Sheldon McKinney at (606) 782-4620 or email@example.com.