A Missouri high school FFA chapter that received a first-place a recent regional competition has donated its winnings to help students in tornado-ravaged Joplin, Mo., rebuild their FFA chapter and operations.

A multiple-vortex tornado killed more than 150 on May 22, it was classified at EF5, the most powerful of twisters that can sustain winds of more than 200 mph. The force carved a six-mile long, mile-wide path through the town of 49,000, destroying Joplin High School and 11 other school buildings. Franklin Technology Center operated by the school’s FFA chapter was one of the destroyed structures.

Just three days before the Joplin disaster, an FFA chapter some 400 miles north learned it was one of the winners in a competition sponsored by Monsanto. Princeton R-V High School’s FFA chapter received a first-place, $1,500 credit-line prize in the inaugural FFA Chapter Challenge. This was a pilot competition that encouraged FFA chapters in seven states to forge new relationships with area farmers in turn for their online votes of support. The credit line can be used to buy FFA jackets, chapter banquet supplies, chapter medals and awards and fund trips to FFA functions.

“We were proud of our accomplishment and grateful to FFA and Monsanto but after what happened in Joplin, I spoke with my chapter officers and we felt that donating our winnings to Joplin High School’s FFA chapter was the right thing to do,” said Bryan Williams, Princeton’s FFA advisor. “We talked about what we would do if such a disaster happened here and what our needs would be. We determined that the best way we could help is to give our Chapter Challenge award to help the FFA students in Joplin.”

When the 2011-2012 school-year begins on Aug. 17, Joplin students will attend school at a local shopping mall. "We don't know what we have left and what we can salvage," said Jay Jackman, Joplin High School FFA advisor. It’s likely that they won't be able to salvage anything.

The Joplin FFA chapter is accepting financial donations to help rebuild its program. Donations can be made by check made out to “Joplin FFA” with “Joplin FFA tornado recovery” in the memo line and sent to Joplin FFA c/o Joplin schools, Attn: Kim Vann, 102 Gray Ave., Joplin, Mo. 64801.

“What an exceptional act of kindness and support,” said Rob Cooper, National FFA Foundation executive director, when hearing of the Princeton FFA chapter’s decision. “FFA teaches students core values of integrity, service and innovation and these values were remarkably demonstrated by the Princeton chapter’s decision to help their neighboring FFA chapter obliterated by such a tragic natural disaster.”

John Raines, vice president of customer advocacy at Monsanto, echoes Cooper’s praise. “We are committed to sponsoring programs that support FFA chapters and students,” said Raines. “This donation to Joplin embodies the kind of good will we are hoping to spread among those in the agricultural community.”

The National FFA Foundation builds partnerships with industry, education, government, other foundations and individuals to secure financial resources that fund FFA activities, recognize member achievements, develop student leaders and support the future of agriculture education. Nearly 82 percent of all funds received by the foundation support FFA and agricultural education opportunities.

Source: National FFA Organization