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Lights, camera, "FFA in action!" Oklahoma's Comanche High School uses mass media to spread the word about FFA.

Q: When is an FFA chapter also a communications club and an audio/visual club all rolled into one?

A: When it's the chapter from Comanche High School in Oklahoma.

Located about 40 miles southeast of Lawton, Oklahoma, Comanche High School is gaining both local and national attention for its progressive FFA chapter. Through an agriculture communications course offered at the using a state-of-the art approach to get the word out about FFA.

FFA cites as its mission to "make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education." Bearing this in mind, the group from Comanche High School has found a truly creative way to grab the attention of their community, fellow students and even lawmakers by airing a twice-weekly two-minute feature clip about FFA activities on their local ABC television affiliate, KSWO Channel 7.

The group from Comanche is led by teachers Bruce Akins and Larry Reed. After attending the recent 75th FFA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, this chapter can add "award-winning" to its title, as the Comanche FFA chapter took home a first-place win in chapter development at the convention, beating out 10 other schools. But, they didn't earn this distinction using sheer luck. This honor was bestowed upon them for the creative ways in which they promote themselves and their chapter, one of which is their television program "FFA in Action."

Tuning in to FFA

Every Saturday morning at 8:25 and every Sunday morning at 8:40, the residents of southwest Oklahoma and north Texas can tune in to find out more about FFA and not only the chapter at Comanche High School but also chapters all around the region--on "FFA in Action."

The television spots are created, written, directed and produced by the 14 members of Comanche's agriculture communications class, all of whom are among the 110 members of Comanche's FFA chapter. The agriculture communications class is taught by Akins. Think students writing the scripts, booking guests, operating the equipment and conducting the interviews in front of the camera, not a fancy camera crew from the television station telling the students what to do.

What's more, these students work with real-world deadlines, as the tapes must be in the station's hands no later than Thursday morning if they are to be aired that weekend. Yes, that's right, that means these students only have one week to produce two programs, all while keeping on top of their other school work and outside activities.

Perhaps this is why Akins says his students are special. He notes that the simple fact that his class is writing and grammar heavy makes it more appropriate for some students over others. He also says that his students possess a great deal of self-motivation skills.

When asked how his students learned to operate all of the equipment and produce a television spot, Akins simply says, "They learned by doing." He adds that some students have attended workshops, but basically the students pass knowledge down to one another and perfect their program through trial and error.

A Wide Band

"FFA in Action" has covered a lot of ground in its three years of existence--from the history of FFA, career development and livestock shows, to alumni camps, leadership camps and community involvement, to name only a few.

The show recently hosted Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry, who is himself a former member of FFA. With the help of their state senator, the Comanche students approached the governor with a request for an interview, and the governor responded with an enthusiastic "yes."

The production crew put together a list of interview questions that included: What do you think of when you hear the letters FFA? As a former FFA member, what values has FFA taught you in leadership development? And, what are some of your favorite memories of being in FFA?

In addition to featuring interviews and local FFA news, "FFA in Action" covers the activities of 78 different FFA chapters in southwest Oklahoma and north Texas. Although the Comanche chapter is the only one with a television program, their goal is altruistic in that they hope to promote FFA in general, not just the activities of their chapter. In fact, all of the other chapters have an open invitation to use the Comanche production crew to promote their FFA activities, and either the Comanche crew will travel to the other school, or the other school's FFA chapter will come to Comanche High School.

Bruce Akins and his students know that they are fortunate to have the resources at their disposal to create "FFA in Action." After all, television production equipment isn't cheap. Akins notes that his class receives funding from career tech grants and Comanche High School itself.

"School support has been crucial," he says.

However, the benefits to come out of "FFA in Action" have proven to far outweigh the costs involved with producing the two television spots. Akins says that when kids see people they know on the show or can relate to what is being discussed on the program, it makes them feel good about their involvement in FFA. What's more, "FFA in Action" promotes career tech, which Akins says, "prepares students for life better than any other course of study."

Jennifer Shure, Techniques Contributing Editor
COPYRIGHT 2003 Association for Career and Technical Education
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Author:Shure, Jennifer
Geographic Code:1U7OK
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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