NEWTON, NJ – At a time when public schools are moving away from vocational education Newton High School continues a tradition that reflects the roots of Sussex County.  The Future Farmers of America is alive and well at the home of the Braves. 

The FFA held their annual Staff and Community Appreciation Luncheon in the FFA building on the Newton High School campus.  Guests from the school, town, county and state were invited enjoy a meal prepared by the students, listen to students’ recitations and review the program. 

Awards of appreciation and an honorary chapter degree were also shared.    

Sign Up for E-News

The menu included venison kielbasa and venison hotdogs, macaroni and cheese, potato salad and sandwiches.

The program began with President Dan Power welcoming the guests including Newton Deputy Mayor Wayne Levante, Municipal Clerk Lorraine Read, representatives from the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife, Newton Superintendent Dr. Kennedy Greene and Principal Jeff Waldron. 

Power thanked them for their “guidance and wisdom,” as the students hone their skills in the program that “makes Newton High School a special place.” Powers declared the students are “ready to compete with others across the country.” 

FFA participants compete in many different ways, primarily in Career Development Events.  Students study various aspects related to the business of farming.  They must be able to demonstrate mastery of topics dealing with milk, landscaping, meat, forestry, small animals, floriculture, food science, veterinary science, poultry, agriculture mechanics and engineering   and more.

Students must take a written test, correctly answering 60 percent correctly to qualify for National competition.  They must have an in-depth knowledge of the area.  For example, in the CDE for Milk, the student must judge the milk; grading it, be able to identify not only the animal from which the milk came but also what food that animal ate.  In Meats, the student must be able to identify the animal and the cut- where the meat came from.  In Livestock the student must be able to group and judge the animals.

The Officer Team works together, each with their own task and creed to keep the group running successfully.  They point to their experiences as creating a foundation for their life beyond high school.

Power plans to attend Paul Smith’s College in Paul Smith, NY.  He plans to study forestry at the Adirondack Park school, to eventually become a Forest Ranger.  “The program builds character and leadership skills,” Powers said.  “It has definitely made me more confident.”

Secretary Summer Malone will be attending Sussex County Community College to study Environmental Science.  Malone said FFA has made her more self-reliant. “We have to put together our own programs and figure it all out on our own.”

Andrew Ghaleb, Vice President of the Newton High School Chapter, will be entering the Marines after graduation.  Following his four-year commitment Ghaleb plans to attend Sussex County Community College to pursue studies in criminal justice. He does not think he could have had these plans if he were not part of the FFA Officer Team.

“I’ve been shy all my life,” Ghaleb said.  “The FFA has made me more comfortable speaking in front of people.”

Maggie Drislane, the organization’s Treasurer, plans to study Nursing, beginning at Sussex County Community College. 

FFA Sentinel Greg Rinehart is going to attend SUNY Cobleskill where he intends to become a diesel mechanic.  “FFA has helped me to be a bigger person, more responsible and to not be nervous to speak in front of a group,” Rinehart said.

Justin Marenzana, the FFA Reporter will be attending the University of Vermont to study environmental engineering.  Being a part of the FFA “has given me a passion for agriculture,” Marenzana said.

FFA advisor Dave Pede explained the students prepare all year and even over the summer for the National Competition in October.  This school year approximately 16 students on four teams represented the Newton High School chapter in Indianapolis, where they joined 65,000 other students.

More students compete at the state level, Pede explained.  “Some [events] we go to in order to get experience.  Others we expect to win.”

It is year-round commitment, Pede said.  In the summer they go to farms and forests, all to continue to prepare for Nationals.

Pede was joined by Jenny Allen this year.  “It was a great fit.  She is a good addition to the program,” Pede said.

After lunch the program continued with the lone freshman Bridget Fajvan called upon to recite the Creed for the group.  The creed was developed by Erwin Milton (E.M.) Tiffany, advisor Worth Christian explained.  “The FFA was born in the crucible of the depression,” Christian said as he introduced Fajvan.  “It’s a freshman only event,” Christian said.  “I give them a lot of credit because they don’t know what they’re in for,” when they agree to prepare for the Creed competition. 

After she performed, as she was leaving Fajvan whispered to Christian, “Did I do good?” 

“Excellent!” Christian whispered back with an arm around her shoulder.

In closing out the program, staff members were chosen by graduating seniors to receive appreciation awards. 

  • Rinehart chose Mathematics teacher Denise Gilchrist.
  • Marenzana honored English teacher Judith Nonemaker.
  • Drislane selected Spanish teacher Senor German Ruedabaquero.
  • Malone honored Science teacher Yvonne LaForge.
  • Ghaleb selected Mathematics teacher Alexandra Hathaway.
  • Power chose English teacher Steve Runske.
  • The group selected district Transportation Coordinator Judy Vangergroef.

A salute to the flag ended the luncheon.