Boys & Girls Club members making new PALS through FFA
JANESVILLE Brina Rickman is well on her way to earning her second FFA T-shirt.
The 7-year-old second-grader at Wilson Elementary School seldom misses the FFA PALS bimonthly program at the Boys & Girls Club of Janesville, where she hangs out after school.
"If you come five times, you get a T-shirt," Rickman said.
"I already earned one, but I want another one," Rickman said as she carefully placed mints, M&M candies, marshmallows, nuts and pretzels on the gingerbread barn she was making.
Rickman was among 24 club members Wednesday building the holiday houses with the help of Janesville FFA Partners in Active Learning Support group.
FFA PALS is made up of FFA members from Craig and Parker high schools who volunteer with the Boys & Girls Club to promote agriculture literacy. Members are responsible for planning and implementing activities and creating lesson plans. The group earlier this year received the Volunteer Network Helping Hand Award from the United Way of North Rock County.
Projects have included bringing livestock to the club and creating a "garden on wheels."
The piglets were Rickman's favorite so far.
"I only saw baby pigs once before on my cousin's farm. They were so cute, I just wanted to touch them," she said.
The collaboration, which started 18 months ago, has been a win-win for members of both groups, said Kathy Morton, FFA PALS adult volunteer coordinator.
"It's been a really positive experience for both. The younger kids really look up to the high school kids, and it's a leadership opportunity for the FFA PALS," she said.
Becky Buchanan, unit director at the youth organization, agreed.
"Our club members get to learn about agriculture and things they might never learn about. It opens their eyes and minds more, and the FFA members are learning how to be leaders while working with a diverse group."
Club members look forward to FFA members coming and get excited to participate, Buchanan said.
"It's a new experience, especially for some kids who don't know about the ag side of livestock, dairy, wildlife, gardening and all different aspects of that," she said.
Buchanan said the FFA PALS role models familiarize club members to the opportunity of extracurricular activities in high school.
"It lets them know they can participate in different after-school type programs," she said.
Kelsey Braukhoff, a 17-year-old junior at Parker High School who also is the FFA PALS youth coordinator, said she has gained a lot of teaching skills through her involvement.
"I'd like to go into education and now realize I enjoy spending time with kids and watching them be amazed by science and agriculture," she said.
"It's great for FFA members who can put this on their resumes when applying for college and jobs. They enjoy being role models," Buchanan said.
Not only is the program fun, she said, "it's also educational."