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Scholarship Lunch Sows Seeds For Future Ag Grads
0326 Ag Lunch
OHS FFA Advisor Troy Gravatt addresses the more than 200 attendees at the 41st annual Oakdale Scholarship Luncheon. Gravatt spoke about FFA activities including a recent group trip to the State Capitol. RICHARD PALOMA/The Leader

With the emcee and both guest speakers alumnus of Oakdale High School, Mustang Pride was prevalent in the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce’s 41st Annual Oakdale Ag Scholarship Luncheon held at the Bianchi Community Center on Thursday, March 20.

The event, titled “Sowing the Seeds of OUR Future” has its proceeds go to the Oakdale Ag scholarship fund.

Chamber of Commerce CEO Mary Guardiola said the annual scholarship luncheon is held during National Ag Week to bring awareness to local agriculture industries. Each year the chamber of commerce gives at least two scholarships to high school seniors that are going in an agriculture related field of business.

Stanislaus County Farm Bureau Governmental Affairs Director Tom Orvis (OHS Class of ’85) emceed the event telling the 200-plus attendees, “Today we’re going to focus on agriculture and seeding our future.”

The first speaker, Marc Malone, Superintendent of the Oakdale Joint Unified School District (OHS Class of ’80) spoke about Common Core – the state readiness program being implemented for education.

“What people don’t realize is that Common Core establishes college and career readiness,” an enthusiastic and passionate Malone said. “We also need to realize the state is moving to a new readiness.”

Malone explained that state academic performance index (API) scores are being recalculated and that school districts will now have to show how they are preparing graduates for career readiness.

“There’s no better place to meet (the standard) for our students than the ag field,” Malone said.

OJUSD is in the process of expanding its agriculture offerings at Oakdale High School and is adding another member to the division to have a three-member team at the school. The addition will allow incoming freshmen to start taking agriculture-based courses.

Malone hopes to establish a school farm, converting 26 acres of district property off Brady Road. The plan is to bring 4H and FFA “under one umbrella” and make the farm a self-sufficient, self-sustaining operation.

“This will allow for the student who hasn’t had that opportunity previously,” said Malone, referring to students living within the city limits who are interested in agriculture. “Oakdale is passionate about agriculture. Putting ag a priority in an ag mecca, we believe there isn’t a better opportunity to meet these standards.”

FFA Advisor Troy Gravatt (OHS Class of ’88) spoke about FFA activities at the school and the development of students into the ag field including a recent trip to the State Capitol in Sacramento for Ag Week.

Gravatt also spoke of support for Assembly Bill 2033, authored by Assembly member Rudy Salas. The bill restores funding to the Agriculture Education Incentive Grant Program.

Last fall, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed eliminating state incentive funds for agricultural programs like FFA, in favor of letting individual districts provide funding. The Governor’s new proposed budget removed this funding and as a result, California’s 315 agriculture programs could be terminated.

“Oakdale is ripe producing in the ag industry,” Gravatt said telling of meeting former students and FFA members in various fields of agriculture. “Agriculture commerce is a good career field.”

Gravatt ended his talk by putting on his old FFA sweater from over 25 years ago when he was a member.

“This year’s topic was of great interest to many in the community since agriculture and our youth are so important,” said Guardiola after the lunch event. “Many commented on the positive ag vision for the OJUSD.”