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Soroptimist Donation Benefits OHS Greenhouse
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Oakdale High School Ag Teacher and FFA Leader, Grace Tobias is shown in Oakdale High School’s current greenhouse. Thanks to a generous donation of $52,000 by Soroptimist International of Oakdale, OHS will be building a new, much larger greenhouse on campus.

An integral member of the Oakdale High School Ag team, Grace Tobias understands planning and implementation. The evolution of the School Farm, as well as the OHS Ag and FFA programs, are testament to the effectiveness of timelines and appropriate planning.

Two attributes Oakdale Joint Unified not only has dialed in, but has embraced.

So it would then be fair to say, that a sudden move up of a project would not only be unexpected but an utter surprise. Most especially a project which has yet to enter into district conversation, but rather remains on a projection timeline.

That is the exact type of surprise Tobias and her students were treated to in the final months of the first semester of the 2018-19 school year. A surprise to the tune of a $52,000 donation from the local Soroptimist organization toward a new and much improved OHS Greenhouse.

“Soroptimist actually reached out to us a couple of months ago,” the Ag teacher said. noting the service group was inquiring on scholarship opportunities as well as any large projects that might be in need of money.

Not one to miss a beat or ask twice, Tobias assembled a few key Ag students and together the group attended a monthly Soroptimist International of Oakdale meeting.

“The students were an all-encompassing representation of our programs,” the teacher stated. “They spoke to how their FFA involvement has had positive effects on other areas of their lives and education.”

According to Tobias, the women’s service group was both pleased, as well as supportive of what was shared at the luncheon meeting. Club President Christine Serpa-Neugebauer indicated to the teacher that the group was interested in making a donation toward purchase and construction of the greenhouse, as well as provide scholarship opportunities for the FFA State Conference in April.

“The greenhouse was on our five-year plan,” Tobias said. “It’s supposed to be something we were working on in three to four years. To be able to move that up to now is really awesome.”

Construction of the greenhouse is expected to begin taking place by the end of summer. The 24-by-40 building will be added to the current ag space and join the current greenhouse, two shade houses and a third shade house which is also in the plans to be built.

“What’s nice is that actually most of it is going to be able to be built by our students,” Tobias said of the new kit building. “The space will be more than double what we currently have. Having a larger greenhouse here on campus, will allow us to expand our options in our horticulture pathway.”

While Tobias recognizes the Oakdale School Farm may seem a fitting space for such a structure, it is actually better suited for the OHS campus and the classroom setting.

“Just the volume of the plants we’ll be able to offer,” she stated, adding the students will now be able to plant from seed versus plug. “We’ll be able to have the students directly involved in that.”

The older and smaller greenhouse however, will still have purpose and function for the program and the students.

“The old greenhouse will transition to more of a hothouse because it’s smaller,” she said. “We can run the heat higher and we can do more of the planting and transplanting there.”

With so much community focus on livestock and the School Farm site, Tobias shared the newest addition has her horticulture and floral arrangement students not just excited, but eager.

“When they asked when it will be ready and I said next year, they were like …. oh,” she said, chuckling. “So I told them they just have to come back for my class next year. This is just awesome. We are so grateful.”

Soroptimist International of Oakdale President Christine Serpa-Neugebauer, at podium, was joined by OHS Ag Teacher, Grace Tobias, left, and members of the OHS FFA during her presentation of a donation of $52,000 made by the service club to OHS for construction of a new campus greenhouse.