NEW PARIS — This year, National Trail’s Ag program has a record number of students enrolled, with 191 in classes and nine enrolled in a capstone course.
Through the program, students participate in Miami Valley Career Technology Center (MVCTC) FFA and have the opportunity to take classes on animal science, ag business, livestock, mechanics, greenhouse production, and other important topics.
The program is a satellite of Miami Valley Technology Center.
The department is run by Eric and Carmen Kennel. Carmen Kennel teachers an Agriculture Business class and Livestock Science class. Eric Kennel teacher AFNR (Ag, Food, and Natural Resources), Ag Mechanics, and Greenhouse Production courses.
Additionally, the school offers a capstone course for those students who can’t fit Ag into their schedules and students who are enrolled at MVCTC.
To begin, students enroll in AFNR with Eric Kennel. After passing the course, they are welcome to choose classes which cover topics of interest and fit with their schedules.
According to Carmen Kennel, they are aware not all of their students are going to be farmers, but believe these classes can teach students to be conscientious consumers.
“We know that all of our students are not going to be farmers – we are not farmers ourselves. However, we know they will be a more well rounded and educated consumer when it comes to agriculture. We also give them the life skills they need outside of National Trail High School,” Carmen Kennel said.
“They learn public speaking skills, interviewing skills, all of our students have a completed resume when they leave our program, they completed a job application — all of the skills they need to be successful.”
She added, they feel the National Trail Ag Program has proven to be a successful program and that is why enrollment is at an all time high. The advisors try to include a variety of activities, to appeal to all students.
The chapter has 15 committees broken up by classes. These are leadership positions open to students to further enhance their skills.
For students enrolled in the National Trail Ag Program, being involved in Ag classes and the FFA Chapter gives them an opportunity to interact with their peers, form close relationships, all the while learning life lessons and about various industries and career opportunities.
Senior Mark Armstrong explained, he didn’t know what FFA was before he joined the program, but wanted to give it a chance. Through this program he has experienced many highs — including winning the County Soil Contest one year – and has learned many lessons.
“These classes have taught me to control what I say and do in front of other peoples. I’ve learned, from many missteps how to not do something, but in Thomas Edison’s way, there are many ways to not do something and there is one way to do something. Sometimes you need to figure out what those not ways are, to figure out maybe I shouldn’t do those ways, so I can get something that actually works,” he said.
Senior Abbey Rodefer joined the National Trail Ag Program because she has experience through her family’s farm. Being involved in the program has helped her connect with like minded individuals.
“When I joined Ag, that is really where I found my home, because it is stuff I already knew and enjoyed. All the members that are in it enjoy it as well. Some of our members don’t have that that Ag background, so they learn along with me, because I don’t know everything either,” she said.
Senior Haley Koehl joined the National Trail Ag Program, because her mother was involved in FFA as a high school student. Koehl has shown sheep and goats since she was a young child and joining the Ag Program has helped her grow her love for agriculture.
“I think the connections I’ve made through the program are really important. You make so many good friendships and you really get to know people through FFA,” she said. “My favorite class was probably Animal Science, because I’ve always had a love for animals.”
Junior Alyssa Zdobinski has been very involved in 4-H and has shown rabbits for years. She joined the National Trail Ag Program after hearing of the opportunities offered and reported “so far, it’s been a great decision.”
“There’s been a lot of responsibility, leadership, and public speaking these last three years. You learn a lot of great skills and meet a lot of good people,” she said. “Next year, I’m going to take Animal Science and I love animals, so I’m looking forward to that. I hope to grow as a chapter and get more students involved – get our numbers higher, have more activities, and get more students involved.”
Junior Kacy Osswald decided to join the program, because of her dad’s involvement in the National Trail Ag Program and their life on their farm. She talked about the highlights her dad had while a part of the program, but her favorite part of the program so far is the public speaking.
“I really enjoy public speaking, because I’ve done it all three years so far and I just really enjoy talking, getting to know all the FFA members, getting to know the officer team well and better, and I want to get to know more about the FFA Chapter itself and how we can grow it moving forward,” she said.
Junior Sara Norton joined the National Trail Ag Program, because her mother did 4-H in high school and thought Norton would like the program, which she did. Her story is a little different, however, because she was home schooled her entire life. The Ag Program allowed her to take her first in-school course. She is now attending National Trail High School full-time.
“I loved it and I decided to stay,” she said. “It is very different, but I’m glad I did do it and now I can tell you I have a lot more friends than when I was home schooled. It is a lot of fun. I got to learn so many more things like life skills and social skills. I know much more about agriculture than I did. I’m glad I joined Ag and I’m full-time now.”
Before the Kennel’s, the National Trail Ag Program was ran by Joe Slone. Senior Mark Armstrong noted Eric Kennel had “big shoes to fill,” which is a fact Kennel is aware of. He even referred to Slone’s tenure as a “dynasty.”
“Joe Slone was the Ag Teacher here for 36 years and, as Mark had mentioned, he did pass away unexpectedly. I interviewed that year and was hired in May to take over in the summer as the new Ag Teacher. Joe Slone, one of his characteristics and things he left behind, was, don’t tell me the barn needs painted, tell me what color the you’re going to paint the barn,” Eric Kennel said.
“When I started as the Ag Teacher, one of the things the alumni members and the current members had implied and spoke of was the success, drive, the want to learn and win — that is one of the key pieces to Ag Education. You get the learning through every aspect of the program, but you have that competition, the drive, that makes you want to do better and get better every time you do it.
“You might mess up that time, but you learn and move forward and get better at it. Hopefully, we’re crafting the skill that as students graduate they channel that competitiveness to being a competitive student, employee, and parent.
For Eric Kennel, it is important that the chapter “modernize tradition.” He wants to honor the past, while still appealing to students and their interests in the modern day. Senior Mark Armstrong, with the help of the Kennel’s, has even been working on digitizing records and the history of the National Trail MVCTC Ag Program.
Eric Kennel added, “Our motto in the last year is ‘modernizing the tradition’ and I think as Ag Teachers in this program, we don’t ever want to change the past, we just want to continue that success and throw some new characteristics into the Ag Program to make it appealing and make our students diverse.
“We’re trying to preserve our history, because there is only so much time a scrapbook or slide can handle before it is damaged and no good. [Mark] is trying to preserve that history.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH