Worcester County Board of Education members were given some insight into a program that helps prepare students for careers in agricultural science and farming.
Jessica Flores, the agricultural science teacher at Worcester Technical High School, told board members the goal of the program, and for her as an educator, is to promote and encourage self-learning through personal growth by developing each student’s potential and skills for career success through agricultural sciences
“Once reason I came to Worcester Public Schools is because in my previous job, I saw a need that when students came into college, they were lacking in certain skills,” she said.
Flores has a background working at the University of Maryland and helping farmers on the lower Eastern Shore to make their operations successful and prepared for the future.
Today, she helps students in accquiring those skills as well.
One way Flores has helped is by setting up a Future Farmers of America Student Organization at the school. To participate, students must be enrolled in the agriculture program and pay $30 in annual dues.
With that membership, though, students get the opportunity to participate in career development events and network.
When she first started the program, Flores was only able to retain three students the following year. Today, she has 55 students enrolled, one-fifth of whom have no experience in farming but show an interest in the field.
The program also has about five agreements with Maryland and Delaware universities, which give students the chance to earn between three and 18 college credits.
Some of the things students get the chance to do is use technology to conduct soil samples to determine things like moisture content and PH, while also utilizing GIS maps as overlays.
The students also use Apple TVs, iPads, and other agricultural technologies.
By way of a program advisory, committee Flores can find out what the industry needs of students when they enter the workforce, allowing her to mold her program accordingly
The advisory committee consists of community and business members and meets at least twice a year, Flores explained to board members.
The program also provides students with several opportunities each year — The Worcester County Fair, Burly Oak Farm Bureau event and Christmas parades — to show off what they have done.