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Ag Opportunities On Display For Eighth Grade Students
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Planting a succulent to take home with them, eighth graders, from left, Jocelin Cerceda, Haylie Stone and Lucky Martinez were three of the estimated 200 El Portal Middle School students that spent Friday morning on the Escalon High School campus for a special Ag Day program. Marg Jackson/The Times

Some 200 Panthers arrived on the campus of Escalon High School on Friday morning, March 18, eager to learn a little bit more about the ag program and the opportunities it provides.

The eighth grade Panthers of El Portal Middle School visited the Cougars of EHS and had the chance to rotate to several different stations within the agriculture department along with hearing a number of presenters from the ag field.

Escalon High ag instructors Isabella Leventini, Gypsy Stark and Kenny Saephan worked cooperatively with their ag and FFA students to plan and put on the program, which also saw many outside industry representatives attend, covering everything from ag equipment to flower arranging.

“I learned a lot of things so far, floral has been my favorite because I love flowers,” said Jocelin Cerceda, as she worked at potting a succulent plant to take home.

She also said there’s “a good chance” she will get involved in FFA once she gets to Escalon High School.

Junior Haylee Castro was among those working to provide information to the eighth graders.

She shows dairy cattle at the county fair and said there’s always room for more to join in.

“I just like giving them the information and I hope they keep it in mind,” she said. “Maybe one day they can show livestock, too.”

The Escalon FFA members serving as presenters during the Friday morning Ag Day are all members of various judging teams and showcased their specific areas of expertise.

Freshman Cortney Ball, along with sophomores Ace Lombardo, Makenna Williamson and Kaleia Jones are all on the poultry judging team and gave the eighth graders some insight into what to look for when judging the fowl.

A duo representing Modesto Junior College and highlighting the various career study paths available there were EHS alum Austin Terra, Class of 2020 and Alayna Azevedo, Class of 2021. Both served a term as the Escalon FFA president as well.

Current FFA President, senior Jacob Dugo, was pleased with the enthusiasm he saw from the eighth graders and said he felt there were many areas for them to explore during the Ag Day presentations.

“It’s just really cool to see the eighth graders come out and meet the FFA members, see those involved, and hopefully some will be in the incoming year of new FFA members, future new ag leaders,” Dugo said.

Like his presidential predecessors, Terra and Azevedo, he will attend Modesto Junior College after graduation and is considering a career in plant/soil science.

“I’m excited,” teacher Isabella Leventini said as she watched the students selecting the different presentations to attend, whether it was welding or food science.

“This is our first ag day in two years and I am excited to see all these faces again,” she said. “We’re hoping this helps push our programs even further.”

Two EHS alumni were also doing a food science presentation, with Melanie Smith and Wyatt McCune both back on campus to inform students of opportunities in that field.

“El Portal Panthers are excited to make the transition to EHS Cougars. Many of them are eager to learn more about the ag opportunities in the future,” noted El Portal Assistant Principal Mike Gaston, who was on hand for part of the Ag Day program.

He pointed out that the “hard work put into it” by the high school’s FFA students and ag teachers made it a success.

“The event went very well,” Gaston said.

The eighth graders were also treated to lunch on the EHS campus before heading back to El Portal.

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Fellow FFA members look on as FFA President Jacob Dugo, at left, begins a presentation on vegetable judging during Friday morning’s Ag Day program at Escalon High School. Marg Jackson/The Times