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Jazmin Rodriguez is the 2020-21 Newman FFA chapter president.

NEWMAN - Four years of FFA involvement have cultivated a new appreciation of agriculture for Orestimba High senior Jazmin Rodriguez. 

Rodriguez came into high school with little knowledge of FFA, but her interest had been piqued by a presentation from chapter leaders to Yolo eighth-graders and she decided to give FFA a try.

Four years later, she has accumulated a long list of FFA achievements and leads the Newman chapter as its president.

Beyond that, Rodriguez is serving as president of the Tri-Rivers Section this year - testament to both her involvement in and enthusiasm for FFA.

Her early FFA endeavors left Rodriguez determined to reap the benefits of as many opportunities as possible.

“I kind of eased in my freshman year and competed in contests such as Creed and Best Informed Greenhand,” Rodriguez explained. “When I participated in Best Informed Greenhand, I saw how passionate I was about this organization, and I just wanted to continue.”

That involvement has taken Rodriguez from the livestock show ring at the Stanislaus County Fair to the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis.....along with participation in a variety of conferences, competitions and activities.

One highlight was showing a livestock project for the first time. Rodriguez has had a sheep project in her sophomore and junior years. She was unable to show last year due to the pandemic, but was able to try her hand in the ring as a sophomore.

“It was nerve-wracking,” she shared. But, Rodriguez said, once she got into the ring confidence took over as she felt the support of adviser Stacey Costilla and remembered the hours of training and practice.

She did well, and came away with another FFA accomplishment to her credit.

“I was pretty proud of myself, honestly,” she shared.

Another memorable moment was serving as a delegate to the California FFA Leadership Conference. In that role, she and other delegates voted on proposed amendments to the state FFA constitution, voted for state officers and provided feedback to state offices.

She also attended the National FFA Convention as a junior.

The experience, Rodriguez reflected, was

memorable.

The organization brought together members from across the United States and from as far away as Guam and Puerto Rico, she explained.

“We all had one thing in common, that we loved FFA,” Rodriguez stated.

Rodriguez, the daughter of Cynthia and Ricardo Rodriguez, has also taken part in parliamentary procedure, attended leadership conferences, competed in impromptu speaking and more.

She recently placed fourth in the Tri-Rivers Section job interview competition and will advance to the regional event.

Now, as a senior, she is working at both the chapter and section levels to keep FFA members engaged during a pandemic which has relegated activities and competitions to a virtual arena rather than traditional in-person experiences.

She relies on the assistance of each officer team to meet the demands, and uses feedback from members about activities which they would like to see offered.

Virtual or drive-through activities are offered monthly at the local level, Rodriguez noted, with the goal of keeping members engaged.

“I rely on my other officers for support,” she commented. “We all know that we are going through a troubling time.”

Rodriguez hopes to attend UC Davis and major in sustainable agriculture and food systems, with the goal of eventually becoming an ag teacher.

Her selection of majors, she explained, is to build an understanding of the science behind agriculture.

While she grew up familiar with the orchards, fields and livestock found throughout the West Side, Rodriguez reflected, she did not have a true appreciation for agriculture until becoming involved in FFA.

“Now I see how much work goes into it and what it takes,” she explained. “I want to fight for farmers, to make sure that they have enough water, that they have enough land. I want to be that advocate for agriculture.”