Maine FFA Delegates Return to the National Convention

Maine FFA (formerly known as “Future Farmers of America”) sent States Officers, President Nickie Deschaine and Secretary-Treasurer Ryder Brewer, to participate as delegates to the 94th National FFA Convention & Expo on October 25-30, 2021 in Indianapolis.

Last year’s National Convention was held as a virtual-only event due to COVID-19.  Maine FFA State Advisor from the Maine Department of Education, Doug Robertson, accompanied the delegates who are both currently juniors at Central Aroostook High School in Mars Hill.

This year’s convention was attended by over 60,000 FFA student members, guests and advisors. Delegates participated in committees tasked with charting the future course of the organization, with each committee coming to consensus on recommendations to present to the entire delegate body for a vote.

During their time in Indianapolis, Maine’s delegates met other delegates from the rest of the United States, attended inspirational Convention sessions and toured the Expo that featured representatives from the agriculture and natural resources industry, as well as a number of colleges and universities.  Special in-person speakers included Courtenay DeHoff, “Fancy Lady Cowgirl,” Joe Hogsett, Mayor of Indianapolis, and the National FFA Officers.  Video welcomes were provided by Vice President Kamala Harris; Miguel Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education; and Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

As well as gaining committee experience, making new friends, and exploring Indianapolis, Maine’s delegates had the chance to attend the “World’s Toughest Rodeo,” held in the coliseum on the Indiana State Fairgrounds.  State FFA President Nickie Deschaine observed that her travel to Indianapolis represented the furthest west she had yet been.  She also commented:  “Words truly cannot describe the overwhelmingly amazing feeling of seeing all the blue jackets filled by people who are just as passionate about FFA as I am!”

Delegates returned to Maine with many new ideas on how to best serve their 400-500 Maine FFA members.  Maine FFA serves students grades 7-12 who are enrolled in classes/programs related to agriculture and natural resources.  Schools with gardens and greenhouses may qualify to establish chapters.

For more information on how to initiate a Maine FFA chapter, please contact:  Doug Robertson, Maine FFA State Advisor, Maine Department of Education, (207) 624-6744, doug.robertson@maine.gov.

Maine FFA Student Leaders Learn New Skills at Presque Isle Workshop

Twenty-five Chapter Officers of the Maine FFA Association (formerly known as “Future Farmers of America”) gathered on October 22, 2021 at the University of Maine at Presque Isle to learn more about leading their local chapters. FFA is a national organization for agriculture and natural resources students grades 7-12, with affiliated chapters in all fifty states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Presque Isle’s workshop participants came from five different Aroostook County FFA chapters: Ashland High School, Central Aroostook High School (Mars Hill), Easton High School, Presque Isle Regional Career & Technical Center, and Washburn High School.

Leading the workshop were State FFA President Nickie Deschaine, State FFA Vice President Delaney McKeen, and State FFA Secretary-Treasurer Ryder Brewer. Participating Chapter Officers learned Leadership, Teamwork, and developing imaginative, worthwhile activities for their local chapters despite challenges associated with COVID-19. Students got a chance to know each other, to share ideas, and to participate in brainstorming and fun activities.

Follow-up activities for the year will include agricultural and community projects at the local level, a subsequent workshop for FFA members, and a State FFA Convention with competitions and awards.

For more information on starting an FFA chapter to access student agriculture/natural resources opportunities related to leadership events, travel, community, competition and scholarships, please contact the Maine FFA State Advisor in the Maine Department of Education, Doug Robertson, doug.robertson@maine.gov 207-624-6744

It’s National Adoption Month in November – Here are Resources for Educators

November is National Adoption Month! We invite you to recognize and celebrate families that grew by adoption while raising awareness about the urgent need for permanent homes for children and young people in out-of-home (foster) care.

National Adoption Month, initiated in 1976 by Governor Dukakis and formalized by President Clinton in 1995, is an annual campaign sponsored by the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in partnership with Child Welfare Information Gateway and AdoptUSKids.

This year, the campaign theme is Every Conversation Matters. Sharing the message about the need for families is critical, yet how information about the adoption experience is shared can have a significant impact on children and young people. This theme is particularly important for adolescents and young people in need of a forever family and a permanent home.

Every child with adoption experience has a story. Helping youth find their voice and the words to tell their story may be hard, but it also unlocks the potential to learn who their important mentors and supports are and may potentially uncover adoption resources.

With approximately 970 Maine children currently entering a relative’s home for placement from out-of-home care and 300 adoption legalizations annually, there are likely children in your school and classroom who are personally affected by adoption. There are great opportunities to provide parents and children with foundational language and resources that can barrier-bust long standing assumptions about adoption.

How you can help:

  • If you are an educator and are looking for support in navigating the complex social narratives, beliefs and questions the adoption experience often elicits (think family tree assignments), visit looking for tips and starting points to address those issues with your students, visit https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/adoption/adopt-parenting/school/ or https://www.americanadoptions.com/blog/
  • If you are an educator working with young children visit https://adoptionnetwork.com/ for helpful tools and resources. Or consider teaching a lesson about famous adoptees who have made a difference in the world. Even a small lesson can be incredibly useful in changing people’s opinions about how adoption really works — and promote tolerance among your students for those who may be affected by this process.
  • If your goal is to get actively involved in this important need, you may remain connected and informed throughout the month by following #AFamilyForMeMaine and #NationalAdoptionMonth on Facebook and raise awareness by asking friends, family and colleagues to join you.
  • Join the Poster Campaign: What Adoption Means to ME – Download this poster to find out more.

If you want to explore becoming an adoptive parent in Maine, please call A Family for ME at 1-844-893-6311 or visit https://afamilyformemaine.org/ to get started today.

Reminders and Info Regarding ARP Funding for Homeless Children and Youth

Thank you for your patience as the Maine Department of Education has worked out the details for the $2.6 million awarded to Maine under the American Rescue Plan Act’s Homeless Children and Youth (ARP-HCY) program. Here are is some important follow up information and reminders about ARP-HCY I and II finding:
  • ARP-HCY I: School Administrative Units (SAUs) who were awarded funding will now see these allocations in Maine DOE’s GEMS System.
  • ARP-HCY II: To receive funds, the brief form to complete is now open HERE.
    • Remember to coordinate with other SAUs if you will be applying as a consortium.
    • Please complete this form prior to October 15, 2021.

For more information:

For further information, questions, and support, contact Amelia Lyons, McKinney-Vento (MV) Homeless Education Specialist, amelia.lyons@maine.gov or (207) 557-1787.

NEW: School and/or district McKinney-Vento liaisons can sign up for the MV listserv here!

Virtual Parent Town Hall with the US Department of Education

July 29th from 8pm-9pm EST the US Department of Education will be hosting a town hall for parents. After a year and a half of grappling with the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, students across the country are slated to return to school in-person this fall. However, for many, especially parents, the return to in-person instruction has brought with it a variety of worries, hesitations, and questions:

  • Will my child(ren) be safe at school?
  • What COVID precautions should I look for in my child’s school?
  • How will schools take my child’s social and emotional well-being into account?
  • Is the vaccine safe?
  • Should I get the vaccine?
  • Should my child(ren) get the vaccine?

While one of Biden Administration’s top priorities is to have all students back in-person this fall, they recognize that this goal will not be met if parents’ voices are not heard, and their concerns taken into account. This Parent Town Hall is a unique opportunity for parents to share their ideas and concerns, and to get their questions answered.

Panelists from the US Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will answer parents’ questions and address concerns around the return to in-person instruction.

Parents are invited to submit questions about the return to in-person instruction on the registration form. Pre-submitted questions will help plan the content of the session. Time will also be reserved for live questions and answers at the end of the event. Please register here.

The intended audience for this virtual town hall is parents. We encourage you to share this session widely to your parent networks. Thank you!