Arizona Agricultural Education/FFA Foundation
You can help make a difference in the lives of Arizona’s future leaders by supporting Agricultural Education and the Arizona FFA. As a non-profit organization, the Arizona Agricultural Education/FFA Foundation is dedicated to raising funds to cultivate Arizona’s most valuable commodity- our youth.
Registration now open for the 4th annual
June 7, 2013. Click on the link below for registration information
Arizona FFA Alumni Spotlight
This summer the Arizona FFA will be wishing an old friend farewell, Jeff Dinges, former state officer will be riding off into the Florida sunset. Before he departs our great state the Foundation wanted to take a moment to honor one of our brightest stars. We are honored to call Jeff Dinges an alumni and former state officer because he truly represents what is great about our organization and what is possible through hard work and dedication. Though his accomplishments are all his own, we rejoice in his success and couldn’t be happier to call Mr. Dinges alumni member, future ag teacher and unfortunately for us, soon to be Florida resident.
For those of you who are not familiar with Jeff’s story of success, grab a tissue before you read on about his incredible journey! Jeff wasn’t a lucky teenager by any stretch. He lived in South Peoria in an apartment with his four sisters and two brothers. His parents continuously battled bouts of drug and alcohol addiction. He was subjected to physical abuse and poverty throughout his early life. His freshman year of high school Jeff just sort of happened into FFA and the Ag Ed program because he needed an elective.
His advisor Mr. Kaltenbach took an immediate interest in Jeff and really gave him no choice but to run for Greenhand Officer. He was elected Greenhand treasurer and things were going well for a moment until Jeff was diagnosed with an aortic valve branch condition which required open heart surgery. Jeff’s condition meant he also had to leave home to escape the unhealthy environment. At just 15 years old Jeff was contending with a mountain of obstacles and no one to guide him through. But what should have been Jeff’s worst year turned into a pivotal moment in his life.
While hospitalized for several weeks it was his fellow Greenhands and FFA members who had only known him for a few months before he was hospitalized, visited him regularly, keeping him up to date on school work and keeping his spirits high throughout his recovery. Once released from the hospital Jeff moved in with an older brother, a youth pastor and a few fellow FFA members bouncing around. At times he had to commute an hour and a half to school by bus so that he could continue with his friends and classmates.
Once he was well enough generous donors paid for him to attend Leadership Camp in Northern Arizona. Something he describes as the experience of a lifetime. Mr. K, Jeff’s advisor, took over as Jeff’s power of attorney. This allowed Jeff to get a job, a driver’s license and the ability to make his own decisions. He ran for Chapter officer and served as the sentinel and vice president of Peoria FFA. With the encouragement of his advisor and friend Jeff ran for state office and was elected as the state Vice President in 2006.
Because of his FFA activities and through scholarships including the foundation, Jeff received almost $20,000 in scholarships and financial aid. He went on to attend the University of Arizona where he enrolled in the Department of Ag Ed with a desire to be to another student, what Mr. K was to him- an advisor in every sense of the word. Jeff is only two classes shy of graduating with his bachelor’s degree. He has almost finished student teaching at Imagine Prep in Coolidge, Arizona where he is residing with his wife Danielle and baby girl, Serenity.
Jeff’s story is of course exceptional. As he is an exceptional man who pushed back against adversity and challenged himself every day to achieve. But Jeff’s story truly highlights the growth, feeling of community and opportunity that FFA provides.
Within the confines of his chapter Jeff found a family that believes in community and supported him when he needed it the most. Through our leadership and training programs he found confidence and direction in himself that he didn’t know existed. He utilized the resources he found within the FFA to pay for his continued education and now he is giving back and guiding other students. That’s the real story of FFA. Jeff is an extraordinary example but the foundation of what our program offers remains the same.
FFA programs encourage teachers and students to become real partners in education. The resulting close teacher-student interaction gives teachers extraordinary opportunities to lead individual student’s education and become true mentors. Communities and schools, as well as business and industry, are partnering with FFA to invest knowledge, leadership skills and real-world experiences in American youth. The returns on those investments include better teachers and students, energized entrepreneurs, motivated community volunteers, future leaders and a strong network of FFA Alumni. Jeff Dinges and Mr. K embody the success of this unique relationship and what makes the FFA great. He learned from the best and will undoubtedly be the best ag teacher any chapter could ask for. Our loss is certainly Florida’s gain.
Click here to view past Arizona FFA Alumni Spotlights
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Or feel free to contact us at 602-705-9211.