Growing up in the City of Charlotte, Lauren Wilson didn’t have much experience with large animals prior to her freshman year at Charlotte High School. Now a senior, Wilson has found her career passion thanks to the agriscience program offered at CHS — becoming a large animal veterinarian.

“My freshman year, one of my upperclassman friends convinced me to join FFA and to raise a show pig at our school barn that summer to show at the Eaton County Fair,” Wilson said. “I don’t live on a farm, so I don’t have the opportunity to raise farm animals, which is something I’ve always been interested in. I fell in love with this organization and the community it has given me. Taking the vet sciences classes has really steered me toward being a large animal veterinarian.”

Wilson is one of 394 students currently enrolled in an agriscience program at the high school, and is the current president of CHS’s 42-member FFA Chapter, which is the oldest in existence in the state.

Wilson’s story is not that uncommon for students in ag sciences, said Lorin Stewart, a CHS FFA advisor and agriscience teacher.

“I think there is a big misconception of what this program is really all about,” Stewart said of ag science program, and FFA. “These kids are not just into farming, they are learning about agriculture, and there is so much emphasis and leadership and community projects. We have very few students with a farm background in FFA currently.”

One of those current members is Kelsey Klont, a senior at CHS, who plans to attend Michigan State University in the fall to study crop sciences.

“I didn’t grow up on a farm either,” Klont said. “In eighth grade I thought I was going to be a secretary or something. I went to the first FFA meeting my freshman year and it opened me up to agriculture and leadership, and now I’m going into crop sciences.”

Stewart said an agriscience course is sometimes the only opportunity some students get to touch an animal or be around them. 

“One of the things that draws kids into the FFA program is the hands-on experience,” Stewart said. 

Of course, there are other students who have grown up on the family farm, always knowing their future career would be in the agriculture industry, which is currently the top industry in the State of Michigan. FFA and the agriscience programs have served to bolster that belief in Kirsten Langaack, a junior, and Charlotte FFA president-elect.

“I grew up on a dairy farm and have been showing dairy cows all my life,” Langmaack said. “FFA has helped me so much career-wise, building relationships and having conversations with other FFA members.”

Stewart said a major component of the FFA program is leadership development. The FFA motto is to promote leadership, personal growth and career success.

“A lot of what we do is career-oriented, the job interviews, the public speaking, the community service,” Stewart said. 

“My freshman year, I really didn’t talk much, and had no social skills,” Wilson said. “FFA has brought me out of my shell, made me talk in front of people and get comfortable with public speaking.”

Charlotte High School will host an open house for interested community members to learn more about the agriscience and FFA programs offered. The open house will take place Wednesday, May 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. and will allow attendees to tour the school’s ag barn, greenhouse, hoop house, and agriscience classrooms.