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Local FFA members help rebuild fire-devastated rural communities (posted 8/16/17)

Mike Kilfoil, Wyatt Thompson, Derek Strawn, and Joe Dye Columbia Public Schools' Columbia Area Career Center FFA Chapter voluntarily traveled 520 miles to Gate, Oklahoma, to help rebuild farming communities devastated by wildfire that consumed thousands of acres, displaced families, and took lives last spring. The students traveled June 26 through June 30, and stayed with local ranch owner Lonnie Bailey and family.

"We initially surveyed our student leaders to see if there was any interest," said Mike Kilfoil, FFA advisor and agriculture instructor. "It amazed me to see how our students wanted to go and help other agriculture families. Their drive to help fill a need is what made this trip a success."

Work began at daybreak to beat the Oklahoma heat. Students worked on rebuilding fences until afternoon, when the temperatures soared and became too much for outdoor labor. The afternoon was spent on leadership training, ranch tours, visiting historic sites, and planning out the Chapter activities for the 2017-18 school year.

"The agriculture community is about helping your neighbor; it does not matter how far away that neighbor may live," Kilfoil said. "Our FFA student leaders were excited to get involved and help a community that was devastated by a natural disaster. I couldn't be more proud of how well they represented our program, school, community, and their generation. It was an honor to work alongside of them."

The FFA officers who attended were Wyatt Thompson, Leo Elsassee, Brad Saffle, Joe Dye, Derek Strawn, Conner Stormer, Audrey Wooden, Cassidy Watkins, Maddie Dehaven, and Sydney Schupp. The adult advisors were Mike Kilfoil, Lori Kilfoil, and Tom Kovacs.

CACC is a part of the Columbia Public School District and serves the community by providing the following education programs to a variety of ages including, but not limited to, career and technical education, personal enrichment, literacy advancement, workforce development, and summer camps. For more information, visit or