After suffering setbacks from thefts and outdated equipment, the Shawnee High School Vo-Ag program is on track with a new instructor and a new organization from community members to help bolster its agriculture education program.


After suffering setbacks from thefts and outdated equipment, the Shawnee High School Vo-Ag program is on track with a new instructor and a new organization from community members to help bolster its agriculture education program.

A group of attorneys, parents and business leaders have come together to form a foundation to help the Shawnee agricultural class recoup equipment and classroom materials which were stolen from the school agriculture class at the beginning of the school year.

The Shawnee Agricultural Education Foundation (AEF), a not-for-profit organization, was formed to help vocational agriculture instructor Ryan Ellis provide adequate classroom items and tools so the ag program can rebound and excel and provide adequate training for students.

The program suffered heavy losses after thieves took at least $17,000 worth of tools, curriculum items and other assets that belonged to the school, and items from Ellis’ personal equipment.

“They took basically everything that wasn’t nailed down,” Ellis said.

The theft occurred the second week of school and although police were able to recover some welders that belonged to the school, the items were not in the best of shape, nor was anything else the program previously had, Ellis said.

“We were lacking in hand tools to begin with and I had brought a bunch of my personal stuff up here,” he said. “All of that got stolen and that was about $1,000 out of my own pocket.”

Ellis teaches five different agricultural education classes at Shawnee and although the program is lacking adequate equipment, AEF members said Ellis is capable of giving students a stellar education and they want to help ensure that happens.

That is why local Attorney Matt Griffith, the AEF interim president, and other community business leaders and parents set up the AEF, which is similar to a booster club but with more muscle and less red  tape, Griffith said.

“We want to have a first class program,” Griffith said. “We’ve gone about trying to raise some money and essentially put a structure in place to give people an opportunity to contribute to the program. Not only to meet the short term needs of the program ... but also to provide a long term mechanism into the future.”

The program recently helped Ellis and FFA members attend the National FFA convention in Indianapolis, Ind. last week.

The AEF has monthly meetings planned, which meet the second Wednesday of every month and anyone can attend, even past students, to help strengthen the ag program. The next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 9 at 5 p.m. at Shawnee High School Vo-Ag building.