Hughson’s Avila earns recognition for FFA website

Unlike many FFA students, Joseph Avila doesn’t have a direct connection to agriculture. He doesn’t live on a farm. He didn’t grow up raising animals or working to help his family during harvest season. But when a family friend suggested he sign up for ag biology as a Hughson High freshman four years ago, Avila went along with the idea.

That first class sparked a passion Avila didn’t even knew he had, one that has since blossomed into showing animals at the county fair, helped him develop into an FFA leader and opened the door to potential career possibilities.

Avila’s interest in ag spurred him to volunteer to build a website for Hughson’s FFA chapter, a monthslong project that turned out so well that Hughson recently was chosen as the Central Region FFA winner and state FFA finalist in the Web Development Competition.

Avila and 20 other Hughson students who attend the State FFA Convention this week in Ontario will learn Friday if their website – which is one of six finalists – will be chosen as the statewide winner. There are 339 FFA chapters in California.

“After pouring more than 1,000 hours into this website, I am truly happy that it turned out how I wanted it to,” said Avila, who had never before designed a website. “Winning the state award would mean so much more to me than just winning the regional award. I was able to gain so many skills from this experience, and I know that this website is probably just a first.”

Avila heard about the website competition when he attended the 2021 state convention. Hughson’s FFA chapter had a social media presence at that time, but didn’t have a website.

“Joseph approached me and asked if this was task that he could tackle,” recalled ag teacher and FFA adviser Kelly Larson. “He had some resources through his church and was able to research design software that would fit our needs.”

It took some time to pull together all the things required and purchase a domain name, but finally in June 2022, Avila went to work on the website. He credits his mentor, Jackie Yoder, with helping him learn about all the components necessary to create the kind of website the Hughson FFA chapter needed. It contains all sorts of useful information and videos about what FFA is, classes at Hughson High, potential projects for FFA members, links to local ag boosters, a calendar of upcoming events and so much more.

“I would mostly work on it anytime that I really got the chance to. I would even try to work on it in class, if I had time,” Avila said. “Mrs. Larson and the other advisers provided guidance about what they felt should be on the website. … My main goal was just to make it a resource for the chapter and its members and the community. I want our members to be able to visit it when trying to see what classes they need to take to complete a pathway or what activities we have that they can participate in.”

Larson is thrilled with the finished project and impressed with the time, energy and creativity Avila devoted to it.

“Maintaining and updating the website is crucial as it is a direct line of communication for our FFA chapter to parents, students and the entire community,” she said. “Building and maintaining the website is something our department has always wanted to do and we are excited for Joseph to actively train someone to take over this role for next year.”

Avila said the website project is the high point in his FFA experience that has included showing meat goats at the Stanislaus County Fair, serving on various committees and becoming his chapter’s vice president this year. He also was one of just 75 FFA members chosen statewide to participate in a leadership forum for two days earlier this month in Sacramento, where they met legislators and toured the Capitol.

Avila’s interest in ag won’t end when he graduates from high school later this spring. He plans to attend Modesto Junior College, then transfer to a four-year university to pursue a dual major in ag business and ag communications.

And to think, his career path came about all because a city kid signed up for ag biology as a freshman.

“I don’t live on a farm. I do not have a conventional background in agriculture,” Avila said. “You don’t have to be a farmer or want to be a farmer in the future to join FFA. There are so many opportunities and growing experiences within FFA, and I am so glad that I joined it. This website has been a blessing to be able to promote our chapter and show off the many things that our chapter has accomplished and continues to accomplish.”

When he’s not pursuing FFA activities, Avila plays on the varsity tennis team and is involved with Life of a Husky, California Scholarship Federation and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

“I definitely keep a busy schedule,” he said, “but I have thoroughly enjoyed these past four years at Hughson because of my involvement all over the school.”