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Leslie & Donna Stith Give Donation to Ensure Meade County FFA Members Can Attend Leadership Camp

 FFA made a tremendous impact on Leslie Stith, especially FFA camp. In an effort to give current Meade County FFA members the same opportunities, he and his wife Donna have committed to making an annual gift to the Kentucky FFA Foundation that will accumulate to be $20,000 over the next 10 years. The Stith’s donation will pay a portion of the registration fees for up to 20 Meade County FFA members to attend FFA camp each year.  Stith, a Meade County native who worked in ag industry for 31 years before returning to the family farm, credits his time in FFA for teaching him leadership skills and connecting him with others were also passionate about agriculture.  “I grew up on a farm, and had two brothers. FFA camp was one of the very few times we were ever allowed to leave home because of all the farm work that needed to be done,” said Stith. “It was a door-opening experience for me. It would be a shame if young men and women who would like to go to camp would miss out on the opportunity to change their lives.” Besides attending camp as a high schooler, Stith worked at the Kentucky FFA Leadership Center, where camp is held, while he was in college. He has supported Kentucky FFA for many years, personally and professionally. A very proud accomplishment was working with the Foundation and Monsanto (now Bayer) to establish FFA Jacket Scholarships in Kentucky, a program that continues to grow annually.  “I hope we’ve lessened the burden financially for students,” said Stith about the gift. “I wanted to do a pilot program to see if it would make a difference. If it does what I think it will do, we’ll see that it’s an evergreen program.”  Donna Stith taught school for 30 years, mostly in Meade County, and like Leslie, is passionate about giving youth opportunities to grow.  Josh Mitcham, the director of the Kentucky FFA Leadership Center and an agricultural education program consultant for the Kentucky Department of Education, said there are several reasons FFA camp can be so transformative for students.  “Leadership is at the core of everything we do at camp,” said Mitcham. “We spend at least half the day working on growing yourself and growing your chapter. But students also like the routine of getting up and saying the pledge – they crave someone asking them to be respectful. And it’s fun, too. They are fortunate to get to meet other people because we put them in groups with their peers from other chapters. That’s something they might not just do on their own.”  “There’s never a negative comment that comes out of a kid’s mouth about FFA camp,” said Noel Pack, one of the two agriculture teachers at Meade County High School. “They walk away from the experience with deep friendships – it means a lot to them. And Josh (Mitcham) has done a really great job making camp this loving, nurturing environment.”  “We’re just super excited to have Leslie’s support of our program,” she said. “We live in such a giving community, and it’s really special to receive a gift like this from one of our alumni. It means a lot to my students. It’s nice to have that burden taken off their shoulders. They can have that camp experience and they don’t have to worry about how they’re going to get there.”  “It would be very easy for one person in every district to do these types of things – buying FFA jackets, sponsoring camp registration, sponsoring a contest,” said Mitcham. “By doing specific gifts like Leslie’s they can see the impact of their money. It’s purposeful, and any time you do something on purpose, the outcome will be a lot better.”  “We were just happy to do this,” said Stith. “I’m passionate about a lot of things, but youth and agricultural education are one of my main passions. What we really hope is that some young men