Meet our students
Our students come from all over the Hamilton Fulton Montgomery region. Their interests are varied, as well as their career aspirations and reasons for deciding to come to Ag PTECH.
The following students have been featured in our monthly newsletters.
Published in November 2017
Braidyn Andrews, has a clear vision of what she wants to do in the future. And as an Agriculture PTECH student on the pathway to an Animal Industry associate’s degree, she’s already on her way to achieving her goals.
“I’ve always loved animals,” she said of her aspirations to become a veterinarian. “I want to work up to getting a PhD; there are lots of doors that will open with that.”
Andrews says she was looking for something different for high school, and she much prefers the collaboration that goes along with Ag PTECH’s project based learning environment to a more traditional classroom.
Along with the rest of the freshmen class, Andrews recently had to write a mission statement for Ag PTECH as part of a project. Her teachers and Principal John Howard were so impressed with what she wrote, it is being adopted as the school’s official mission statement.
“We talked as a staff and all agreed that Braidyn’s words are what we want everyone at Agriculture PTECH to embrace every day,” Howard said.
Outside of Ag PTECH, Andrews stays busy playing volleyball for The Thunders, a travel team for which she often plays the libero position, a player specialized in defensive skills.
“Playing volleyball gives me a chance to make friends and something to look forward to,” she said. “It gets my adrenaline going, too.”
Andrews also enjoys singing karaoke — pop songs being her favorite to perform.
Andrews is a native of Amsterdam and has an older brother, Joey, and a younger sister, Fallyn.
Published in December 2016
Like most students at Ag PTECH, Madison Blood is considering a career working with animals, but not necessarily the ones that come naturally to mind when the talk turns to agriculture.
“I like more exotic animals. I can see myself working to help preserve endangered species as a zoologist,” Madison explains.
She didn’t grow up with an agriculture background. A student of the Greater Johnstown School District, Madison was attracted to Ag PTECH’s non-traditional classrooms, small size and career pathways related to her interests.
“I researched the fields I like and realize I will need to continue on to a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, but Ag PTECH offers such a great opportunity to work toward that,” Madison said.
Madison finds the small group collaborations a good way to tackle learning, a hallmark of Ag PTECH’s project based learning approach. However, the changes are not without challenges.
“I am a paper person, and it was hard to get used to the technology in the classroom.”
She also had sharpened her communications skills.
“I like to be a leader, but sometimes that means letting others express their views and opinions too. Ag PTECH projects force us to grow and work together productively,” she said.
In addition, Ag PTECH projects include ties to the program’s business partners, requiring students to research the information they need through those business connections.
“That was hard, getting used to calling businesses to ask questions. One project needed us to collect information about deer population issues, and we had to find a resource for that from our business partners,” Madison said.
Published in February 2017
In eighth grade, Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville student Jeb Brundage learned about an opportunity to get outside — something he loves — and take steps toward becoming a forest ranger or hunting guide—something he aspires to— when principal Kristy Shafer presented the new Ag PTECH program at his school.
A member of OESJ’s FFA chapter since middle school, Jeb liked the sound of Ag PTECH’s emphasis on agriculture themed careers, and its different model for learning the new programs offered. Now a first-year student in Ag PTECH, and secretary for the school’s FFA chapter, Jeb is enjoying classes in its non-traditional classrooms.
“I like the project based learning on topics that interest me better than listening to a lecture, Jeb said. “I also like meeting with new people from other schools, working together on projects and making presentations of our projects at the end.
Jeb’s love of the outdoors, hunting and fishing, and his career goals all fit neatly into the AG PTECH framework.
Several of the career clusters offered would help prepare Jeb for the kinds of jobs he would enjoy.
“People hear about Ag PTECH and think it is just about farming, but the programs are designed to help kids who want to be a game warden or a diesel mechanic or a vet or a florist,” Jeb said. “There are a lot of possibilities based on what someone wants to do.”
Published in October 2017
Keegan Darrow, a sophomore from Fonda-Fultonville, made the decision to attend Agriculture PTECH because he knew he wanted to focus on an agriculture-related career and was interested in the new surroundings the school offered.
Darrow is interested in becoming a diesel mechanic and says he likes animals and working on the equipment needed to operate a farm. “I’ve always wanted to move to Maine to start a beef or hog farm,” he said.
His family (sister Shawna and parents Russell and Bridget) runs a small farm – called Darrow’s Upside Down Family Farm – that has two pigs, eight cows, rabbits, chickens and ducks. He said his dad suggested the name because “we usually do things backwards.”
When he isn’t in school, Darrow enjoys spending time outdoors fishing and hunting rabbits, deer, turkey and other small game.
Darrow is enjoying his time at Ag PTECH. “I like seeing all my friends,” he said, adding that he doesn’t mind doing the project presentations. “It doesn’t bother me to speak in front of people as long as I am prepared and know what I’m doing.”
Sophomores had the opportunity to visit the Farmers Museum in Cooperstown on Oct. 4.
The trip was the culmination of their project “Agriculture is Timeless,” part of the students’ Global History and Agriculture Science coursework.
Students tasked with creating a timeline of the progression of agriculture through major historical eras.
While at the museum, the students were able to participate in participate in agricultural activities from the past, including churning butter.
Published in May 2017
Having already worked on and been around farms, Tyler Henderson says he envisions a future for himself in farming.
“I’ve always wanted a life that involved agriculture,” Tyler said, listing a farm operator or a crop manager for a large farm as possible career paths he may follow.
While attending middle school in Broadalbin-Perth, Henderson said, he heard from a family member about the opportunities the new Ag PTECH school, and when he saw a presentation by Principal Kristy Shafer he thought the school would be right for him.
“I thought it would be a really good opportunity for me to get ahead knowledge wise,” he said.
So far he feels his experiences at Ag PTECH are paying off.
“It’s a lot better than a traditional school because you get to be more independent and it’s student centered,” he said.
Tyler said it’s the hand-on Project Based Learning approach to learning that sets Ag PTECH apart from the traditional high school.
“The hands on learning is big for me,” he said.
Tyler’s favorite project so far has been working with Clear View Farms, where he and his project partners developed a multi-year business and growth plan for the Fonda-based Alpaca operation
Published in spring 2018
Jared Linart is practical in his approach to his field of study at Agriculture PTECH. As a current sophomore, next year he’ll be taking classes the campus of SUNY Cobleskill. His focus will be on agriculture business because he believes it “will be useful for his future.”
Linart also has his eye on a possible criminal justice career, so he’s made sure to line up a forensic science class on his college schedule.
Linart said he chose to come to Agriculture PTECH because getting two years of paid college under his belt made a lot of sense. “I thought it would be a good program to kick-start my future,” he said.
He also really liked the style of teaching and learning the new school was offering. “Being able to come here and do project based learning with hands-on work seemed better because that’s how I learn — not just by seeing something,” Linart said.
Having to speak in front of panels at the end of projects has been Linart’s biggest challenge at Ag PTECH, but he’s finding he has more confidence each time he does it.
Linart admits he used to be the class clown, but during the two years he has been at Ag PTECH, he says he has matured a lot. He’s hanging on to some valuable advice his father gave him. “My dad always told me to be a leader, not a follower,” Linart said.
Outside of school, Linart likes to spend time with friends, especially playing baseball. He plays in a men’s softball league in Meco, where he excels in outfield positions.
Linart likes to work hard, too. Often he helps family members who have cows and horses with their farm chores.
Linart lives in Johnstown with his mom, Kimberly Schuh, and his 12-year-old brother, Nicholas Ahrens, who goes to Knox Middle School.
Published in January 2018
Mekhi Pettit, a freshman from the Fort Plain school district, said he was ready for a change when he applied to Agriculture PTECH.
“I wanted something different,” he said, adding that he’s made many new friends at Ag PTECH.
Pettit said he’s enjoyed the environment at Ag PTECH and feels like he can take the time to learn things without feeling rushed. He acknowledged that working in groups is challenging, but he’s learning along the way.
“It can be hard working in groups because everybody has a different way of thinking,” he said. “You have to take time to listen to what everyone is saying. No question is a dumb question so long as it’s asked.”
Outside of school, Pettit plays football for Canajoharie as either a running-back or linebacker.
On the weekends, he works as an apprentice bladesmith at Adirondack Knife Works in Sprakers, something he’s been doing for about a year.
He said he enjoys metal fabrication and hopes he can make a living doing that kind of work. “Anything I can build or make with my hands I enjoy doing,” Pettit said, adding that he may pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.
Pettit lives with his mom, Heather, and dad, Arnold, in Minden, which just outside Fort Plain.
Published in January 2017
It was on a trip to a Florida aquarium that Jack Robinson discovered the pathway to his future. Jack loves the ocean and all the animals in it, so when asked about his future, he will tell you he wants to be a marine biologist.
“I would like to do research and photography of ocean animals, Jack says. “I also would like to help clean up the litter in the oceans.”
A student from Gloversville, Jack applied to Ag PTECH because of its focus on STEM and agriculture-related studies.
“I know that I will need to earn a bachelor’s degree to become a marine biologist, but Ag PTECH is a great starting place,” he said. He is considering the two-year program at SUNY Cobleskill as the first step toward his goals, and then hopes to return to Florida for additional study.
Math is one of Jack’s strongest subjects, but ask about his interests and right away, everyone will say “turtles.”
Jack lists a domestic animal project as one of the most interesting so far this year, one where he chose the eastern Box Turtle as his creature to study. He explains that project based learning, a cornerstone of Ag PTECH’s learning model, was difficult at first, but he is getting used to it.
“Working with people you don’t know can be hard, but after a while we get settled in and it is okay,” Jack said. “Getting used to the block scheduling and the differences between Ag PTECH and my home school took time to get used to.”
Ag PTECH students have only been in class five months, but have advice for students applying for the next year.
“A good attitude about learning is important to do well at Ag PTECH,” Jack said. “An interest in finding out what kind of career you want is important too.”
Jack says he wouldn’t change anything about Ag PTECH, and has an open mind about what is going to happen next. He is excited about summer though. Jack plans to attend Sea Turtle camp, a week-long marine biology program in North Carolina.
Published in April 2017
Once upon a time, Victoria White planned to join the United States Air Force. Victoria grew up around animals, attended Mayfield Central School and likes to try new things. So, when HFM Ag PTECH Principal Kristy Shafer presented the Ag PTECH program at Victoria’s school, she was very interested.
“Mrs. Shafer talked about the different learning environment and hands-on learning, and I wanted to find out more,” Victoria said.
Victoria wants to help animals and is now considering a future as a game warden. When asked which pathway of the nine Ag PTECH offers she is likely to pursue, she’ll tell you she hasn’t quite figured it out yet. However, she is looking beyond the associate degree she will earn from SUNY Cobleskill through Ag PTECH to additional college and perhaps an advanced degree.
“I expected Ag PTECH, the way it was described, to help me learn, and to be harder work too. And it has turned out that way,” Victoria said.
She didn’t know many kids from other school districts before coming to Ag PTECH, and has enjoyed meeting new people and working closely in teams, a hallmark of project based learning.
Victoria said she was challenged in the beginning by the technology, but as the year goes on, she has become more and more comfortable with it, along with the access and networking with other students and Ag PTECH’s business partners.
She enjoys the projects, particularly the presentations, and says she likes the “different feeling in the classroom” instead of the typical lecture style class.
“I think project based learning is easier for me. I suppose it depends on the kind of person you are, but I learn a lot from the projects,” Victoria said.
Published in February 2018
Madison Wojcik, a sophomore from the Amsterdam school district, has been through some dark days in her young life. But the future looks bright for the horse enthusiast.
Wojcik lives with her grandmother and their corgi, Miss Daisy, on Tumble Hill Farm in Fort Johnson, where they board horses. Though she is very happy with her life these days, she experienced some tough times.
After she unexpectedly lost her mother in an accident just before the start of her eighth-grade year, Wojcik struggled to move forward in a positive way. “I was constantly getting into trouble,” she said. “I was taking a bad route after that.”
Connecting with a local pastor for some counseling led her to find the joy she felt was missing in her life — a relationship with Jesus. “God had my back even when I didn’t realize it; it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” she said.
Growing up, Wojcik spent much of her free time riding horses and showing them in Western Pleasure competitions. “Horses were the thing that brought me and my mom so close,” she said.
In the time following her mother’s death, she felt a pull toward something else — barrel racing. “I’ve always wanted to do it, and I knew showing horses wasn’t what was in my heart,” Wojcik said.
So, she saved her money and bought a filly. She’s been training her new horse and hopes to begin racing this year. “I love the speed and the adrenaline rush,” she said. “It’s helped me cope with losing my mother.”
Wojcik’s decision to come to Ag PTECH came after a friend who was planning to attend helped connect her to the program. She knew she wanted to work with horses as a career, so the animal industry pathway offered at Ag PTECH seemed like a good fit.
She said she likes how Ag PTECH is rooted in project based learning. “I think we get more out of it when we’re focusing on one project that involves different subjects,” Wojcik said. “With working in groups, it’s a divide and conquer kind of approach.”
In the future, Wojcik says, she plans to travel to do missionary work. But she won’t ever stray too far from her roots. “I can’t leave the farm; that’s my home, where all my childhood memories are,” she said, adding that she wants to stay close to her grandma.
What’s more of important than a successful career, Wojcik says, is sharing her story and helping others find the joy she did when she felt so broken. “I want to inspire others that you’re never alone,” she said.
Published in March 2018
Grace Yennard, a freshman at Agriculture PTECH, has some goals that seem etched in stone, but she also is embracing all the different possibilities that lie ahead for her.
Yennard, who lives in Gloversville with her parents Jolee and Wesley, is the youngest of four and the only girl in her family. Two of her older brothers are serving in the military. Travis is training in Georgia, and Paul is being deployed to Kuwait. Her brother Wyatt is a junior at HFM PTECH in Johnstown.
Yennard decided to attend Ag PTECH because of her love for horses, hoping it might lead to a career. She does have an interest in agricultural journalism, but Yennard said she’s keeping an open mind for her career path.
Yennard said she’s grateful for the opportunities she gets at Ag PTECH to explore different aspects of agriculture and related careers. For example, she recently dug into a project about sustainable crop production. And although he research didn’t spark interest for it to be a career path, she gained a greater understanding about what would be involved.
Yennard has embraced the project based learning model at Ag PTECH and appreciates what each group member brings to each project. “Everyone is different and has different ways of seeing everything. There are people who are creative, skilled in different things, and when they come together, it makes everything spark,” she said.
Yennard said she likes the fact Ag PTECH is a small school. “Everybody seems like family, and the teachers are very welcoming,” she said.
Her family owns five horses — Buttercup, Rita, Shae, Jaxson and Angel — which are kept at her grandparents’ house. Yennard barrel races Angel, the horse she bought an auction that has captured her heart. “I got him after my grandfather died, and she has a brand in the shape of a heart,” Yennard said.
Yennard, who has been barrel racing for three years and is a member of the National Barrel Horse Association, said she’s ready to do rodeos and hopes to one day make it to the National Finals Rodeo, something she hopes would make her family proud. “I grew up around horses, and my grandparents and my mom are my biggest supporters,” she said.
Yennard also has been involved with Odyssey of the Mind, a creative team competition, since the fifth grade. This year, her first on the high school team at Gloversville High School, Yennard will be competing with her team at the state level in April. She said she enjoys the part of the competition known as “spontaneous.” “I like not knowing what’s coming because I feel like I’m good at coming up with ideas and communicating with others,” she said.