When traveling west on Interstate 90 across South Dakota, you’ll come across Kadoka, a smaller town of just around 700 people, but a big draw for students from more than eight surrounding zip codes.
Kadoka Area High School students come from not only a geographically diverse area, but culturally diverse backgrounds, as well.
“I tell the students, I think the Kadoka area is great place to live, but you are probably going to have to leave and go somewhere else to get the skills or the degree to have a competitive paying job,” Kadoka Vo-Ed Instructor and FFA Advisor Brandy Knutson said.
“Go ahead and gain those skills or a degree and then come back.”
The challenge of offering quality, relevant curriculum often leads broad stroke changes. As education at Kadoka Area has evolved and reinvented itself, the Ag, Food and Natural Resources program with its Student Organization, FFA, has proven its value year after year.
KHS’s Ag, Food and Natural Resources program offers students a variety of areas to study in those topics, as well as hands on wood working, metal fabrication, and electricity training in addition to coursework which ties in more with Career Development Events like Horse Judging and Natural Resources.
“We spend a lot of time talking about careers, wages and job requirements. We talk about what skills employers are looking for and where the students can go,” Knutson said.
“I think it is important that students find some area of interest that they may want to pursue, but it is also important to figure out what they don’t like.”
Lessons such as those have been taught at Kadoka High School for many years, as former Vo-Ed Instructor Veryl Prokop set out to get approval for the first classes and for chartering the Kadoka FFA chapter in 1989. Knutson joined the staff in 1994 and both taught classes for several years until Prokop retired.
The FFA component adds a great deal to the classes as it allows the students to compete academically at the local, statewide and even national level.
Over the last two decades, students from the Kadoka FFA have won more than 30 state competitions in a variety of events which allowed them to participate in national competitions.
Some have even team and individual national championships and placings in the areas of Farm Business Management, Range Judging and Homesite and Land Judging.
“When we compete on the National level it can be intimidating when you are competing against California and Texas teams,” Knutson said.
“When we go and are competitive on that (national) scale it is an eye opener for our students and it really shows them that they can achieve more than they ever imagined.”
Knutson said the opportunities presented through the FFA program reach students at all levels and leave lasting memories that can lead to budding careers.
“Traveling to different parts of the country, industry tours and meeting other students from across the nation, these are truly memories which last a lifetime,” Knutson said, “and for many students have led to a career.”