The National FFA Organization is an agriculturally-based youth organization in the United States which has been providing/facilitating international experiences for its members for a number of years. One of these programs is the International FFA School to School Linkage Program (SSLP), in which selected American agricultural education/FFA programs are linked with specialized secondary agricultural schools/lyceums located in one of the countries of the former Soviet Union (FSU). The program’s main mission is for American students and teachers to share ideas with their FSU counterparts about the initiation and maintenance of small-scale agricultural entrepreneurships based on the United States’ agricultural education Supervised Agricultural Experience Program (SAEP) model as well as exposing them to FFA leadership activities.
During the 1997-98 school term, six agricultural education students and two adults from Prairie High School located in Prairie, Louisiana (pseudonyms), participated in the SSLP as one of six schools from the United States. The school was linked with the Zolatoya Agricultural Lyceum in Zolatoya, Platnaya Region (pseudonyms), Russia. The families of the participants were highly involved in the whole experience, from initial planning to fund-raising to hosting the FSU students to living with their own children upon their return. This qualitative study investigated “How have the lives of two Prairie High School, Louisiana graduates and their immediate families been affected by their participation in the 1997-98 International FFA School to School Linkage Program?” Through literature review, observation, interviews, and obtaining and analyzing pertinent archival information, the major themes identified were: A) Intellectual Development/Career Guidance Choices, B) Developing International Perspective, C) Change in Perception of Host Country/International Representatives, D) Personal/Family Development, and E) Heightened Sense of Community. Developing an International Perspective, Personal/Family Development, and Heightened Sense of Community had the highest frequencies of reference. Within the major themes, some of the most frequently referenced sub-themes were Career/Educational Choices, Awareness of Cultural Differences, Appreciation for the American Lifestyle, Openness to New Cultures, Parental Life Transitions, Development of Parenting Skills, Anxiety, Building of Family Relationships, Student Maturation, and Concern for Others/Making a Difference. Overall, all participants found this to be a worthwhile and life-changing experience.