Ag Director Costello Delivers Commencement Address at Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences

Announces Record Breaking State-Wide FFA Participation Numbers

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences held their graduation ceremony today, with Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) Director Jerry Costello delivering the commencement address. Director Costello congratulated the 195 graduates of the college preparatory school on becoming the next generation of agriculture leaders and encouraged them to continue their pursuit of a career in our state’s number one industry.

These graduates are also a part of a record-breaking year for FFA membership in the state of Illinois. Since Governor Pritzker announced last June that every student taking agriculture classes would have their FFA dues paid, the number of Illinois FFA members jumped from 23,000 to over 41,000 members, making the 2022-2023 school year the largest single-year increase in membership. Additionally, 5,500 students not enrolled in agricultural education courses joined FFA, demonstrating an appreciation of the value of the organization beyond those even taking ag courses.

“It’s exciting to see an increase of FFA membership not only in rural areas, but in our urban areas as well,” said IDOA Director Jerry Costello. “As the grandson of a FFA teacher, I saw firsthand just how important this organization is to helping young people grow into our next leaders.”

“Illinois Association FFA is extremely grateful for the opportunity to offer FFA membership to every agricultural education student, with this growth in membership and barrier removed for students and FFA chapters, we have seen record attendance this year in nearly every event and opportunity we offer to students,” said Mindy Bunselmeyer Illinois FFA Executive Director.

In 2021, Governor Pritzker signed House Bill 3218 and Senate Bill 1624, two measures that added “agriculture education” to the list of acceptable electives that qualify a student for admission to state universities, and “agricultural sciences” to the list of acceptable science courses for admission. The FFA agriculture education program is for students in 7th-12th grade. Currently, over 350 schools across Illinois have a FFA chapter.

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