Zack Lumpkin was a member of Southeast Whitfield High School's FFA chapter during a time when the club posed little threat in competitions, and since returning to his alma mater as an agriculture teacher and FFA adviser nearly a decade ago, he's dedicated himself to resurrecting the club.
That process celebrated a significant breakthrough earlier this month, when a Southeast team captured the State Agriculture Sales and Career Development competition at Fort Valley State University. That means the foursome of junior Mario Alfaro, junior Karen Garcia, junior Reilly Grady and senior Amalie Hernandez earned an opportunity to compete at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, this October.
The team members credit Lumpkin with putting them together, as well as motivating them toward reaching their peak levels. While Garcia, Grady and Hernandez qualified for state last season with a fourth member who then graduated, they didn't fare nearly as well as they hoped, but Lumpkin kept them together this year and added Alfaro to their mix.
Each member of the group was on the receiving end of "tough love" from Lumpkin at points in the season, Grady said. "We work harder, because we want to impress him."
Lumpkin, who was named one of the school's teachers of the year in 2016, "doesn't sugarcoat it," Garcia seconded. "He pushes you."
Winning state and qualifying for nationals "is a big thing for me personally and a big thing for FFA at Southeast," Alfaro said. "We're building a legacy, and I'm excited to see where it goes from here."
It may also boost the club's numbers at the school, Grady said. "Everyone wants to be part of something where you can win."
Previously, even "winning areas was a big deal, but now it's not," because of the FFA program's recent success, Garcia said. With her team setting the bar even higher this month, "hopefully winning state will get that way, too."
For his tireless efforts to rebuild Southeast's FFA program, the Daily Citizen-News names Zack Lumpkin Citizen of the Week.