Leading by example

Jennifer Leader has served as FFA President at Miramar Ranch Elementary School from 2016-2018.

Leading by example

“Leader” is more than just a name for one Scripps Ranch resident who has dedicated herself to helping enrich the educational experience for students at Miramar Ranch Elementary School (MRE). As president of the Family Faculty Association (FFA) for the past two years, Jennifer Leader has made significant contributions to the school and its programs through her volunteerism.

As a non-profit parent organization, the FFA works to organize activities and raise funds to support school initiatives, and even to pay for staff and equipment that San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) funds fall short of covering. Over the past year, funds raised by the FFA, which were in excess of $100,000, helped pay for teaching assistants, office equipment, science lab teachers, a computer lab and library, an Art Corps program and supplies, assemblies and character education, and more.

As president, Leader coordinates the work of officers and committees of the FFA, presides over meetings, oversees approval of any legally binding documents related to FFA business and administers the group’s Facebook page.

“I never take a day off,” Leader said.

While she noted that the workload ebbs and flows throughout the year depending on what events and activities may be taking place, there is always something that needs to be attended to, particularly daily monitoring of her FFA email inbox.

While Leader has dedicated countless hours of her time to this role, she is thankful to have a strong team of officers and committee chairs to help her.

“I was doing a lot more hands-on work last school year up until I started working full time last April. I had to really rely on my committee chairs this year,” she said. “I’ve had a fabulous treasurer and assistant treasurer this year. Our past president is amazing. Our communications coordinator has been instrumental. I couldn’t have done this job without them.”

Among a notable list of accomplishments as FFA president, Jennifer Leader is most passionate about the Garden Corps program that was initiated under her leadership.

MRE also has an active community of parent volunteers who help make the FFA successful.

“I’ve never been at a school where there were so many parents signed up to volunteer and get a volunteer badge to be in the classroom or to help out on field trips,” Leader said. “It’s an amazing community in terms of the support of the parent volunteers.”

Leader made it a point to note that all parents of students at MRE are automatically members of the FFA. There are no membership dues or other requirements, and all parents are encouraged to take an active role in exercising their voice, and in sharing their talents and time.

“All parents get a vote if they come to meetings,” she said. “They have a say in terms of how we spend money, how we fundraise, how we incentivize our fundraisers.”

On the topic of fundraisers, Leader explained that the FFA board is still in need of a fundraising coordinator for the 2018-2019 school year. She encourages any MRE parent who may be interested in sharing their talents in this capacity to reach out for additional information.

Among a long list of accomplishments during her time as FFA president, including co-founding the Helpful Hawks – a merit-based leadership program – and after school activities, Leader exhibited the greatest affection for her role in starting the school’s garden corps.

“I got the garden up and running,” she said, noting that it was in very poor shape prior to it becoming an FFA project. “We had Eagle Scouts come in to automate watering, we put in new beds and we planted a little orchard.”

As for how the garden would be used, Leader explained that the goal of the program was for volunteer parents to get trained on a lesson incorporating school curriculum, then coordinate with a teacher to teach a class in the garden. Prior to returning to work full time, Leader regularly volunteered in this role, frequently teaching classes in the garden.

“If I could spend all day in that garden and just keep kids coming through, that would be my dream,” Leader said. “That was so much fun and so gratifying, and the kids loved it.”

She added that the school’s garden was recently certified for garden-to-café by SDUSD, allowing what is grown in the garden to be used in the cafeteria to help replenish the salad bar.

Going forward, Leader plans to remain accessible and offer her support to her successor, Diane Hunter, as she transitions in to the role of FFA president next school year. Hunter explained that she looks forward to continuing FFA’s long-standing tradition of volunteerism and fundraising to support critical school initiatives – a tradition that Leader has successfully championed while leading by example during her time in office.

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