HENDERSON, Ky. (WEHT) – A new bill allowing Illinois students excused absences for Future Farmers of America and 4H events is being well received in rural communities.

The programs are meant to give students hands on experience in not just agriculture, but science, technology, engineering, and math. Ashlee Crouch, an agriculture teacher in Marshall, Illinois, stresses the importance of these programs for opening up opportunities for students.

“These two organizations really impact and give students opportunities even if those students aren’t going into ag,” says Crouch.

Crouch says the two organizations pride themselves on preparing students to not only be farmers – which she says accounts for only 1% of the agriculture industry as a whole – but also setting students up for future success regardless of their eventual profession.

“Yes, we are driving the ag field, and yes, we want our kids to go into ag, but there are so many opportunities for these students to make themselves better people – and better members of society when they leave high school,” says Crouch.

The longtime agriculture teacher says allowing students across the state to meet attendance requirements in this alternative way will eliminate barriers – enabling students to learn more about the industry and be a part of its future.

“I see it breaking down some barriers that exist in other districts – and allowing opportunities for those students… as our industry changes and our technology changes, we need people to go into those spots and use that new technology,” says Crouch.