Living to Serve: West Grand FFA Students Rebuild the Community After the East Troublesome Fire

iCEV Spotlight

Living to Serve: West Grand FFA Students Rebuild the Community After the East Troublesome Fire

Minibuses pull up next to the agricultural shop where stacks of pallets lay. Students wearing blue and gold greet the minibuses, unload items and sort donations as kindness fills the streets of Kremmling, Colorado. Students at West Grand High School demonstrated leadership, generosity and community as they prepared to rebuild the community after the East Troublesome Fire.


As the Colorado summers have become warmer, drier and longer, the number of wildfires has dramatically increased. Colorado’s three largest fires occurred within three months of each other in 2020. Striking a flame just north of the West Grand High School, the East Troublesome Fire is the second-largest fire in Colorado history. The fire demolished 192,457 acres, 100,000 of which were overnight.  At least 366 homes and 214 buildings were destroyed or damaged, and many families lost their homes and belongings.

West Grand High School's home, Kremmling, Colorado, was not severely affected by the East Troublesome Fire. However, many of West Grand High School's teachers, students and staff were affected by the fire. Watching the flames rapidly travel and grow in their backyard devastated the West Grand FFA students. The students felt a sense of helplessness, compassion and sorrow as they watched their peers’ houses and belongings being swept away in flames.

Once the fires were contained, the FFA students at West Grand High School felt a sense of urgency to help their community. The FFA officers gathered and decided to host a donation drive. To request donations, West Grand FFA officers distributed a call for donations to the district and across the state.

To replace lost belongings, donations of clothes, coats, food, water and hygiene products were requested. As soon as the call was distributed, donations flooded the agricultural shop.  Additionally, students and agricultural teacher, Jacob Walter, traveled around the community and state to collect donations from other FFA chapters. Additionally, close to $3,000 were donated for fire relief efforts.

Distributing Donations

After collecting the donations, West Grand FFA stored and organized all the donations in their agricultural shop. The West Grand FFA chapter partnered with the Grand County Outbreak of Kindness, a community service organization within their county, to ensure the donation collection, organization and distribution process ran efficiently and effectively.  In total, West Grand FFA helped to distribute 3 tons of donations to members of their community.

“I think it is important that the ag program and FFA help the community when possible because we are a part of the community around us,” said Tanner Smiley, a student at West Grand High School. “By playing a positive role in the community, we are giving back and encouraging that sense of community.”

By participating in community service and learning initiatives, students learn the value of giving. Walter noted he was incredibly proud of his students for taking the initiative and helping those around them. He says this project is a direct representation of the community. Kindness and generosity are what Kremmling was found on. Being an agricultural community, residents of Kremmling selflessly help others and support those around them, which is exactly what the West Grand FFA Officers did. 

"Helping others in a time of need teaches us to be kinder,” said Rigo Castillo, a student at West Grand High School.  “That kindness can always be repaid, and one good deed always generates another.”

The FFA motto states, “learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live and living to serve.” Under their instructor’s guidance, the West Grand FFA students are “living to serve” within their community. Walter ensures community service and service-learning play an extensive role in students’ education. Each year, West Grand FFA participates in multiple community service activities, including building community gardens.

West Grand FFA’s commitment to service-learning is a prime example of Career and Technical Education's purpose and values. In a time of need, students in the West Grand FFA positively impacted those around them. The impact of service-learning and giving will forever live in their memories.


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