HOPKINS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — An FFA advisor and agriscience teacher at Hopkins High School has a new honor to her name: an Honorary American Degree.

Leaders with the National FFA Organization presented Jessica Couch with the degree Friday during their national convention in Indianapolis.

“FFA is a leadership organization that is based on the principles of agriculture, but it’s more than that,” Couch explained. “It’s about teaching students leadership skills and career skills they’re going to use in their life, no matter what they do.”

She said she would love it if her students went into the agricultural industry, but the skills will translate to any field.

At Hopkins High School, FFA is not just a club — it’s part of the agriscience program. And Couch pointed out that while Hopkins is a smaller, more rural community, FFA is in some of the biggest cities in the country.

“It’s more about learning those career skills and building those leadership skills that are going to benefit them in the future and, at the same time, learning about where food comes from and hopefully teaching others about where their food comes from,” she said.

Students in Couch’s class are in the middle of a chicken-raising project, in which they document how much feed each chicken eats in a day and how the chickens are growing.

Emma Langlois, one of the students working on the project and the secretary for the school’s Chapter Officer team this year, explained how they’re raising the boiler chickens for four weeks.

“We’re going to bring them to a contest where we’ll get judged on how we raise the birds and our paperwork at the end of it,” she said. “And then we’ll get scored.”

While Emma doesn’t plan to go into agriculture — she is looking at a career in the medical field — she said the experience will still benefit her in many ways.

“Learning how to work with people and learning how to get things done … knowing where your food comes from is super important too,” she said.

And as far as her teacher is concerned, Emma said, “Mrs. Couch is always super busy and involved in everything. Her helping us learn about agriculture is so important in our society today, helping kids get hands-on knowledge.”

Couch, who also serves as the president of the Michigan Agriscience Teachers Association, found out last month that she would be receiving the award. She said she is humbled by it, calling it a big honor to be nominated by the state and then selected by the national organization.

“I think it’s a huge honor to have our local program, Hopkins, being such a small school, recognized at a big level,” Couch said. “Our students are pretty competitive at the state and the national level. We are continuously ranked amongst the top chapters in the state of Michigan when it comes to our program activities through the National Chapter Award program, so it shows we are very involved in our community and doing the right things to develop our students.”