Grace Roth

Age: 16

School: Holcomb High School

Parents: Dwane and Kim Roth

Water Education: Spreading the word about Kansas water resources and its conservation is part of the state’s water vision.

With that in mind, a Holcomb High School sophomore, Grace Roth, is working to make a difference in her own area of Kansas - one where the water table has been depleting for about eight decades.

How it began: Grace joined FFA her first day of school of her freshman year in 2016. Over the next few weeks, she began considering what her Supervised Agricultural Experience should be. An SAE is an integral program in FFA that incorporates career-oriented and experience-based learning. FFA students are required to have an SAE during their four years in high school.

Hearing the stories that her father, Dwane, would tell of the dwindling Ogallala Aquifer and the declining wells on their own farm, she decided to make it her goal to educate students and others about water issues in the state.

“My dad is all about the next generation, and he wants to help the future. I’m part of that future,” said Grace.

Learning more: Grace and Dwane traveled to Manhattan last year in December so Grace could learn more about Kansas’ water issues and about water conservation. She met with Susan Metzger and Russell Plaschka with the Kansas Department of Agriculture, who loved her idea of taking water education to a bigger level.

Boot camp idea: After her visit to KDA, Grace did a presentation in Newton for the Kansas Association of Agricultural Educators. With the help of Kansas State University, the water boot camp idea was born.

The water boot camp, which brought together about a dozen other FFA students from across Kansas, occurred July 12 through 14 in Manhattan. Issues didn’t just pertain to the Ogallala, but they were also about sedimentation in John Redmond Reservoir, blue green algae issues, along with learning how they could help make a difference.

“Someday we will be taking over the farm or become the teachers, the scientists and knowing all of this is so important,” Grace said.

Expanding their reach: The idea of the boot camp was to teach the students and give them tools to take back to their communities to continue the education.

That includes southwest Kansas.

“We want to get more western Kansas kids involved - that is important to us,” she said. “If we are going to save water, we need to know how to do it and how to start.”

Grace said her goal these next few years is to present the information to other groups, whether it is a Farm Bureau youth education day or an FFA mini workshop they might put on for elementary school students.

Grace said there is already talk of having another boot camp in Manhattan next summer.