The FFA students at Patagonia Union High School.

The FFA program at Patagonia Union High School had a big year under first-year agriculture education instructor and FFA advisor Tonya St. John, winning numerous accolades and prizes at regional and state competitions.

“Those kids want to be there,” St. John said when asked what impresses her about her PUHS students.

She noted that at other schools, agriculture programs can sometimes be a “dumping ground” for students who struggle in other classes.

“Whereas at Patagonia, those kids want to be there, and they want to learn, they have that passion and that drive to want to understand more about the industry,” she said.

In addition to their general interest in agriculture, the PUHS students also have keen interest in specific areas of the field, such as horses, livestock or flowers, St. John said.

“There’s a part where we can hone in on what they’re interested in, and it keeps them involved and it keeps them passionate and it keeps them motivated, because they’re doing something that they like versus something that they’re forced to learn.”

There were 23 students in the intra-curricular program this year, which involves taking agricultural classes as well as participating in FFA contests. That’s roughly a third of the entire student body at PUHS.


Patagonia’s state champion Dairy Evaluation team included, back row from left, Julian Vasquez and Sebastian Vasquez, and front row from left: Brianna Young, Carolina Quiroz and instructor Tonya St. John.

A four-member team of students – Brianna Young, Carolina Quiroz, Julian Vasquez and Sebastian Vasquez – came in first in Dairy Evaluation at the FFA Spring State Conference, qualifying for the national competition in the process.

St. John noted that achievement as an example of her students’ willingness to take advice and confront a new challenge.

“None of them really wanted to judge dairy cows, but I saw that they had that potential and they had the ability to make it far in that contest and that area of the ag industry,” she said, adding: “I’m proud of those kids who stepped out of their comfort zone and took that advice to make them more successful.”

PUHS FFA accomplishments

Arizona Agriculture Teachers Association (AATA) recognitions

  • Nominated for AATA Single Teacher Program of the Year
  • Tonya St. John nominated for AATA Outstanding Early Career Teacher

Arizona State FFA Association awards

  • Brianna Young: Sheep Production, gold rating
  • Karina Norton: Poultry Production, silver rating
  • Arriana Ochoa: Environmental Science and Natural Resources Management, silver rating
  • Sebastian Vasquez: Beef Production, silver rating
  • Reyna Ochoa Tovar: Vegetable Production, bronze rating
  • Lauren Fletcher: Equine Science Production, bronze rating

FFA Spring State Conference

Dairy Evaluation

  • First place, team (qualified for nationals)
  • First place, individual: Brianna Young (also had top state test score)
  • Third place, individual: Julian Vasquez
  • Fifth place, individual: Carolina Quiroz
  • Sixth place, individual: Sebastian Vasquez

Range Test

  • Top test score: Dylan Jacob
  • Top 10, individual: Karina Norton


  • Seventh place, team
  • Top 10, individual: Arriana Ochoa Tovar

Horse Evaluation

  • Fifth place, team
  • Top 10, individual: Lauren Fletcher

Job Interview

  • Fifth place: Hannah Young

Nursery Landscape

  • Fourth place, team
  • Top test score: Stephania Tejada
  • Top three, individual: Arriana Ochoa Tovar

South Central District Career Development Field Day

  • First place, Nursery: Arriana Ochoa-Tovar, Reyna Ochoa-Tovar, Stephania Tejada, Madison Vines
  • First place, Dairy: Julian Vasquez, Brianna Young, Carol Quiroz, Sebastian Vasquez, Sergio Carranza
  • First place, Floriculture: Arriana Ochoa-Tovar, Reyna Ochoa-Tovar, Hannah Woodard, Hannah Young
  • Second place, Job interview: Hannah Young
  • Second place, Livestock: Brianna Young, Julian Vasquez, Sebastian Vasquez, Carol Quiroz
  • Third place, Horse Evaluation: Lauren Fletcher, Ivan Carranza, Olivia Barton
  • Fourth place, Meats: Lauren Fletcher, Tavania Padilla
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