Mandy Delaune and her students at St. Amant High School bought Pepsi by the case from January to May.
They were also out en masse at just about every public event in Ascension Parish, passing out fliers with details of the Pepsi Refresh grant they’d been trying to win — grant ideas are posted on the Pepsi Refresh website, and popular vote at the end of the voting period decides which organizations get the money.
And finally, after the third attempt, they won $25,000 to further their goal of building an agriscience educational facility that will include stalls for animals and nontraditional classrooms.
Outside, the students have already begun preparing raised vegetable beds for what will eventually become a farmer’s market.
The first two tries, they registered their idea for a $50,000 grant, Delaune said. While they came close both times, she said, for their third try, they decided to try for a $25,000 grant.
“We thought it’d be less competitive,” she said. “Little did we know, it turned out there was a lot more activity on the $25,000 grant.”
When they found out they’d won, they were at the state FFA Convention.
“We asked everybody at the opening assembly to get out their cellphones and vote, right there,” Delaune said.
In addition to voting daily by cellphone or via the Pepsi Refresh website, Pepsi drinkers could also collect yellow Pepsi caps. Each cap had a point value that could be entered on the FFA’s behalf.
“We hauled several cases of Pepsi with us to the convention, and we entered all of them,” Delaune said.
“It’s kind of hard to find Pepsi around here, and it had to be the Pepsi with the yellow caps,” Delaune said.
Though Delaune knew it would take some work to get the barn and other educational features built with less money, they’d had plenty of parental and community volunteer support, she said.
Then, a plant manager for a local chemical company called.
Praxair was looking around for projects that promoted environmental education, Delaune said.
After an internet search, the company came across the St. Amant High School Chapter’s project on the Pepsi Refresh website, along with the information that they’d only won half of what they’ll need to finish the project.
“We were just going to try to do everything we could to raise the money,” Delaune said.
Praxair offered them an additional $20,000.
“We were thrilled,” Delaune said. In addition to that, St. Amant FFA was selected as a national finalist in the FFA’s Model of Innovation awards, earning top honors in the community development division.
Delaune said that award was based on the chapter’s annual Boo at the Barn fair, a Halloween-related event the FFA organizes every year for area children.
“So we’re just getting started,” Delaune said.
Once the facility is up and running, the possibilities for community involvement will be endless.