Checking in with the Wamogo Regional High School FFA Tractor Restoration Team
On the last night of class before graduation, Piston Foundation looked in on the Wamogo Regional High School FFA Tractor Restoration Team. Vincent Lillis, sophomore, point out that the program is about much more than turning wrenches on a tractor. “Tractors are simple. Here, you learn a lot quickly because they’ll explain things in a way that you understand and then they make you do it. If you mess up, you mess up. You do it again.”
What would graduating seniors have to say about the restoration program?
Zoey Brunelle joined the team when she was a freshman, reluctantly and only as a favor to a friend who didn’t want to be the only girl in the class. She didn’t stick with the course but Zoey did. “I actually ended up loving it. They put me to work right away and I’ve had something to do every minute I’ve been here. I made a lot of friends. Now that the tractor is finished, I feel that it’s been amazing to be part of it. COVID really impacted our work and I’m thankful we were able to do this program again. It would have been sad to know I’ve been doing this for three years but not senior year.”
She plans on studying forensics at the University of New Haven.
For Valeri LeDuc, the program made sense as she plans to attend the University of Northwestern Ohio, where she will study to become a medium/heavy duty diesel technician. “Zoey and I have been the only two girls to not quit. It was hard sometimes; I was really ill one day but I pushed through school to stay for Friday night because we knew it was our last year. We only really missed one session each.”
Under a cool June sunset, they applied the decals that told the world the restored Farmall tractor celebrates the 10th anniversary of the program. They measured and rechecked their work before committing to that placement and working out air bubbles.
Considering the long hours you’ve spent restoring the tractor, do you feel you know one part of it in a way that no one else ever will?
Zoey — “The radiator. We had to take that apart and put it back on so many times, I think I’m best friends with it. I know its secrets. It was one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever had to do. It’s heave and we had to pull on two belts that wouldn’t really stretch to get them around the fan blade. I’m glad it’s on and we don’t have to work on it anymore.”
Valerie — “A scratch on the manifold. It’s been part of the restoration the whole time but now that we’re touching up the red paint, it will get covered over. But, I’ll know it’s there under the paint and the story behind how it got there.
“The biggest challenge had to be removing the driveshaft. Zoey, another girl, and I were moving around, trying to get it free and ended up covered in oil as we touched the driveshaft and then each other as we moved around. But, we got it!”
And what have you learned in the Wamogo Regional High School FFA Tractor Restoration program?
Valerie — This program has given me a view of how a shop runs. I haven’t been around that and it’s shown me how we can work as a team.
Zoey — “I learned fractions. I never understood them until I worked with wrenches and, all of a sudden, they made sense.
“It’s nice being part of a crew and I’m going to miss that. This is where we’ve been ourselves and I probably will come back after graduation to help. This is my own little family. You have a group of people who would support you in anything, from different communities all over. These people are definitely those kind of people.
“I’m a shy person and they’ve put me outside my box.”
Who manages the tractor restoration program?
Agricultural Mechanics Teacher Lucy Hand oversees the program, which is now celebrating its 10th anniversary. Back then, Charlie Rowland, the director of the school’s agricultural science and technology program, was reluctant to start the program because of the significant commitment required. “But, Rick [Theriault] was very persuasive. Now we have some 30 kids here on Friday nights, working together when they could be doing other things and learning from professionals who are giving their time.”
He added, “They learn a lot in class but, here, they put that knowledge to use and understand why we’ve taught them what we did and what we are hoping to prepare them for. And, they have fun doing it.”