Sheldon High School’s new and improved greenhouse.

Editor’s note: This story is a continued collaboration between the Citizen and California State University, Sacramento’s journalism program. They are being taught by Philip Reese, a Sacramento Bee reporter and an assistant professor of journalism.


Sheldon High School began the year with a new and improved greenhouse and animal facility for their agriculture program.

The Elk Grove Unified School District (EGUSD)’s Career and Technical Education program proposed funding for a larger greenhouse and expanded animal facility in May 2022.

EGUSD Deputy Superintendent Kristen Coates announced the notice of completion to the school board in January. After months of construction, Sheldon High School staff and students were able to utilize the facility on Jan. 23.

Renovations and improvements to the greenhouse were long overdue. The previous facility was not in the best shape since the school opened more than 25 years ago. Alexus Hong, Sheldon High agriculture teacher, said the space in the previous greenhouse was comparable to a walk-in closet.

“The old facility had gravel, dirt and a pond in the middle, which was beautiful 20 years ago,” Hong said. “The greenhouse went from 120 square feet to 1,800 square feet. When the kids first walked in, they were amazed.”

The greenhouse and animal facility are utilized by Sheldon High School’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) students. The agriculture program is run by Alexus Hong and Chelsey Schnider. Schnider said the renovations brought a positive impact to the FFA students.

“Before it was really cramped, now it’s huge. We have bigger animal pens for more animals, which brings more students,” she said. “Through agricultural education, students are provided opportunities for leadership development, personal growth and career success.”

The main focus for FFA students is agriculture education. FFA students get hands-on experiences and take part in community service. They learn budgeting, gain career ready skills, and can even earn college credits while enrolled.

“We want to give them the same experience as if it were somebody that ran a dairy or large cattle production,” Hong said. “The overall purpose is to give the students hands-on education.”

Animals in the renovated facility include chickens, rabbits, and turkeys. The staff is hopeful of adding egg-laying hens to the facility sometime in the next year.

FFA students were also recognized at the January EGUSD board meeting for winning first place awards at the Future Farmers of America state competitions in the 2022-2023 school year.

Hong and Schnider plan to host an open house for the facility sometime this month.

The agriculture staff were amazed by how quickly the project came along after getting it approved by the district May 3, 2022 to breaking ground in the following month.

“We were shocked,” Hong said. “We’re so grateful for everything we have now: new lights, cameras, drainage, concrete and running water.”