Magdalena High School coach and FFA teacher Marleen Greenwood’s love for her son Mason knew no bounds, and fellow FFA instructor Leslie Clark has made sure her best friend had one last gift to give.
Mason is an elite class due to both women’s efforts and is one of a half percent of FFA students who earn an FFA American Degree, and he’s proof positive that it takes a village to raise a child.
Few locally don’t know the story of Mason losing his mother, Marleen Greenwood, and his cousin Reighlyn Rosales who were tragically killed in a multiple-vehicle accident involving a semi-truck in early December last year.
Greenwood was also Magdalena’s head girls basketball coach and was on the way to a basketball tournament when the accident happened.
The Greenwood family has deep roots in Socorro. Mason’s griefs were felt county-wide and were compounded by the loss of his father several years earlier and the death of his cousin, Tomas Rosales.
Finishing his American degree requirements fell by the wayside, which was a shame because Mason had fulfilled them all, and it just needed to be correctly documented. The National FFA Organization awards FFA American Degrees to members who demonstrate the highest level of commitment to FFA. Requirements include working at least 2,250 hours in an ag-related business.
Marleen and Leslie have been friends for more than 25 years, and she “thinks of Mason as my own.”
“Marleen and I talked every day,” Clark said. “And she shared with me that she wanted to put together all the documentation for Mason’s American Degree.”
Getting to the FFA National Show had been one of Mason’s dreams in high school, but he had fallen short with a third-place finish, and then COVID wiped out a chance to appear on the national stage.
“I had lost hope about getting an American Degree after my mom passed away,” Greenwood said.
While it took her a while to grieve, Clark didn’t lose sight of her friend’s goal of seeing Mason get his degree. Clark teaches in Carlsbad, but that didn’t stop her from starting the documentation of Mason’s hound dog business.
“My granddad Marty Greenwood has been raising hound dogs my whole life. When he would have a litter of pups, he would always give us grandkids a pick out of the litter,” Greenwood said.
Greenwood can raise and train hunting dogs from scratch, and it’s helped lead him toward majoring in wildlife conservation ecology with a minor in range science.
With so many tragedies, Clark felt that making sure Mason got his American Degree had to be a priority.
“I didn’t tell him I wanted to get it done. I did have some little helpers along the way. Excellent angels were placed in my path along the way because I had to have his last year of money, and so much documentation was needed,” Clark said.
Clark did all her work undercover because she didn’t want to bother the Greenwood family.
“I didn’t want to burden anybody in the family. I wanted this to be my work,” Clark said. “I wanted to give that to him. Because it was something, I knew that he wanted. I just waited till his birthday.”
Greenwood grew emotional as he recalled finding out about Clark’s gift and even more so in remembering the moment he crossed the stage wearing a jacket presented to him by the Magdalena FFA that reads “Mason Greenwood In Memory of Marleen Greenwood.”
“I was asked to come and give a speech to the Magdalena FFA, and afterward, they presented me with the jacket,” Greenwood said. “When I found out I was getting my American Degree, I knew that I was going to be wearing that jacket.”
As Greenwood crossed the stage in late October this year, he carried his mother with him in his heart.
“When I was on stage, I was just hoping that if mom looked down at me, she could see all the work we put into it and that it was worth it. And I hope that I can make her proud,” Greenwood said. “She and Leslie helped me accomplish that dream.”