MIAMI COUNTY — While the iconic navy and gold corduroy jackets haven’t changed over the years, the National Future Farmers of America’s mission to educate and empower students has evolved and expanded since its start in 1928.
This week kicks off National FFA Week, which will be celebrated by more than 7,700 FFA chapters all over the nation. A record breaking 629,300 students are members of local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
The Miami East-Miami Valley CTC FFA chapter celebrated National FFA Week a week early to bring awareness of the chapter’s opportunities and experiences to its school and potential members.
The Miami East-Miami Valley CTC FFA chapter has had a banner year, including national recognition as a Three-Star National Chapter, which is the highest award bestowed to an FFA Chapter. The chapter also was named a Top 10 chapter for Model of Innovation in Student Development.
Marie Carity, agriculture teacher and FFA adviser, shared how chapter officers lead a variety of fun activities during the week, raising $200 for Dayton Children’s Medical Center. The FFA chapter also invited guest motivational speaker Dr. Don Bramlette to share his story of how one genuine friendship in high school positively influenced the rest of his life.
Carity said this year’s junior and senior FFA officers are a diverse and energetic group.
“All of them are somehow leaders and athletes within the school district,” she said. “They bring together a lot of natural talent and they truly show me that time and dedication can lead into involvement outside the classroom.”
From goat herd management to homegrown herbal scrubs, each FFA officer brings a unique talent to the award-winning chapter.
Chapter reporter junior Emma Linn shared that her favorite part of FFA is interacting with young students during Ag Day.
“Ag Day is when we get to interact with younger kids and furthering their education outside of the classroom,” Linn said. “FFA Week is my favorite part of the FFA year because we get to reach out to students who aren’t in FFA and show them what we are really about.”
Secretary junior Katie Bodenmiller shared how being a member of FFA allows her to dedicate hours of community service outside of Miami East’s campus.
“It’s allowed us to get out into the community a lot more and do bigger service projects like Heifer International — it has been really cool to see the community donate so much money,” Bodenmiller said.
Treasurer Katie Bendickson shared her favorite experiences, including starting her own business, “Katie’s Christmas Cheer,” through FFA. Bendickson made wreaths and sprays, and grew 100 mums and 600 gladiolas to sell at farmers’ markets and to community members.
“I learned responsibility and having to go out and to take care of the flowers every day,” she said. “From the Christmas wreaths, I learned time management because it’s one season, so I have one month to get wreaths and spray orders and I have to just time it out perfect … I just learned so many skills from being in FFA.”
Sentinel Hunter Sharp shared how FFA shaped his career goals and sharpened his communication skills.
“FFA helped me realize that I needed to work on my communication skills,” he said. “Throughout FFA, I worked a lot on speaking with people. I want to go into welding and pipe fitting, so FFA helped me learn how to get contacts with other people so I can travel, because I want to travel all over the country and do that kind of stuff.”
THREE NAMED NATIONAL FFA PROFICIENCY FINALISTS
President Emily Beal, Chaplain Nathan Teeters and Vice-President Kelsey Kirchner were recognized for being a National FFA Proficiency Finalists.
“That just doesn’t happen on one officer team,” said Carity.
Beal was named the National Proficiency Winner in the area of Goat Production. This is only the second time a Miami East student has been a national winner.
“FFA has definitely helped me find my voice. It made me realize things I’m very passionate about that I wouldn’t have discovered if I hadn’t taken agriculture education,” said Beal, adding that she will be pursuing a degree in agriculture communication following graduation.
Kirchner shared that although she participated in 4-H, she didn’t know the diverse experiences FFA had in store for her as a member. Kirchner was a Top 4 in the nation in the area of Agricultural Sales–Entrepreneurship.
“It gave me a more broad idea of agriculture,” she said. “Because of FFA, I found out that I want to be a teacher through teaching all the young students about the animals at Ag Day. Those experiences led me to know what I want to do for my career.”
Teeters was a Top 4 in the nation in the area of Emerging Agricultural Technology.
“Personally I got involved in FFA because I saw it as a way to learn outside of the classroom. I’m not really a farmer or plan to go into farming, but FFA provided me with a lot of opportunities that I really didn’t have in any other outlet,” Teeters said.
Teeters organized grain rescue training opportunities through the FFA.
“I’m going into engineering, so organizing projects is going to be a very big part of my future,” Teeters said.
Beal, Kirchner, and Teeters all earned an all-expense paid trip to Costa Rica in June of 2016. The students will visit farms and plantations with a trip coordinated by the National FFA Organization. This is the first time in Miami East Local School’s history that three students have been named National Proficiency Finalists in the same year.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Student adviser Alyssa Westgerdes was not present for an interview.
Reach Melanie Yingst at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @Troydailynews