Imperial, Neb., FFA organization models program success
November 29, 2017
In October, the National FFA Organization held its 90th annual convention in Indianapolis. The organization has a few famous names on its roster, including Taylor Swift, Bo Jackson, Tim McGraw and Jimmy Carter, along with countless other members that have gone on to have successful agriculture careers.
FFA has become an integral component of training for the next generation in the ag industry, and in the small town of Imperial, Neb., the FFA chapter has almost one-third of the school population joining in the ag education program. Considering the school — grades nine through 12 — has only 160 kids, that's an impressive statement for this FFA program.
Total FFA membership has 653,359 student members in grades seven through 12, who belong to one of 8,568 local FFA chapters throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The nonprofit FFA encourages leadership and prepares members to advance in the fields of agriculture, business, science and more, and Imperial's FFA Coach, Jason Speck, is proud of the students that have come out of the program during his 21 years of teaching.
“In the small town of Imperial, Neb., the FFA chapter has almost one-third of the school population joining in the ag education program. Considering the school, grades nine through 12, has only 160 kids, that’s an impressive statement for this FFA program.”
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This year's team sent 46 students to Nebraska's state FFA convention, and three teams, with 14 kids, to nationals in Indianapolis.
"I've been really blessed with great kids," Speck said.
At the state competition in Lincoln, members in grades seven–12, competed, and placed, in proficiency applications, ag education, quiz bowls and more.
"The time they put into (their projects) really paid off," Speck said.
The Imperial FFA also found out at state convention that its chapter was named one of the 17 Premier Chapters in the state. At the national level, the top chapters with innovative activities in each of the three divisions, growing leaders, building communities and strengthening agriculture, are recognized. The top 10 chapters in each division receive a National FFA Premier Chapter Award plaque.
Speck coaches with Jeremy Vlasin, who has been teaching in Imperial for eight years.
"I never would have been able to coach all three teams alone," Speck added.
Imperial's state championship teams included:
Sr. Parliamentary Procedure, and team members Shaylee Heathers, Molly Luhrs, Kayla Schilke, Logan Mendenhall, Stevie Johnson, Ryelee Christensen and Emma Ferguson;
Marketing Plan, with team members Emma Ferguson, Jack Bauerle and Molly Luhrs;
Conduct of Chapter Meetings, with team members Valerie Herbert, Brooklyn Christensen, Ashley Bubak, Jozie Schilke, Austin Bernhardt, Courtney Odens and Alexis Richmond.
Imperial FFA had six students in the state's top three in their proficiency areas. Three of them were state champions, which sent them on to the national competition.
State proficiency champions were Molly Luhrs, Kayla Schilke and Lauren Prior.
Luhrs, the state Grain Production Placement champion, works at Luhrs Certified Seed.
Lauren Prior earned the top spot in Hospitality, Restaurant & Tourism Entrepreneurship. Her business is Priority Seating.
Kayla Schilke took top honors for Food Science and Technology Entrepreneurship. She bakes and sells cakes and cupcakes.
Ryelee Christensen and Eric Chavira's proficiencies were state runners-up, while Dawn Castle was third overall.
The three teams competing at nationals included Parliamentary Procedure, the Conduct of Chapter Meetings and Marketing Plan.
Parliamentary Procedure team members include Shaylee Heathers, Ryelee Christensen, Stevie Johnson, Logan Mendenhall, Katelyn Leibhart and Kayla Schilke.
The Conduct of Chapter Meetings team consists of Valerie Herbert, Brooklyn Christensen, Jozie Schilke, Austin Bernhardt, Ashley Bubak, Courtney Odens, Alexis Richmond and Morayah Cupp.
Molly Luhrs, Jack Bauerle and Emma Ferguson make up the Marketing Team.
FFA was organized nationally in 1928 in Kansas City, Mo. In 1950, Congress granted FFA a federal charter, making it an integral part of public agricultural instruction under the National Vocational Education Act. FFA receives no federal funding.
FFA classroom activities include math and science as well as hands-on work experience and the development of life skills, helping members discover their career path and realize success. FFA members across the states earn more than $4 billion annually through their hands-on work experience.
Members participate and learn advanced career skills in 47 national proficiency areas based on their hands-on work experiences ranging from agricultural communications and food science and technology to turf grass management and wildlife production and management.
The program's success has strong supporters. In 2016, corporate sponsors and individuals provided more than $21 million in financial support to FFA for agricultural programs, activities and scholarships.
The National FFA Foundation has raised more than $200 million for the National FFA Organization since 1944, and more than 3,000 sponsors and individual donors provided more than $21 million for FFA and agricultural programs and activities in 2016.
To date, more than $44 million in FFA collegiate scholarships have been awarded to students pursuing higher education. ❖
— Eatherton is a freelance writer from Beaulah, Wyo. When she's not writing, she's riding her horse or playing with her grandson. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.