Nebraska woman volunteers with local FFA chapter on trips to national convention
Each October, Miqui Sheffield takes a week out of her life for the youth of Nebraska.
Eleven times since 2006, the Farnam, Neb., woman has volunteered with the Eustis-Farnam High School FFA program, transporting youth to the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis.
It all started in 2006, when she and her husband Mark volunteered to drive, as their youngest son, Randy, was on one of the FFA teams that had qualified for nationals.
And after their sons had graduated, she continued to travel with the team as chaperone and driver.
It’s a 13-hour trip from Eustis to Indianapolis, and by the time the school vans hit the Lexington, Neb., exchange, the kids are studying. Chad Schimmels, the FFA advisor for the school, has each team ride together, so they can study as they travel.
Cell phones come to the front of the van, Sheffield said, and students alternate their study for an hour on, a half-hour off, and so on.
Not only is Sheffield a driver, but she’s a surrogate coach at times. Some years, Eustis-Farnam has more than one team qualify for Nationals (in 2021, two of the chapter’s teams qualified: the Food Science and Technology team and the Agronomy team). With only one advisor, Schimmels works with one team while Sheffield steps in to help the other team, listening to their presentations and asking questions similar to what the judge might ask.
Sheffield is quick to point out that other sponsors also help. Schimmel’s wife, Angie, is an assistant coach and travels with the chapter. Other sponsors and chaperones do as well, depending on the number of students who qualify for the national convention. The volunteers step in, attending coach’s meetings and escorting students while Schimmels is busy with another group.
When Sheffield’s not helping students, she’s scouting for road construction, to make sure the route to and from competition is clear. She also shuttles students between the two convention activity locations.
The youth usually leave on the Sunday before competition starts and stay in the Quad Cities area the first night. Schimmels has activities planned for them: visiting a meat processing plant, walking through the University of Illinois fields, to identify plants, and other things that relate to their studies. They arrive on Monday, and spend all day Tuesday, one hour on, a half-hour off, all day, studying. The kids are down there to compete, Sheffield said. “There are fun things for them to do after they compete.”
Her younger sons, Bryan and Randy, (she and Mark have an older boy, Kyle) benefitted from their involvement in FFA. Both boys attended junior college on meats judging scholarships, with tuition and books paid for. “To me, I can pay back the FFA program with my time.”
She’s also seen what involvement in FFA does for kids.
“It’s such a tremendous experience. FFA changes their world in ways they would never have experienced without it. These kids deserve to be there.”
The youth consider her a friend. She’s been invited to graduations and weddings and loves getting to know them.
But it all comes back to what FFA can mean to a student.
“I know how important it is for the kids to get that experience, and I want to be a part of it.”
At the 2021 National FFA convention, Eustis-Farnam had two teams finish in the top 10 nationally. The Food Science and Technology team (Karissa Hodge, Natalie Malcom, Creighton Hecox, Skyler Oberg) finished in fourth place, and the Agronomy team (Grace Schimmels, Maggie Walker, Dallas Weitzel, Madison Woehrle) finished in sixth place.
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