ALPENA - Alpena High School FFA members attended the 86th National FFA Convention in Louisville, Ky., earlier this month to learn about agricultural careers and opportunities to shape the FFA organizations future. The nine AHS members joined more than 62,000 student members from throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands at the four-day convention and expo.
"The convention really gives members a chance to see how big the FFA is," adviser Melissa Smith said. "It gives them a chance to see the different careers and opportunities available in agriculture. Its a great experience for them."
The event held sessions for members to listen to speakers and explore careers and an expo showcasing hundreds of corporations, businesses, organizations and colleges in the areas of agricultures and natural resources.
"At each session there are around 12,000 to 13,000 people," Smith said. "It's more like a stadium event where famous keynote speakers give inspiring talks and stories and the national FFA gives away national awards to different chapters."
During the convention, students were able to attend a concert, and a World's Toughest Rodeo show. FFA members toured the Spangler Candy Company in Bryan, Ohio, where Dum-Dum suckers are made, and learned about horse racing and breeding at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
"At the horse park we were able to watch the horses of the world show, where they perform in what they were bred to do," FFA secretary Jalen Troy said. "The convention really taught me that you can't be afraid to talk to others."
At the close of the convention, AHS graduate members Rachel Schoville (2011) and Tasha Beaudoin (2012) received the prestigious American Degree during the Eighth General Session on Nov. 2. The American FFA Degree is the highest level of membership an FFA member can achieve. This final stem in the FFA degree system encourages members to grow to establishing themselves in an agricultural career.
Members submit an extensive application, have been an active FFA member for at least three years, and have to complete community service and leadership within their chapter, have earned and productively invested at least $7,500, or have earned and productively invested at least $1,500 and worked 2,250 hours in an agricultural field.
"Getting my American Degree was a great experience," Schoville said. "Through my path to receiving the FFA American Degree, I have achieved a level of leadership I would otherwise not have accomplished. I have also developed a determination to influence others to be all they can be."
The American Degree is a sign of great accomplishment among FFA members, and only a small percentage of members ever earn the degree. Schoville and Beaudoin join 11 other former Alpena FFA members who have previously received the degree.
Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.