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Upshur FFA members and advisors in Indianapolis / All photos courtesy of Upshur FFA

Five Upshur FFA members receive American Degree honors, Gold Standard

BUCKHANNON – Five Buckhannon-Upshur High School students received their American FFA Degree in front of thousands of people in Indianapolis earlier this month.

Future Farmers of America, commonly known as FFA, is a leadership organization with the mission of making “a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education” as seen on the FFA website.

The American FFA Degree is the highest degree achievable in the National FFA Organization. Buckhannon-Upshur High School had five FFA members receive this honor at the 96th National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana. This ceremony took place on November 4 in front of more than 96,000 people.

Karissa Harper, Kaitlyn Evans, Charitty Boyles, Mackenzie Grose and Devin Black won their American FFA degrees.

“We have the honor of having five American Degree recipients this year who have worked to grow their [Supervised Agricultural Experiences], volunteer in their community and excel on the state and national levels. Congratulations Karissa Harper, Kaitlyn Evans, Charitty Boyles, Mackenzie Grose and Devin Black,” as seen on the Upshur FFA Facebook announcement.

Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE), is an experience related to the agriculture industry that a student is required to complete outside of the classroom. Examples of an SAE would be raising livestock, job placement in lawn care services, performing an agriculture internship, entrepreneurship, job shadowing, egg or honey sales, among similar roles.

Each student was expected to meet a list of requirements in order to receive this gold standard. Interested in learning more about the American FFA Degree? See all American FFA Degree requirements on the FFA website.

Along with the American FFA Degree recipients, Upshur FFA competed in additional competitions as well. Both the Marketing Team and the Communication Teams previously placed first in the state competition which allowed them to represent the great state of West Virginia at the National Convention. Upshur FFA also competed in the Nationals Quiz Bowl.

The Agriculture Marketing team won bronze at the 96th National FFA Convention with competitors Emily Russell, Emma Quick and Remington Bonnett.

Buckhannon-Upshur High School agriculture teacher and FFA advisor Cole Payne told My Buckhannon Friday this honor does not come easily to members.

“Less than one percent of all FFA members will get their American Degree and we sent five [students],” Payne said.

Both students and advisors have a full week of competitions, workshops, ceremonies, memory-building and fun. Payne said FFA basically takes over downtown Indianapolis for the National Convention every year.

“It’s an amazing experience to be able to do that with your friends and have your advisors there. It’s kind of like you’re retiring your jacket and having all of the accomplishments come together,” said Kaitlyn Evans, FFA member.

The Agriculture Communications Team ranked silver at the 96th National FFA Convention. Current FFA President Kari Gay earned gold. Kaylin Walton & McKinley Bonnett earned silver. Jaiden Fordyce earned bronze.

Fellow B-UHS agriculture teacher and FFA advisor Jessica Snyder told My Buckhannon that seeing FFA members come together from across the United States is a chance for community-building.

“They’re community oriented. When you’re out there in front of 77,000 people they have the same goals, the same core values,” Snyder said. “The business owners – as we were traveling around – were so excited. They said they love when this group of people come through because these kids are so well mannered and happy to be there and always clean up after themselves.”

When a member receives their American FFA Degree, it is oftentimes the last chapter of their FFA careers.

 “It’s the last step for FFA members. It’s the last hoo-rah for them,” Payne said. “For some of them, it’s five or six years of work going into [getting their degree] that all cumulates into one moment where they walk across the stage in the bright lights and hear their name called.”

With years of hard work and dedication for this organization, current organization members encourage prospective members to stick with it and make new friends and memories. Current FFA member Emily Russell told My Buckhannon that this organization is generational because oftentimes family members before them were fellow members.

The Quiz Bowl team competed for the first time at the 96th National FFA Convention with team members Bryce Cogar, Noah Gillum, Emily Burr and Rachel Howard.

“If there’s anything that I can ever explain to anyone is that FFA is a leadership organization first and foremost,” Payne said. “And production ag might be the biggest portion of what we do and it might be where we started but it’s not all cows and plows.”

The Upshur FFA organization would like to thank the assistance of local sponsors for making their trip to Indianapolis possible.

“Our kids and the organization itself are extremely thankful for all of the local support and sponsors. It’s absolutely amazing how much they contributed in-kind efforts and materials,” Snyder said. “I’m absolutely blown away how much they’ve contributed to the kids to help pay for their trip to Nationals. That way, kids weren’t paying out of pockets to go.”

Follow Upshur FFA Alumni & Supporters on Facebook for frequent updates on student projects, fundraisers and more.

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