SDSU students receive high honors at FFA convention

Jamison Lamp

Jamison Lamp

Taylor Swift, American degrees and a run for national office created three memorable days in Indianapolis for several FFA members. These SDSU students attended the 2008 National FFA Convention Oct. 22 to 25.

Among the highlights of the event were 30 South Dakota students receiving the American FFA Degree. This is the highest honor one can receive for continued commitment to FFA. Statistically, only six-tenths of FFA participants receive this award.

“It is exciting to receive it after being an FFA member since seventh grade,” said Sara Berg, a recipient and sophomore agricultural education and agricultural engineering major from Baltic. “There is nothing really to work for after this. “

The detailed list of requirements for the American Degree is extensive. To receive the award, students must be in their second year out of high school and have supervised agriculture experience (SAE), said Berg and Brett Monson, sophomore American Degree recipient and biology major from Webster.

“The SAE is a record book of ag experience out of school; it could be a lot of things,” Berg said.

Berg’s personal SAE consisted of beef production, equine work and an agricultural education internship, she said.

“SAEs range vastly,” Monson said. “Some work in grocery stores, mow lawns or even own farms.”

The national convention provided three days of motivational speakers and a career fair. Highlighting the event was a performance by country singer Taylor Swift.

“The motivational speakers are actually quite interesting,” Monson said.

Also attending the national convention was Junior Noelle Rist, the S.D. national officer delegate.

Rist earned her delegate position after winning a run-off election in the state. She said she started preparing for the intense national interviews in May.

“I spent six or more hours a day preparing for my interviews,” Rist an agricultural education major from Hartford said.

Throughout the summer and into the school year, Rist said she read many Web sites, agricultural publications and the Farm Bill.

Although Rist was not successful in her run against 51 other delegates, she did learn valuable lessons through the experience.

“I know more about myself, Rist said. “It opens your eyes to how wide the field of agriculture is; there are over 300 jobs.

“There (will be) lots of innovation in the next 10 years,” she added. “I hope to be involved in agriculture to share the passion.”

While many FFA students are involved at the national level, there is an option to be involved on the local level as well.

“Collegiate FFA is a chance to channel the energy and passion; now, instead of participating in events, we run them,” Matt Tollefson, Collegiate FFA president and agricultural education major from Clark, said.

With nearly 50 members, the group tries to meet once a month and involvement is open to everyone.

Recently, the Jackrabbit Invitational was held in The Union. The event focuses on preparation for the career development events required for FFA, Monson said.

The most visible event run by Collegiate FFA might be the state convention held in the spring. It is three days long and involves about 2,000 high school students.

Collegiate FFA is also starting a new program. The group will bring in speakers to focus on motivation and career advice, Tollefson said.

Monson said FFA has something to offer to a wide variety of students.

“The goal of FFA is to promote premier leadership and personal growth through agriculture.”