Students, faculty contribute to FFA experience

Denise Watt

Denise Watt

SDSU has hosted the state FFA convention for 77 years.

While the presence of hundreds of high-school students clad in blue corduroy might be obvious, the role that SDSU students and faculty play in the annual convention may seem less apparent.

This year, more than 1,900 high- school students came to SDSU to participate in last week’s FFA convention, said Jason Frerichs, sophomore agricultural education major from Wilmot.

Held Sunday through Tuesday, the convention featured speakers, daily sessions and leadership workshops. Students participated in career development events, competitions that give students the chance to learn and practice career skills.

According to its mission statement, FFA is an organization that fosters the development of leadership and career skills, as well as personal growth, through agricultural education.

This year’s convention featured 14 career development events (CDEs) ranging from floriculture to dairy foods and range plant identification. The events provide one way for SDSU students and faculty to become involved.

Sally Loeschke, a sophomore biology and animal science major from Milbank, took part in FFA as a high school student. When she was a senior, she won first place in the floriculture career development event, which requires students to take knowledge and problem tests, arrange and identify flowers. Now, as a member of collegiate FFA, she served as student chairperson for this year’s event.

“It’s a lot of fun, even though it’s a lot of work,” she said. “It makes you miss the good old days of when you were actually competing.”

Loeschke said recruiting student helpers remains one of the hardest jobs for student chairpersons.

“It takes a lot of hard work behind the scenes to get the contest to run smooth,” she said.

Horticulture professor Dave Graper estimated that this year’s convention marked his seventh or eighth year as faculty chairperson for the floriculture event. He said his convention participation stemmed from his own high school FFA involvement.

A former member, Graper said he enjoys seeing students who compete in the contests come back to SDSU as students.

“I think that the best part of the event is having students come here and having that interest in floriculture,” he said.

As chairperson, Graper said the most challenging part of his job is making up questions for the knowledge and problem tests that make up part of the event.

While the convention takes place in the spring, preparation for the event takes almost a full year, said Frerichs, who served as one of six state FFA officers during the past year.

The state officers’ responsibilities include preparing for the annual event, which Frerichs said serves as a way for FFA members to celebrate the past year.

“Serving as a State FFA Officer was one year of my life that I know I grew immensely each of the 365 days,” said Frerichs. “[I] became better at speaking, presenting workshops, professionalism, and [I] made amazing contacts with some of the 3,500 FFA members in South Dakota, state officers in other states, national FFA officers, as well as the many sponsors and supporters of agriculture education.”

Frerichs said he will treasure the memories made at this year’s convention, with more than 2,000 people in attendance.

“Thank you to the many students and staff here at SDSU for your assistance in making the 77th State FFA Convention memorable for every FFA member in attendance, and thanks to everyone on campus for your support of the blue tidal wave of FFA members.”

#1.885063:201983817.jpg:Image: Students, faculty contribute to FFA experience:High school students from across the state came to Brookings last week to celebrate the 77th annual State FFA Convention. SDSU hosts this event every year. :