Delaware students win awards at National FFA Convention

DOVER — Agriculture is everywhere — and across the state of Delaware students participating in Future Farmers of America were acutely aware of the importance of agriculture after reaping accolades in the recent national convention.

“I mean, it’s never ending,” Delaney Tome said. “It’s literally every part of everybody’s day, even if they don’t realize it.”
Delaney, a senior at Smyrna High School, is one of several Delaware FFA members who traveled to Indianapolis for the National FFA Convention last month to compete in agriculture-based programs.

The convention, which rewards skills in competitions that drill into special expertise like agricultural issues, agriculture mechanics, chapter code of conduct, meats evaluation and numerous others, allows for the students to meet their peers across the country, while learning more about the industry they’re interested in through keynote speakers and expos for careers and higher education.

Smyrna High’s success included four bronze medals and a silver medal, as well as accolades for alumni involved in the program, including an American FFA Degree — the highest award an FFA member can receive for an alumnus.

Other alumni, Trey Thompson and George Class-Peters Jr., were also part of the convention. Mr. Thompson served as a National FFA delegate, and Mr. Class-Peters Jr. was the chairman of the National Officer Nominating Committee, a prestigious role in the FFA National Officer Selection process.

Mr. Class-Peters is the first in Delaware FFA history to serve in the role.
The chapter also received a Three-Star National Chapter Award for developing and maintaining “an outstanding Program of Activities.”
Nick Shane, a junior at Smyrna High, has attended the convention since middle school and values the community it fosters.

“It was kind of just breathtaking, going to one of the biggest cities in the country,” he recalled of his first convention. “And you see everybody in the same organization doing the exact same thing as you.”

“You, through the basic knowledge of what we learned in that curriculum, realize — this is a basic saying — we’re more than sows and plows,” added Brynn Rifino, a junior. “I’m an AP environmental science, animal science and plant science and you see how broad all these industries are, and a lot of the jobs that you see out there all kind of come back and tie into agriculture. The teachers and the environment in this community allow us to develop that love to the industry and pursue careers in it.”

Some of the students come from an agricultural background while others were introduced to it from their courseload and have come to love it.

“This is like my forte, like where my interests are. So it has definitely brought me a lot of success and what I want to do, and it’s taught me a lot of life skills about leadership and responsibility,” noted Kaitlyn Collins, a sophomore, who grew up with parents who had backgrounds in bull riding and barrel racing.

“I remember people having not seen a cow before, go back there [to the barn] and just be totally changed by the experience,” Nick said.
“I was that person,” noted Aiden Pepeta, a senior. He added that through his introduction to the field through one of his other classes, he came to appreciate it. “It really gives you respect for everything. I really had no idea how far ag really spread into everything.”

Smyrna High students celebrate.

At Lake Forest High School, that same appreciation of agriculture and FFA was the root of what they do.
“That was my first experience at nationals,” said Noah Dixon, a sophomore. “Getting to go and see all that there is and getting to compete on a national level just gives me the drive to continue and keep going.”
Hannah Davis, a junior, agreed.

“I would like to go again and compete and hopefully do better,” she said. “We did great, but I think I could do better.”
The group took home several honors, including two silver medals for poultry evaluation and marketing, where they were sixth in the nation. A silver medal was also earned for Creed Speaking, where the student recites the National FFA Creed and answers several questions. Individual medals were also awarded to students. Three alumni also received the American Degree, and the chapter received a Three-Star National Chapter Award.

“We’re small, but we’re mighty,” said Maci Carter, a senior.
She added that through FFA the group has had a variety of experiences opened to them.
“One of the biggest opportunities that FFA gives us is experience to travel and meet new people,” she said. “During nationals, we’ve gotten to go places we probably never would through this organization.”

FFA draws hundreds of thousands to Indianapolis each year for the national convention and though Delaware may not be the most obvious agricultural state, the students agreed that any background lends itself to the organization.

“I think that the agricultural-based organization that this is, people think that because they don’t have that background that they can’t join, but we definitely try to make it clear to them that it’s not, just how certain people like to phrase it, ‘cows and plows,’” said Brielle Carter, a sophomore. “It’s definitely so much more diverse than people think.”
Across the two schools, the students also agreed that the FFA community is a family.

“You bond with people over the smallest things, simply because you’re wearing a blue corduroy jacket,” Brynn said.
FFA programs in Caesar Rodney, Appoquinimink, Woodbridge, Seaford, Indian River, Laurel school districts also took home awards at the annual convention.

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