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FFA students to attend national convention in Indianapolis

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017 10:00 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017 12:10 p.m. CDT
(David Dolmage/Daily News)
NHS agricultural education teacher James Horn stands with some of the students who’ll be attending the national FFA convention in Indianapolis with him. From left to right are James Horn, senior Josi Swihart, senior Logan Chandler, senior Jaden Adams and senior Logan Theis.

Logan Chandler has been waiting for this trip for four years. This month the Newton High School senior will join teacher James Horn and five of her classmates on a trip to Indianapolis, Ind., for the national FFA convention.

An annual event, the FFA convention, held from Oct. 25 to 28, is the largest youth leadership gathering in the country, according to Horn. More than 60,000 high school students from across the country will participate in the event, which will feature guest speakers, concerts and a rodeo. Students will also attend a Rascal Flatts concert and tour the John Deere plant during their trip.

“For the students, it’s a chance to go somewhere they’ve never been and see some things they’ve never seen, so they’re really excited,” Horn said.

Chandler couldn’t agree more. An active FFA member, she also works as a dog groomer, a job that she secured through Horn and the FFA program. Students in the program are required to work on projects outside of class time, which often take the form of part-time jobs in the agricultural industry. Working as a dog groomer has opened up new possibilities for Chandler, who plans to study veterinary medicine in college, focusing on working with larger animals.

“I’ve always been a huge animal lover, and he’s pushed me to go forward,” Chandler said. “He teaches stuff that you’re going to need in real life.”

Newton students will also get a chance to see one of their own up on the big stage. Jacob Smith, a sophomore at Northwest Missouri State is a Newton graduate who’ll be receiving the American FFA Degree. The award is the highest honor that an FFA member can receive.

“We know him really well, and we’re really proud of him,” Chandler said.

Preparing students for a life beyond high school is part of what the FFA program is all about, Horn said. During the convention, students will have a chance to meet with representatives from agricultural colleges from across the country, as well as representatives from agricultural employers looking to recruit students. Opening up their eyes to the opportunities that are available is Horn’s goal. Many of his students, like Logan Theis, will go to pursue a nontraditional career. Theis, a senior at NHS, and one of the students who’ll be making the FFA trip, plans to begin an apprenticeship as a plumber after graduating from high school. Horn helped Theis find a job doing maintenance at Park Centre, and the experience has encouraged him to seek a career in the trade industry.

“He teaches a lot more than just ag, I’ve learned more life skills from him than anyone else,” Theis said. “After taking the welding class here it made me want to go to the interview day at the Local 33.”

Students will have plenty of bonding time during the six-hour drive to Indianapolis, but that’s part of the fun both said. They’ve also set a goal to meet at least one person from every state during the convention, which Horn said is a fun way for students to get exposed to different types of agriculture outside of the Midwest.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Horn said.

The cost for students to attend the convention is $325, with an additional portion that’s covered by the school. Horn said students have been fundraising annually to attend the event. Chandler is planning on covering her entry fee with money she’s made from her dog grooming job. As a senior, she can’t think of a better way to cap off her FFA experience.

“This has been a big part of my life,” Chandler said.

Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or ddolmage@newtondailynews.com

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