Nearly 26,000 Missouri students and more than 500 advisors participate in the state’s 340 FFA chapters, and thanks to their hard work, they’re reaping the many rewards the organization has to offer.
For example, in 2015, 463 Missouri FFA students received the American FFA Degree – more recipients than any other state – and the Marshall FFA won the National Model of Excellence Award, designating them as the top chapter in the nation.
This was no small feat, especially considering they beat out the more than 7,700 chapters in the National FFA organization.
“In Missouri, we have embraced the three-circle model of FFA,” says Leon Busdieker, state advisor of the Missouri FFA Association. “We’re talking about rigorous classroom instruction, relevant workplace experience and leadership development. We try to make sure that each student benefits in one way or another, realizing that the true benefits are not from just putting on that blue jacket, but from the engagement in the many different opportunities the teachers provide their students.”
Preparing Students for Success
Marshall FFA engages its nearly 200 members by focusing on areas like animal science, plant science, agricultural mechanics, floriculture, leadership, communications, business/retail and farm management. According to Randy Plattner, who advises the chapter along with Paige Brock, Seleene Lewis and Callie Dobbins, one of the most recent class offerings is a research and design course, which helps students think scientifically and prepares them for careers in the agricultural science field.
“One of my favorite things about FFA is what you learn in the classroom is applicable to your life,” says Sydnee Mason, Marshall High School student and Marshall FFA chapter president. “What I’m learning in my classes I can take to work and bring home with me, and I can apply it to my SAE (supervised agriculture experience).”
SAE projects, a major part of the FFA experience, are specifically designed to give students the opportunity to put classroom lessons to the test. After choosing an area of interest, such as entrepreneurship or service learning, students complete projects that can help them select a career pathway to pursue, develop new skills and learn expected workplace behavior.
“We have great students in Marshall FFA,” Plattner says. “Our students work really hard to try to make a difference, and they have a lot of heart. They do high-quality work. They definitely think outside the box, and we encourage that.”
National Honor a Long Time Coming
Although Marshall FFA members were elated when they won the National Model of Excellence Award, they weren’t surprised. The chapter has been No. 1 in Missouri for four consecutive years, an honor Plattner says they have received based on their program of activities. Those activities are scored with student, chapter and community development
in mind, and state winners compete for the National Model of Excellence Award at the National FFA Convention.
Mason, who gave a speech at the national convention as part of the competition in both 2014 and 2015, says winning the National Model of Excellence Award was an “emotional experience.” In addition to feeling proud of her chapter, she is proud of her school and her town.
“We won this award because of our group as whole, the Marshall community and the people who support us,” Mason says.
Both Mason and Plattner say the students and advisors who came before them helped the chapter reach this milestone.
“It’s definitely a rush to know that a lot of hard work and dedication over many years
has come to fruition,” Plattner says. “Through the work of many different people and all of the students who have come through the Marshall FFA, we were able to grow and develop the program to achieve our goal.”