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Cassopolis FFA Parly Team Brings Home the Gold

by Bev Berens

Published: Friday, March 15, 2019

It was a banner year for the Cassopolis FFA chapter, returning home from the Michigan FFA Convention with three state titles in leadership contests and the newly elected state FFA secretary.

Third-year instructor, Abby Asmus, said that the weeks leading up to convention were very busy with teams practicing two to three hours per day, six days a week, in front of a variety of audiences.

"It was a once in a lifetime convention," she said. "I am still speechless. I am so proud to be able to work with these talented members. They certainly deserve all the credit."

Eighteen-year old Nicholas Prestly will serve as the state FFA secretary for 2019-20, fulfilling a dream that began in the seventh- grade. He credits former ag teacher, Carrie George, alumni and supporter, Mrs. Rogers, his current instructor, and a handful of current and past state FFA officers who encouraged and pushed him to make his dream come true.

"I wanted so badly to become Mrs. Asmus' first state officer," Prestly said. "I am still in shock, but one thing I want to do this year is just make an impact on people. One conversation can change a life, just like it did for me when I was in seventh-grade. I want to do the same for other FFA members."

After five years of working together, the Parliamentary Procedure team took home the first-place banner. Chairman Tristan Adele said that the team has stuck together since seventh grade when they competed in the Junior High Conduct of Meetings contest. Five trips to state convention landed them among the top three teams each year but always just shy of the state title. This year, the team had a motto to help them compete with confident flawlessness: "Walk out, slam the door, and take the key with you."

"We have had many interesting conversations and we all know each other pretty well after five years of competing together," Adele said of the team comprised of mostly high school juniors. "We watched the national parli-pro contest last year and were so inspired to get back home and start practicing and maybe be in their shoes. We are just a bunch of kids from a small-town school that never really imagined we could be the state champions back in seventh grade when this all began. I think we are still in a little bit of shock."

Along with chairman Adele, team members include Gage Collins, Samantha Bogue, Jonathan Leach, Sarah Schneider, Ethan Sheets, Nicholas Prestly and Katelyn Waldschmidt.

The chapter's Greenhand Conduct of Meetings team also took home a championship and hope to follow in the footsteps of the winning Parliamentary Procedure team someday. Chairman Mikayla Williams said, "We worked very well as a team from the first meeting we ran. Still, I would've never expected us to win, considering that five of our members are brand new. I am excited and surprised beyond words!"

Team members include Williams, Logan Pflug, Jin Mei Tusin, Jaren Waldschmidt, Alexis Millirans, Devin Hawkins and Reese Williams.

"Meat or Mistake" was the title of 17-year old Madison Suseland's winning speech. She explored the pros and cons of lab cultured meat, taking a neutral approach to a controversial subject.

"I found the topic interesting and I had never heard of it when researching topics for the contest," she said. "Since it was new to me, I thought it might be new to other people too. I never thought I could win at this level of competition."

Between now and the national contest held during the National FFA Convention in October, Madison is not allowed to change her speech, but plans to continue her research and meet with industry experts to broaden her understanding.

According to Asmus, each team or individual worked with a coach or coaching team.

"Each and every one of them worked hard and were driven. I know their coaches and I could not be prouder," she added.

Shelby Souva, Branch Area Careers Center FFA, won the Diversified Livestock Proficiency Award. Her supervised ag experience (SAE) projects include raising and showing livestock, part ownership in a small flock of sheep and beef cows, and working with Great Lakes Sire Service, and showing hogs.

"To me, winning this award means that hard work really does pay off," Souva said. "My SAE has taught me skills that will help me in my future career goal of becoming and Agri science teacher."

Jarrett Kienzle of Watervliet and a member of the Van Buren Tech Center FFA, took home the Diversified Crop Production Proficiency Award. Kienzle raises Christmas trees, strawberries, hay, ear corn, melons, hanging baskets, sweet corn, squash, tomatoes and more. He recently purchased, tore down and rebuilt a 72 -by- 72 polycarbonate greenhouse which he will use to expand his bedding plant sales. He sells product at his farm site and through local farmer's markets.

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