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Friday, October 16, 2020
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Niles FFA's Journey Ends Short of Goal

by Bev Berens

Published: Friday, October 16, 2020

Indianapolis will not be flooded with the FFA Blue and Gold this October, as the National FFA Convention has moved all proceedings to a virtual platform due to the prolonged pandemic.

The Niles, Mich. FFA chapter had two state winning teams looking forward to a national competition berth in 2020. According to ag instructor and FFA advisor Cheryl Rogers, the chapter's ag issues and parliamentary procedure teams had spent years working toward a state title and the chance to compete nationally. That opportunity is now gone, and Rogers fears they will never compete together again, as some students have aged out of eligible competition and others have moved out of the district.

"We are really mourning, but we're trying to be positive and make the best of things," Rogers said. "We bought state title jackets for all the kids. The school board has made yard signs for each team member to let the community know that a state-winning FFA team member lives here."

Rogers, in her third year of teaching agriculture at her alma matter, is following up a 27-year career in elementary education with a switch to older students, and a new subject. A photo of her former ag teacher, Mr. McMillen, sits on the desk he once used when she was a student in the same classroom.

Practices at 6 a.m. on Sunday mornings in a blizzard are just one of the fond memories Rogers shared of a special time coaching a special group of students. The parliamentary procedure team was made up entirely of young women who had competed together in some form of parliamentary procedure competition since junior high.

Although Rogers and Career Tech Ed Director, Carrie George would love to create an exciting and memorable convention experience for all the agriculture students, caution is required when following the many distancing rules imposed in each school district, and even opportunities for group watch parties with snacks and beverages is likely out of the question.

"Undoubtedly, we will buy a registration for all our ag students to get online and participate in all the convention sessions, workshops and entertainment," Rogers said. "We will incorporate watching convention into classroom time as much as we can."

Rogers said they may try to roll out their completed community service project, a restored toy barn to be filled with farm toys, farm books and original stories written by student members to be donated to a lower elementary classroom during national convention and the National Day of Service that the organization has previously orchestrated in the host city.

RFD-TV carries open sessions such as guest speakers, opening session, national officer retiring addresses, several award categories and American Farmer degree ceremonies, and is available to all subscribers. Leadership workshops and entertainment are available only to those who register with payment.

Because Michigan was one of only a few states which had completed conventions and state leadership contests, the national organization ruled not to include leadership and skills contests as part of the 2020 FFA convention. It is unknown if the few state winners will be invited to participate in a future year.

Mark Forbush, Michigan FFA state advisor, said the national organization is rolling out new pieces of information daily as to events and activities surrounding the national convention. Outside sponsors are creating competitive virtual opportunities that are just beginning to become publicized.

"In some ways, this convention will be more special than ever, because more students are going to be able to attend through this virtual format," he said.

The Michigan FFA Foundation has designated the dollars annually spent to send state-winning teams to the convention toward purchasing registrations for chapter members, enough for 4,700 registrations from Michigan, or approximately 47 students per chapter.

"Usually when a chapter attends convention, they take six or eight students, but now, some chapters can literally take all their students to national convention," Forbush said.

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