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West Rowan High FFA chapter to take on FFA nationals in Kentucky

By Zachary Tucker  

Special to the Post

MOUNT ULLA — The West Rowan High School Future Farmers of America Chapter, which was awarded the 2014-2015 Most Outstanding Agricultural Education Program in North Carolina, will be traveling to the National FFA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, on Oct. 28, where over 60,000 guests are expected. Thirty-two students and faculty from West Rowan will travel to the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center for the convention that will end on Oct. 31.

The North Carolina Agriculture Teachers Association previously awarded the West Rowan FFA chapter the most outstanding program in 2007-2008, and the chapter was named the National Region Five winner at the 2008 National Convention.

During the 2015 National FFA Convention, West Rowan students will be competing in the following categories: Agriculture Marketing, Agriculture Sales, Farm Business Management and Veterinary Science. West Rowan also has two National Proficiency Award finalists that will compete in Turf Grass Management and Equine Science. Also, students will display and compete with five Agriscience Fair projects that cover topics such as horticulture and food science.

Jason Chester, Alex Silliman and Matthew Owen are the Agriculture Science teachers at West Rowan. They also serve as the three team adviser board for the FFA chapter.

“One of the best things about teaching agriculture that is different than some other areas to teach, is how often I am rewarded with the successes and hard work of my students,” stated Chester.  “The national convention is a great opportunity for our students to get out of little Mt. Ulla and interact with students from across the country who have similar interests.”

Sam Kennedy, who is currently a senior at West Rowan, serves as the president for the chapter this year. Kennedy will be competing with the Veterinary Science team at the convention.

Kennedy explained, “We have three absolutely outstanding agriculture teachers that show a true love and desire for what they do and how they impact the lives of students around us. I look at the amount of time we spent on not only learning about agriculture from a production standpoint, but also how we look at ways to benefit the world through the future of agriculture. Through community service activities and fundraisers, we have laid the building blocks of a noteworthy agricultural institution.”

Madeline Wilhelm, who is a junior at West Rowan, serves as the chapter’s secretary and is the parliamentarian for the Southwest Region of North Carolina. “Personally, the leadership positions that I’ve had in FFA have inspired me to challenge myself and work hard to learn and achieve,” said Wilhelm. Wilhelm will be competing with the Farm Business Management team and she will present an Agriscience Fair project on “decreased nutrient density in leaf crops as a result of high alkalinity caused by the soil amendment of biochar.”

Wilhelm credits some of the chapter’s success to the continuous growth of underclassmen.  She states, “It’s really exciting to see these younger groups (especially the current freshmen) get so excited about FFA. It’s so inspiring to have these younger members who are so dedicated to our program.”

Chester noted, “I have set personal goals, our three team advisor group has set program goals, and our officer team has set yearly goals. Seeing these goals achieved and exceeded keeps me motivated and helps me keep re-evaluating my teaching so that I can continue growing, which hopefully results in our program continuing to grow and the experiences of my FFA members continuing to be even more impactful.”

While traveling to Kentucky, the FFA chapter will visit the Exhibition Coal Mine in Beckley, West Virginia and they will be participating in leadership and risk building team activities at the University of Kentucky’s High Ropes Leadership Course. Students and faculty will also attend leadership sessions led by National FFA officers and staff as well as business sessions regarding the National Convention.

The West Rowan chapter is holding a beef raffle as a fundraiser for the trip. Raffle tickets are $20. The winner gets half of a beef steer that is cut to order. Last year’s winner won 200 pounds of beef and this year’s steer is said to be bigger. The fundraiser will run through Oct. 16.  For more information about the fundraiser, or to buy a ticket, contact Mr. Chester at West Rowan High School at 704-278-9233.

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