You might recall a blog from one year ago about how disappointed I was after attending the Hoosier Degree Session at the 2015 Indiana FFA Convention. This session is supposed to be one of the highlights of the convention. Held in Elliott Hall at Purdue University, the session attracts nearly 3,000 FFA members, advisors, parents and guests annually. Last year, by the time the program concluded, there were maybe 500 people left, and that’s stretching it. I commented that you could have shot a cannon at certain sections and not hit anyone.
I was disturbed because it showed a lack of respect for the last group of winners announced at the session: the Stars over Indiana. Some who left said they were tired after a long day. Others said their students couldn’t wait until the end because they wanted to get to the dance held after the session each year. Advisors, do you take students to the convention to see and honor what others have achieved, or to dance?
We asked that question a year ago. Perhaps some people listened. This year there were again about 3,000 people present when the session began. When Kenzie Kretzmeier, 2015-16 state FFA president, tapped the gavel to adjourn the session, most seats were still filled. A cannon ball would have taken out many targets this year!
We call a spade a spade. One year ago, leaving sent a message of disrespect, and we called people out, even if they are good, hardworking FFA members and advisors. Fair is fair. This year, people stayed and honored those who were recognized. If we criticize when something is amiss, we praise when it is done well. Everyone who attended and stayed to watch deserves praise.
So did people stay because they read my article? Not likely. It was tossed about in a few circles, but there were likely other reasons. Joe Martin, FFA program specialist, notes that in 2015 they tried an experiment and named the winner in each of the four Star categories after introducing all the candidates. Perhaps it was part of the reason why people left. Those who had someone involved in the Star competition had the most incentive to stay.
Dismissing it as a strategy that didn’t work, they reverted this year to naming all four winners at the end, just before the session concluded. Plus, by making some adjustments in the schedule and tweaking presentations, they trimmed roughly an hour off the session that included recognizing 409 Indiana FFA members as State Degree recipients. Each one walked across the stage when his or her name was called to receive the degree.
Indiana FFA is divided into four sections, numbered 1 to 4 from the northern part to southern part of the state. The section Star Farmers were, respectively from sections 1 to 4: Tyler Meroney, Central Noble; Jacob Schwieterman, Jay County; Mariah Huge, Cloverdale; and Melissa Mutchman, Forest Park.
Section Stars in Agricultural Placement were: Riley Lewis, Prairie Heights; Cody Michel, Manchester; Jake Wicker, Tri High; and Erin Will, North Posey.
Section Stars in Agribusiness were: Sarah Akey, Central Noble (Section 1), and Kyle Wehner, Madison (Section 4).
Section Stars in Agriscience were: Robyn Corbin, Tri-County; Laurann Schoenlein, Jay County; and Karson Harris, Sullivan. (There was no Section 4 winner.)
Drumroll please! (Hopefully you all are still reading.) One winner is chosen as the state Star in each category. Congratulations to Star Farmer Jacob Schwieterman, Star in Ag Placement Jake Wicker, Star in Agribusiness Sarah Akey and Star in Agriscience Karson Harris.