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FFA advisors, students glad for return to live programming

Photos by Tom J. Bechman Caroline Mills helps Abby Funk prepare for a state FFA contest
LENDING A HAND: Caroline Mills (left) helps Abby Funk prepare to compete in a live state FFA contest in front of judges on June 15.
The Indiana FFA Convention was held live this year.

The 2019-20 Indiana FFA officers faced the challenge of presenting a virtual state convention, because in June 2020, the country was still in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. They did a few portions live from the Purdue University campus without an audience, but most of the convention was pretaped. The 2020-21 state officers faced a different challenge: pulling off a live state convention not at Purdue University. Instead, it was spread across various venues, including the Indiana State Fairgrounds, Hamilton Southeastern High School and Conner Prairie.

When Purdue told FFA state officials that it would not be able to host the 2021 convention live, that sent them scrambling to find a new location. Everyone, from state officers to ag teachers to members, wanted a live convention. To make it happen, they split up events, with sessions occurring last week at the state fairgrounds, most contests at Hamilton Southeastern and some workshops at Conner Prairie.

Related: New Indiana FFA state officers off and running

Live again

Caroline Mills and her students at Hamilton Southeastern High School were glad to see both contests and sessions at the state convention go live again. Mills, now beginning her fifth year of teaching, is joined by veteran ag teacher and FFA Advisor Tom Younts at HSE. Mills, originally from Rush County, taught one year at Shenandoah High School in Henry County before coming to HSE.

Several students at HSE participated in state contests, including Abby Funk, who competed as the District 5 representative in the leadership ambassador contest. She, too, was glad to be doing a live interview with judges instead of a virtual interview.

Blayne Vandeveer, the now-retired 2020-21 state treasurer, was also glad to see a live convention. In fact, unlike the 2019-20 state officer team, his team was able to do several chapter banquets live this spring.

Vandeveer started by attending and addressing the Franklin FFA banquet.

Blayne Vandeveer delivers a banquet address to Franklin FFA students and parents

Now former Indiana FFA state officer Blayne Vandeveer delivers a banquet address to Franklin FFA students and parents in early May.

“We put a lot into getting those speeches ready for banquets, and it was great to be able to give them live, in person, to a live audience,” he said after the Franklin banquet.

No doubt that aided him when he presented his retiring address at the state convention. Even though it was in a different setting than in years past and still to a limited audience, it was part of a live convention.

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