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Grand Rapids, Minn., trio makes Minnesota FFA history

This marks the first time three students from the same chapter will serve on the same state officer team.

Kevin Schulz, Editor

April 30, 2024

3 Min Read
six FFA students posing with oversized gavel
READY TO LEAD: The 2024-25 Minnesota State FFA officer team took the gavel to close out the recent state convention, ready to lead the organization for the next year: Lauren Stoel (left) Kaiya Grossman, Natalie Clemenson, Victoria Gunderson, Cole Sundeen and Emma Braford.Kevin Schulz

Six young people were announced as the new Minnesota FFA officer team to close out the 2024 state convention, and a little history was made along the way.

Of the six newly installed officers, three of them hail from the Grand Rapids High School FFA Chapter, marking the first time a single chapter has placed three members on a state officer team.

Grand Rapids seniors Emma Braford, vice president; Kaiya Grossman, secretary; and Victoria Gunderson, sentinel; join Lauren Stoel, president, from Murray County Central; Cole Sundeen, treasurer, from Rockford; and Natalie Clemenson, reporter, from Zumbrota-Mazeppa, on the officer team that will plan and implement FFA events across the state, and the 2025 Minnesota FFA Convention.

Prior to the announcement of the state officer team, Shawn Linder thought Grand Rapids had a chance to land one of the state officer spots, but couldn’t fathom three. Linder and Jordyn Newberg are co-advisers at Grand Rapids.

“It’s totally unbelievable. It’s like being struck by lightning,” says Linder, chapter adviser at Grand Rapids, shortly after three of his students were named to the officer team. “It’s such a special group of kids; from the time they started as freshmen, I knew they were special.”

As Linder watched these three work through leading at the chapter and regional levels, he saw that “they’ve always been willing to push the envelope on anything, and they’re always asking for more and ‘What can we do to help?’”

As success breeds success, Linder is hopeful that the example by Braford, Grossman and Gunderson will add a spark to the rest of their home chapter. “I think this will truly inspire the students who are here with us today [at state convention]. and even back home to say, ‘Hey, if they can do this, we can be successful down the road as well.”

While Linder points to the talent and drive of the students themselves, Grossman is quick to acknowledge the work of FFA advisers across the state, as well as the local support she has seen in the Grand Rapids chapter, “a big shout out to our advisers, Mr. Shawn Linder and Mrs. Jordyn Newberg, for all the help that they’ve been, and just all the supporters that we’ve had all across the state.”

Gunderson echoes the appreciation to the local community and chapter alumni for helping the officer candidates along the way.

Braford taking more of a philosophical look at this bit of FFA history. “FFA has deep roots in tradition, but that does not mean that history is not still being made to this day in the organization every single day, and it means a lot to me to be a part of an officer team where history is being made for the Grand Rapids FFA Chapter and for Minnesota FFA.”

It takes a team

Though the Grand Rapids trio made state FFA history, it takes a complete team to lead the state organization for the next year.

Stoel says being a state officer “is an amazing opportunity to get to serve members around me and help encourage them to join the amazing association and organization that is FFA.”

As state treasurer, Sundeen says “it means that I have the obligations to serve our state and serve the people of the FFA organization and continue building leadership throughout the organization.”

Being named state officer is a dream come true for Clemenson, and “it means that I have the opportunity to serve as a role model and a leader for many members across the state as well as help them feel at home and serve as an advocate for agriculture in the process.”

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

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