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More than 6,000 FFA members attended the 94th State FFA Convention.

Curt Arens, Editor, Nebraska Farmer

April 25, 2022

3 Min Read
NETWORKING: FFA members from across the state gathered in Lincoln for the 94th State FFA Convention. FFA members pictured here in Pinnacle Bank Arena visit with representatives from Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture as part of the career fair and expo.

It was good to be back in person for the 6,007 Nebraska FFA members who attended the 94th State FFA Convention held in April in Lincoln. After virtual state conventions over the past two years, Nebraska FFA brought the “sea of blue jackets” back to Lincoln for a special week of festivities.

According to a report by Stacey Agnew, executive director of the Nebraska FFA Foundation, 670 FFA members received their State Degrees, seven people were named 2022-23 state officers, and 80 industry partners, colleges and ag organizations participated in the career fair and expo.

In her retirement address given during convention, Ellie Wanek, the outgoing state FFA president from Aurora, told FFA members to face their fears, no matter what those fears might be.

“There is no way I can do this,” Wanek said as she told her story during her address. “As a freshman, these thoughts were swirling through my head before my very first speech contest. ‘There is no way I can do this.’”

Wanek told those gathered at the State FFA Convention that she was literally sick to her stomach and terrified to present that first speech to a judge. “My stomach was turning in nerves,” she said.

“Finally, it was my turn. I began my speech, and before I knew it, eight minutes had passed,” she explained. “I faced the fear. No one laughed at me. And as I look back, I realize that this was the day that I recognized the importance of facing my fear. If I had given up speech right then and there, I would never have realized my passion.”

Wanek said that she thought fear was keeping her safe, but in reality, it was keeping her stuck. “Fears often fall away as we embrace the opportunities to take that first step,” she said.

Whether it is a first speech or a first contest, Wanek encouraged members to see their fears as opportunities. “What are you afraid of?” she asked. “Fear can be beautiful. Take those fears as fuel for things you want to accomplish. Name a fear that has a hold of your life. Once you name it, face it and find steps forward toward facing that fear.”

As Wanek and the rest of her outgoing state officer team retired from their terms, one of the highlights of each convention is the naming of new state officers. The state officer team for the upcoming year includes President Alexis Bodlak, Pender FFA; State Secretary Emelia Rourke, Waverly FFA; State Vice President Dustin Andreason, Boone Central FFA; State Vice President Jaylea Pope, Shelton FFA; State Vice President Faith Miller, Mullen FFA; State Vice President Elizabeth Wilkins, Ainsworth FFA; and State Vice President Grace Timm, Creek Valley FFA.

Helping Hand Award winner

David Gibbens, advisor at West Holt FFA in Atkinson, received the 2022 Gary Scharf Helping Hand Award. The annual award, named for Gary Scharf, who was a victim of an Omaha mall shooting in 2007, recognizes an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor who goes above and beyond to help others in their school and community.

Gibbens regularly helps out school custodians and founded a “Kindness Committee” against bullying. He is known for his sense of humor, and for pitching in around the community every chance he gets — from refereeing wrestling tournaments to assisting with landscaping around town.

Here are some other highlights from this year’s convention:

New chapters. New charters went out to chapters at Bancroft-Rosalie, Hastings St. Cecelia, Pleasanton and Ralston.

Ag teacher and FFA advisor of the year. These awards went to Justin Rafferty, Bayard, and Lisa Kemp, Wallace.

State Star awards. The Star Agribusiness Award went to Levi Schiller from West Point. Star in Agricultural Placement went to Andrew Stukenholtz, Nebraska City. The Star in Agricultural Production went to Blake Sindelar, Howells-Dodge.

Proficiency award finalists. This year’s State FFA Convention included 135 state proficiency award finalists interviewing in 48 different categories. In addition, there were 97 entries among the Agriscience Fair state qualifiers.

Get all of the details and updates from the state convention at

About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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