Just beginning it’s second year, the Gering FFA Chapter is continuing to gather it’s momentum. In 2019, the chapter was advocated for by both Gering and Scottsbluff FFA alumni and agriculture teachers.
Jennifer Sibal, community engagement director for Gering Public Schools, explained that establishing an FFA Chapter was a great way to align hands-on application with year two of Gering Public Schools' career pathways. Agriculture and Natural Resources is one of the six Nebraska Department of Education pathways, and FFA is a great way to complement classroom learning.
“I never want to take that away from that classroom learning piece and having the ag pathway in the classroom either. A lot of this is getting exposure, getting experiences, giving them a taste of what it looks like at those levels. It really came from that group of champions,” Sibal said.
The inaugural year of the Gering FFA Chapter included visits to elementary schools for agriculture lessons, activities recognizing National FFA week, zoom competitions and county fair exhibitions.
FFA week activities included a petting zoo that members brought their animals too, a drive-your-tractor-to-school day and a labor auction which brought in revenue for the chapter.
Although Zoom competitions were the protocol for last year, the newly formed FFA chapter was able to save travel expenses for a more active second year.
Hannah Walker, a Gering High School junior, student ambassador and FFA chapter vice president said she was excited that they are going places for contests this year, and she is looking forward to having the experience of FFA competitions. Walker also expressed the significance for having a local FFA chapter to show at county fairs.
“Me and my sister were like, we should have an FFA program so that we can show at fairs without a 4-H club. Showing with FFA, we all come together and you meet new kids and we all become one big community,” Walker said.
The labor auction held in the spring was the main source of funding for the FFA chapter and was supplemented by their fall fundraising event which they have already completed for this year. The fundraising included sales of fruit, meat, cheese and sweets that will be delivered during the coming holiday season.
The Gering FFA Chapter was fortunate enough to attend the 94th National FFA Convention & Expo held in Indianapolis, Indiana, in October 2021. The event featured workshops, the virtual FFA Blue Room, National Days of Service and the streaming of general sessions.
Chance Rahmig, Gering High School senior and FFA chapter president, explained how each member could pay $250 to reserve a seat for the 22-hour bus trip to the convention, and the Gering FFA Chapter would pay the remaining trip expenses.
While at the convention, the group watched the opening ceremony, the National FFA Degree Ceremony and a competition. Rahmig expressed interest in returning to the convention in two years to receive the American FFA degree, the highest degree achievable in the organization. To be eligible to receive the American FFA degree, members must meet qualifications such as receiving a State FFA degree, holding active membership for the past three years, completing secondary instruction in an agricultural education program and operating an outstanding supervised agricultural experience program.
“Hopefully I’ll get to go back in two years and walk across the stage to get my American degree,” Rahmig said.
Other activities the students enjoyed while at the convention were the FFA rodeo, the convention and expo and the FFA superstore. Outside the convention, the group divided for either a Louisville experience that included a tour of Churchill Downs, the Louisville Slugger factory and a retired horse ranch or an Indianapolis experience that included the zoo. The final day of the trip ended with a Nebraska FFA get-together, Walker said that this was a fun evening of dancing and getting to know people from all over Nebraska.
She said the convention is mostly centered around an experience, and there were people from all 50 states.
“I’d go back,” Walker said.
The Gering FFA students will also be attending competitions in person this year. Competitions are divided into leadership development events (LDE) or career development events (CDE). Leadership includes events focused on developing students' leadership skills through job contests like Job Interview, Creed Speaking and an Agricultural Quiz Team as well as many others. Career events are contests that members compete in to test their skills learned through agricultural education instruction.
Some events allow students to compete as individuals, while others allow them to compete in teams. Rahmig and Walker were both looking forward to the district LDE competition held Wednesday, Nov. 17 at Chadron to compete in parliamentary procedure.
In January 2022, the students will have their first opportunity for an in-person CDE, and Walker is already preparing for the floriculture competition.
“I love learning about different types of flowers. That’s really cool to me. During competition we have to create a bouquet as a group. There’s hundreds of flowers and we have to know each and every one of them,” Walker said.
Sibal said, “This is giving them an opportunity to go experience, make those connections with others and see the activities in motion from other groups as well. So it’s planting that seed and then that continues to build excitement and then continues to fuel participation in FFA, in general.”