FFA students

Abilene High School senior Will Stroda (left) FFA senior president, answers a question posed by an Abilene Board of Education member during the Dec. 9 meeting. Stroda and fellow FFA officers, Junior Abi Lillard, (center) senior secretary, and Annie Bathurst, (right) senior vice president, told the school board about their experiences attending the 92nd National FFA Convention & Expo Oct. 30 to Nov. 2 in

A scavenger hunt that nudged students out of their comfort zones was one of dozens of exciting experiences Abilene High School FFA members experienced during the 92nd National FFA Convention & Expo.

AHS senior Will Stroda, FFA senior president, junior Abi Lillard, senior secretary, and senior Annie Bathurst, senior vice president, visited with the Abilene Board of Education during the Dec. 9 meeting to recap the national FFA event held Oct. 30 to Nov. 2 in Indianapolis, Ind.

With 69,944 attendees, the event is one of the world’s largest student conventions, according to the FFA National Convention web page.

Fifteen AHS FFA students with the highest point totals qualified to attend the national convention. Points are earned during the year by participating in various activities.


Getting to know others

One activity that made an impression on the Abilene students was a scavenger hunt that required FFA members to complete a number of tasks, including meeting new people.

“We had to take pictures and hold conversations with people from different countries and different FFA chapters from Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and all 50 states,” Stroda explained. “We had conversations with them and we had a booklet to get signatures from (people) from each state. Whatever group finished first got a prize.”

Lillard said the scavenger hunt challenged the students to have conversations with people they might otherwise not talk to, including members from Alaska and other places outside the Midwest.

“It helped provide new thinking on how we can come back to our town and make an impact,” Lillard commented. “We had conversations with them about what they were doing in their town so we could take that information and come back to it.”

Bathurst agreed, commenting it was “really cool to see what kind of agriculture happens in different areas.”


Variety of vendors

Stroda said he was amazed by the number of vendors in attendance, representing not only familiar companies but others from across the nation and around the world.

“While most were there to ‘advertise’ themselves, some companies also were looking to find new employees in the future,” Stroda said.

“Also, a lot of new technology was revealed,” he added. “John Deere had a new tractor out and brand new trucks from Ford, Ram, Chevy. Every new technology that could be in any agricultural industry.”

Lillard said colleges were represented from around the nation and even Hawaii, stressing everything they have to offer in their agricultural programs.


A big aquaponic system

Bathurst said she had the chance to learn more about aquaponics — a system that combines aquaculture which is growing fish and other aquatic animals and hydroponics, growing plants without soil.

“One vendor I personally talked to was a scientist who was experimenting on how to perfect the aquaponic system. Our high school actually has an aquaponic system, one of a very few in Kansas, if not the only one,” Bathurst said. “He asked me about our system and I asked about his.

“His is a multi-billion dollar system and ours is not,” she said as the board and audience members laughed. “But I still got to understand what makes things better so that was really cool for me.”

Other activities or experiences mentioned by the students included:

• Attending a workshop called the Blue Jacket story where students were encouraged to list all the activities they had done in FFA, which will help them when it comes to time to apply for scholarships or jobs.

• Attending one of the “big” sessions held in the Indianapolis Colts football stadium where awards were presented, new officers were inducted and keynote speaker Bob Goff encouraged students to “look at life in an easygoing, uplifting way rather than taking everything to heart and letting life beat you down,” Stroda said.

• Visiting a “scream park” on Halloween night which consists of a number of “haunted houses.”

• Attending a dinner where students dressed for the occasion and other experiences.

Board Member Mark Wilson mentioned he watched some of the national convention on RFD TV.

“It was some pretty extensive coverage. It was quite the show,” Wilson said.

The students thanked the board for supporting the out-of-state trip.

“It means a lot to us to get to go out and experience these new things, especially outside Kansas,” Lillard said.

Contact Kathy Hageman at reporter@abilene-rc.com.


Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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