Lots of big news from West Liberty FFA:
“West Liberty FFA will be awarded the 2016 Supreme National Chapter, making West Liberty FFA the number one program in the State of Iowa,” said Morgan Nichols.
Nichols and Kelzi Mather, seniors, gave a rundown of a successful 2016 for FFA, Tuesday, March 21, during the chapter’s annual Banquet and Awards Program.
“[This was] due to our members going all out in their FFA experience and representing youth in the industry of agriculture, which amplified their success,” she added.
With that proclamation the auditorium erupted in applause. To be named number one in the state of Iowa is quite the honor, one wholly deserved by the West Liberty Chapter.
In order to earn the distinction, a chapter must show strength in threes areas, growing leaders, building community and strengthening agriculture.
West Liberty received top honor in the first two categories. This is the first time the chapter has received the award and is now ranked number one in the state.
“I think it’s a really big deal for our chapter, especially winning two of the categories because of all the activities that everybody always volunteers with,” said 2016 West Liberty FFA President Alyssa McMichael.
The West Liberty FFA is involved with numerous activities inside and outside of the community, as well as has a strong presence in competition.
But that wasn’t the only big news from the banquet. As the evening drew to a close West Liberty FFA Advisor Dick Brand walked up to the stage.
A man who spent a combined 39 years teaching FFA in Tipton and West Liberty, the long-time advisor/teacher/mentor will be retiring at the end of this school year.
“50 years ago I was where you Freshman are today,” he said as he addressed 100 plus FFA student members, family and everyone else in the high school auditorium.
The temperature in the room was up as the bright lights of the stage blared down on Advisor Brand. He leaned against the podium and a sense of reverence flowed over the crowd.
The crux of his speech was simple: change happens.
“You have to be ready to change,” said Brand. “The only thing constant about change is that it’s always going to happen. When you’re done with school do not think your education is over.”
Back in the late 1960s when he was a student in the West Liberty program there were no girls in FFA, all members lived on a farm and horticulture wasn’t even talked about.
There were no specialized Ag classes beyond the norm and out in the field, where many FFA members found themselves, rows of corn were always 40 inches apart in order to allow horses to fit between them.
Those days are long gone for the West Liberty Chapter, originally established in 1932. For Brand, it was teaching that brought him back to the FFA program after graduating.
He spent his first three years with Tipton before returning home to West Liberty for 36 years. Right now he teachers agriculture mechanics, welding, electricity, plumbing and small gas engine classes.
However, the time has come for the 66-year-old to put an end to his long and storied teaching career. Why?
“I have asked Ag teachers in the past how they figured out when they were going to retire. They said ‘I just knew.’ Sounded a little strange, but now I know exactly what they meant,” Brand later told the Index.
“I want to have more time to spend with my kids and grand kids and it will help get my farm work done without spending 18 hour days,” he added.
As FFA Advisor Dick Brand wrapped up his speech that evening the impact he had on the program, and its impact on him, became clear.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve all of the students that I’ve had, the parents I’ve had the pleasure to work with, the administrators and the teachers,” said Brand.
“Without this experience I’ve had, my life wouldn’t have been or continue to be as meaningful and rewarding as it has been and it is,” he concluded. “Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.”
The students gave Advisor Brand several gifts as FFA Director Zach Morris came on stage to give a long hug. It’s the end of an era for West Liberty FFA.
But it’s also the beginning of a new one. The 2016 Supreme National Chapter represents a gung-ho FFA club that is willing to compete at state and national competitions.
Last year 48 members advanced to State Competition in 12 events, where they received several gold ratings. Four teams earned state championships: Ag Impact, Ag CSI, Floriculture, Job Interview and Ag Issue and Perceptions.
Then, West Liberty sent its largest group ever, 33 members, to the National Convention. It was there the teams of Job Interview, Floriculture and Ag Issue and Perception placed.
This year West Liberty will be sending nine teams to state competition at the capitol, Ames, this April, where many have a chance to make it further to national competition.
Those teams include Experience the Action, Freshman Creed Speaking, Parliamentary Procedure, Chapter Program, Ag CSI, Conduct of Meetings, Job Interview, Prepared Public Speaking and Manual Quiz.
During the banquet FFA Advisor Zach Morris handed out several individual award to members. Isabel Morrison earned the Star Discovery Award.
Star Greenhand went to Haylee Lehman and Austin McMichael. Lauren Aired, soon to be appointed the 2017 President of FFA, earned the Member on the Move Award.
Outstanding Service Award pins went to Colton Kaalberg, Brent Meyers, Jacob Nichols, Parker Werling, Katie Schneider, Jessica Stepanek, Keaton Mather, Austyn Crees and Morgan Nichols.
Gracie Danner was singled out for an Outstanding Chapter Service Award for the incredible amount of time that she puts in the Ag room according to Director Morris.
“She is a huge mentor to these kids and does a phenomenal job,” he said. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for this program.”
The Star Chapter Member was 2016 President Alyssa McMichael, who started as a diamond in the rough according to Morris but became invaluable to West Liberty FFA.
“When I need to delegate something I trust everything that she does, she’s always a big thinker…I am just really thankful that I’ve got to work with her,” added Morris.
Finally, West Liberty Community School District Superintendent Steve Hanson was named an honorary member of the FFA for his support of the program.
With that, it was time for 2016 President Alysa McMichael to give some parting words as the chapter officer team passed over the reigns to a new crew.
She started with a several thank-you’s to her parents, FFA Advisors, the officer team, those who set up the banquet and the community .
“I’d like to thank all of you FFA members, that last five years have been truly memorable and I enjoyed working with and getting to know each and every one of you,” she said.
“There’s the athletes, the drama kids, the bad kids and then there’s us, the FFA kids,” she added. “FFA is easily the most diverse group of kids with the widest range of interests.”
The 2017/18 Chapter Officers will be President Lauren Aird, Vice-President Elias Rocha, Secretary Emma Martin, Treasurer Parker Werling, Reporter Haylee Lehman, Sentinel Austin Crees, and Officers at Large Brent Meyers and Tatum Dickey.
FFA SupremeJacob Lane · Wednesday, March 29, 2017