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Black Hawk College students receive FFA’s top honor

Eight Black Hawk College East Campus ag students recently received the prestigious American FFA Degree at the 86th annual National FFA Convention & Expo held in Louisville, Ky.

BHC students and faculty members were among 55,000 people who celebrated four days of “The Future of Agriculture.”

The American FFA Degree is awarded to FFA members who have demonstrated the highest level of commitment to FFA and made significant accomplishments in their Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAEs). Approximately 3,500 American FFA Degrees are handed out each year at the National FFA Convention & Expo. That number represents less than half of 1 percent of all FFA members, making it one of the organization’s highest honors.

Ross Newton of Bloomington, Ind., a second-year BHC student and 2012 American FFA Degree recipient, took a year off after high school to fulfill state reporter officer duties for FFA. “The National FFA organization is the largest youth leadership organization in the world. It is a huge honor to receive a state degree, let alone the American degree,” he said.

“Many political figures, community and business leaders have received this award. Anyone who has been involved in or understands FFA knows what an undertaking it is to receive this award. The impact that these members have made at home, in their community, businesses and schools is outstanding. If anyone doubts the future of this country, they should look at these individuals’ credentials and they will soon change their mind,” Newton said.

He plans on transferring to Purdue University to major in ag education and become a high school ag teacher.

The eight East Campus students who received the American FFA Degree were:

  • Trevor Blankenbaker of Pennville, Ind.
  • Tracey Clifford of Auburn, Ind.
  • Tyler Johnson of Columbia City, Ind. (He was the chair of the Indiana FFA state officer nominating committee, one of nine who chose slates for 2012-13)
  • Haley Kessler of Darlington, Ind.
  • Shelbi Louci of Redkey, Ind.
  • Anne Riggs of Glenwood, Ind. (She served on the Indiana FFA executive committee 2011-12 which was made up of state district presidents, president of chorus and band and the state officer team.)
  • Shelby Riley of Noblesville, Ind. (She was a state officer in 2012-13 holding the office of Indiana state reporter.)
  • Cory Snetcher of Shannon, Ill.

FFA members who qualify for the American FFA Degree have:

  • Received a Greenhand FFA Degree, Chapter FFA Degree and State FFA Degree.
  • Been FFA members for at least three years.
  • Completed at least three years (540 hours) of high school agriculture classes, or two years of high school agriculture classes and one year of college agriculture classes (360 hours.)
  • Graduated from high school one year prior to the National FFA Convention at which their degree will be awarded.
  • Maintained detailed Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAEs) records, which demonstrate outstanding planning, managerial and financial skills.
  • Earned and productively invested at least $7,500, or have earned and productively invested at least $1,500 and worked 2,250 hours beyond scheduled school hours through their SAEs.
  • A record of outstanding leadership skills.
  • A record of participating in community service activities.
  • Maintained a “C” grade average or better.

This year’s American FFA Degree program was sponsored by ADM Crop Risk Services, Case IH, DuPont Pioneer, Elanco, Farm Credit and Syngenta as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.

To meet the demands of an evolving agricultural field in which jobs require advanced training, the Agriculture Program at Black Hawk College East Campus in Galva, Ill. offers a variety of career and transfer programs. These programs include study in the areas of agribusiness management, agriculture mechanics, agriculture production technology, agriculture transfer, horse science technology, equestrian science, horticulture science, horticulture transfer and pre-veterinary medicine.

The Agriculture Center, the only facility of its kind on a community college campus in Illinois, serves as a laboratory for student learning. Classrooms, stalls, wash rack, equipment rooms and indoor as well as outdoor arenas provide a central focus for all agriculture programs. Located on campus is a greenhouse supporting horticulture and agronomy instruction. In addition, soils, crops, horticulture and agriculture mechanics laboratories on campus give students the opportunity to learn important technical skills associated with agricultural business and industry.

With its strong emphasis on education for employment preparation, the Black Hawk College Agriculture Program offers students opportunities for on-the-job training with agriculturally oriented businesses located within the immediate area, across the state and throughout the nation. Students receive academic credit for their work and gain valuable information and insight into on-the-job demands.

A top priority of the Black Hawk College Agriculture Program is to maintain high-quality academic standards. In addition, major emphasis is put on the development of the individual outside the classroom. Students enrolled in the Agriculture Program are invited to become active members of the Agribusiness Club. Social, recreational, professional and leadership development are some of the primary objectives of the group available at local, state and national levels. Graduates of the East Campus agriculture programs are encouraged to continue their involvement through the Agribusiness Club Alumni.

Other activities include livestock, horse, crops, soils and horticulture judging teams. Students participate on a local, state and national level in agricultural scholastic bowls, job interview competitions in several areas of employment, discussion meets, computer skills contests and public-speaking contests.

A cooperative agreement with the adjacent community college districts allows students in those districts to enroll in Black Hawk College East Campus agriculture programs and pay the college in-district tuition rate. Additionally, the Horse Science Technology and Equestrian Science programs are approved as statewide programs. This allows any Illinois resident to enroll in the programs and pay the Black Hawk College tuition rate.