Berthoud Weekly Surveyor | Covering all the angles in the Garden Spot

Local FFA program celebrates three state awards, new Berthoud chapter

August 07, 2020 | Education

By Katie Harris

The Surveyor

Graduating seniors Arika Beard and Susan Pennock received FFA degrees from the state in spring recognizing their efforts in the organization throughout their four years in high school.

“Every kid that’s in the agriculture program is encouraged to participate in some sort of supervised field experience, whether it’s gardening, working at a feed store or raising an animal,” explained Berthoud High School (BHS) Agricultural Science teacher and FFA advisor Lyndee Lum.

Students who complete their field experience requirements, participate in community service opportunities and attend club meetings are eligible for various levels of awards, called degrees, from the local level, up.

“If they put in 750 hours of work or earn at least $2,500 over the course of their high school career they are eligible to earn their state degree,” said Lum. “Typically there’s a ceremony, which was virtual this year, where they get a chain to add to their FFA jacket. It’s an honor and something to put on your resume.”

Susan Pennock

Beard earned her degree through her work raising poultry and her cake decorating business, while Pennock raised heffers at her Berthoud home.

Public speaking award

In addition, another Thompson FFA member hailing from Berthoud received a prestigious award last month.

Incoming BHS junior Hallie Cook was awarded first place in the state in FFA’s Prepared Public Speaking competition for her speech on edible food packaging.

“I first learned about edible food packaging in my agriculture class with Ms. Lum,” said Cook. “We did a project where we made our own versions out of fruit roll ups and rice paper and it sparked my interest in the topic. It’s basically an up-and-coming, no-waste alternative to plastic food packaging.”

Arika Beard

Cook, who said she entered the contest to break out of her shell and improve her public speaking skills, did her own research, developed a seven-minute speech on the topic, and memorized it. In October she presented her speech in a local competition against high school students of all ages in her own FFA Chapter.

“She beat out eight or 10 people at the local level and moved on to the district contest in November against Windsor, Longmont and Fort Collins, which is one of the more competitive districts in the state” said Lum.  

After winning once again at the district level, Cook would’ve gone on to compete at the state level in Pueblo, but competed virtually this year instead.

“She gave her speech to the judges on a Zoom call and then answered five minutes of questions,” said Lum. “They really pushed her on the subject and she had to answer some tough questions.”

Hallie Cook

For Cook, one of the hardest parts was not being able to watch the other contestants’ speeches this year.

“Since I couldn’t watch the others I didn’t really know where I stood,” she said. “I was really nervous going into it, after putting countless hours into researching, rewriting and revising my speech all year, but I felt like I did my best.”

A few days later, the judges called Cook in a live session to tell her she’d won first place out of all 16 districts in the state.

“I never expected to win at state,” said Cook. “It was definitely a surprise—a really good surprise. I was really, really happy.”

Lum said Cook has all the reason in the world to be proud of herself.

“The fact that it was at the state level, which has roughly 6,000 FFA members, made it really impressive,” she said. “Basically, she’s the best public speaker in that category for the state.”

The 16-year-old said she plans to pursue a career in agriculture after college, such as agronomy or plant science, and hopes to compete in an agronomy competition, along with another public speaking competition, this year in FFA.

“I feel so lucky to have a class and a club dedicated to something I see myself doing in the future,” she said. “I’ve learned team skills, communication and how to run meetings. I think my experience in FFA and doing public speaking competitions will help me with job interviews in the future and with social interaction in general.”

A new chapter

In more exciting news, the Thompson Chapter of FFA, which was formed six years ago and includes BHS and Thompson Valley High School students, will split into two separate chapters this school year.

“When we started the program we were kind of small,” explained Lum. “We offered classes at both high schools but we were all the same chapter.”

Since then, the program has grown to include 150 students between the two schools.

“We loved the unity between the two schools, but being one big chapter presented problems as well,” said Lum. “At state contests we were limited to four kids, even though we often had many more who wanted to compete. We were also only allowed one team of officers, so many students missed out on that opportunity.”

The formation of two separate chapters this year, one per school, will allow for more slots at competitions as well as two separate teams of officers. Although the schools will experience a larger degree of separation, such as hosting different local events, Lum said there are areas where the two schools will continue to partner up.

“We’ll still ride the bus together when we travel, and we’ll do our big Hired Hands fundraiser together,” she said. “Many of our kids from different schools have become friends through FFA. We want to create opportunities to stay united.”

To learn more about the local chapter of FFA, visit http://thompsonffa.theaet.com/aethome.aspx?ID=41649.

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