Lincoln County FFA traveled to Indianapolis, Ind., to attend and compete at the 90th Annual National FFA Convention and Expo held Oct. 25-28.
Lincoln County represented well, bringing home two gold titles. Tate Stevenson placed first in the nation in the Employment Skills Leadership Development Event, earning gold status and a $1,000 scholarship. The Farm and Agribusiness Management Career Development Event Team placed 10th in the nation, also earning gold status, with team members Elizabeth Barnes and Jake Kelley named gold individuals, Walker Weir a silver individual, and Baylee Parton a bronze winner.
Elizabeth Barnes also was named eighth high individual out of 163 competitors and received a $400 scholarship.
Under this year’s national theme of “I Can. We will,” Lincoln County FFA members had a truly transformative and enlightening time, members said.
“National Convention is something I look forward to every year, but never did I imagine it would be this memorable this year,” said Tate Stevenson, Employment Skills competitor. “Being able to walk across the national stage is a memory that I will never forget and one that I am very fortunate to have been able to experience.
“While I competed alone, it was very much a team effort to help me be prepared for success, and I would like to especially thank my advisor, Mr. Parton, for helping me get this far,” Stevenson added. “I am also very thankful for the support here at home after I won. It means so much to me!”
Stevenson went on to say that his interview skills have improved tremendously over the past year as he has prepared for competition and that what he really won was the ability to now walk confidently into any interview.
In the Employment Skills Leadership Development Event, competitors develop a resume, cover letter, job description, and job application and then go on to compete in a live interview. After the interview is complete the competitor then must compose a follow up correspondence. Competitors are able to choose the job for which they are applying.
In Tate’s case he was applying for a commodity market analyst internship at a local commodity trading company. Tate competed at the district, sectional, regional, state, and national level, placing first in all. Tate went through 10 official interviews, which were a combination of one-on-one, with a panel, and over the phone, as well as a networking activity and mock job offer.
The purpose of the Employment Skills competition is to develop, practice, and demonstrate skills needed for seeking employment in professional industries. An interview Tate did with National FFA after finding out he was the winner can be found at www.ffaconvention.com and scrolling down to find the post named “Interview Skills Recipient Selected From Tennessee.”
The purpose of the Farm and Agribusiness Management CDE is to help students learn business skills and apply economic principles to agricultural businesses. This CDE event is comprised of an individual exam and a team activity. The competitors arrived at 7:30 a.m. to take their three hour individual test and concluded the competition with an hour and a half team activity the following morning.
During the team activity, students were evaluated how well they worked together. The Lincoln County team placed first at state convention, sealing their qualification to compete on the national level in Indianapolis, Indiana.
“Seeing as this was my second National FFA Convention, I felt prepared for what was ahead of us,” said Jake Kelley, Farm and Agribusiness Management competitor. “We practiced day in and day out, knowing how challenging the individual test was going to be. However, we knew we would knock the team activity out of the park, seeing as our team is so close and has worked together rigorously since the beginning of our journey.
“I truly believe we brought the National theme of ‘I Can. We Will,’ to life, seeing as we were the highest ranking team in the national team activity.”
Kelley, who plans on going into medicine, says he enjoyed getting to see how the financial systems of a farm work.
“I can honestly say through this competitive event, I have learned just how much hard work goes into running an agribusiness, and I now have a greater appreciation for what our farmers do here in Lincoln County!”
Kelley went on to say that this competitive event also has helped him become a better teammate, a skill he hopes to use for the rest of his life.
“This trip to National Convention was rewarding in so many aspects,” said Elizabeth Barnes, Farm and Agribusiness Management Competitor. “I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to compete at the highest level with the top students from across the country.
“We knew the other states would bring their A-game, and our team prepared every day with that in mind,” Barnes added. “I truly believe that our hard work was evident, as we placed tenth in the nation, earning a gold-level distinction. Additionally, I was privileged to be named eighth high individual. This would not have been possible without the support of my teammates and advisor, Mr. Parton. Without him, we would not have had the skills necessary for success.”
“This was my first time competing on the national level for FFA, and I honestly do not believe that it could have been any better,” stated Walker Weir, a Farm and Agribusiness competitor. “When we were competing and attending our awards banquet, I was more nervous than I can ever remember being. Yet, being surrounded by this team, who had all competed on the national level before, they were so calm. They helped calm me down by not being nervous. Thanks to them, I was able to enjoy my time at National Convention.”
Walker went on to say that it was not only being a silver individual that made this trip worth it, but the people who became his family while he competed.
“I have been very privileged to compete on the national level multiple times throughout my high school career,” said Baylee Parton.
“This has by far been the toughest national contest I have competed in. There were so many components that went into this contest that we had to prepare for. I knew without a doubt that we would be a strong competitor on the national level due to the experience this team had,” Parton added.
“What I found to be the most rewarding was not only growing together as a team but as well as having support from our chapter, community, and state. None of this would have been possible without my teammates as well as my dad, Brad Parton, to help push each of us along the way. I am truly grateful for the experiences, opportunities, and the second family FFA has given me.”
Lincoln County FFA’s Agriscience competitors also represented well. Colten Moorehead placed gold in the nation, being named seventh overall for his Agriscience Fair project. Kobe McCoy placed 11th in the nation with his Agriscience Fair project, being named eleventh overall. The National FFA Agriscience Fair recognizes student researchers studying the application of agricultural scientific principles and emerging technologies in agricultural enterprises.
“It is no doubt that Lincoln County FFA had tremendous success at this year’s National FFA Convention. What most folks do not realize is that this special group of students have been preparing for success since the start of their freshman year and that this was not an overnight success story but one of focused, dedicated preparation.” said advisor Brad Parton.
“The thing that I love most about the National FFA Organization is the student development opportunities it provides. It would be impossible to count the hours of hard work these students put into embody the FFA Mission statement of “developing premier leadership, personal growth (for future) career success.”