Waukon High School FFA Chapter holds its annual banquet

Craig Levi Mathis Award winners... Left to right: Cassidy Gibbs and Kiersten Gibbs. Submitted photo.

Star Greenhand Award winners ... Left to right: John Marti and Kendra Gibbs. Submitted photo.

Academic Achievement Award winners ... Left to right: Freshman Kendra Gibbs, Sophomores Ethan Gibbs and Mason Byrnes, and Junior Olivia Marti. Not pictured: Senior Alaina Gebel. Submitted photo.

Community Service Award winners ... Left to right: Ryan Kolsrud, Sarah Stock, Claire Johnson and Kendra Gibbs. Submitted photo.

by Mercedes Wilkins, Chapter Reporter

April 29 of this year, members of the Little Switzerland FFA chapter at Waukon High School held their annual banquet to recognize members for their achievements over the past FFA year. They also took time to recognize the businesses and individuals who served their chapter through their time, dedication and talents.

The first award was presented to recognize members who sold fruit, meat and cheese during the chapter’s annual fruit sale last fall. The proceeds from this sale are used to fund various activities that FFA members participate in throughout the year. Second-place fruit seller was Dalton Ellickson and first-place seller was Alaina Gebel.

Members who excel in their Supervised Agricultural Education (SAE) programs are recognized for their achievements through the proficiency award program. These awards encourage members to develop specialized skills that will apply toward a future career. Kiersten Gibbs was awarded the Dairy Production Placement award.

The next set of awards were designed to recognize students who do not hold an officer title, but who are willing to serve, accept responsibility, lead their peers, and work towards personal and chapter goals. The Owl Award recipient was Olivia Marti, the recipient of the Scrapbook Award was Haylee Jeglum, the Flag Award went to Tucker Burrichter, the recipient of the Clasp of Friendship award was Trevor Block, the recipient of the Emblem of Washington award was Ethan Palmer, the Ear of Corn award went to Drake Hankes, the recipient of the Plow award was Kendra Gibbs, and the Rising Sun award went to Elizabeth Fossum.

It is easy to recognize the importance of agriculture education in the local community. However, agricultural education and FFA play a much larger role in the academic achievements of students. Based on standardized test scores, Iowa FFA members from eighth grade to 11th grade exhibited more growth in science than the average of all Iowa students. FFA members who participated in multiple FFA events are also shown to be more proficient than their peers.

To encourage FFA members to strive for academic excellence, the top FFA member for each class is honored with an academic achievement award. These awards are based on the students’ overall grade point average, not just their academic achievements in the agricultural education classroom.

Freshman class recipient was Kendra Gibbs, Sophomore class recipients were Mason Byrnes and Ethan Gibbs, Junior class recipient was Olivia Marti, and Senior class recipient was Alaina Gebel.

The chapter’s most active first-year member, who has a strong supervised agricultural experience program and has demonstrated leadership, is selected to win the Star Greenhand award. This year‘s recipients have completed many contests, community service activities and attended conferences to jumpstart their FFA career, with John Marti and Kendra Gibbs being recognized for their achievements.

The member with the best placement SAE program and proven leadership skills is selected as the Star in Agriculture Placement winner. The recipient of the Star in Agriculture Placement was Ethan Gibbs.

The chapter member who has an outstanding SAE in production agriculture and demonstrates the most involvement in all phases of the chapter’s activities is awarded the Chapter Star Farmer award. This award was presented to Caleb Helgerson.

The FFA annually recognizes FFA members who rise to the top with the American Star Awards. This member has gone above and beyond in their attitude, involvement and community service. The Star Discovery award recipient was Claire Johnson.

The Waukon FFA chapter and its members are fortunate to have the opportunity to assist in a variety of ways within the local community. The officer team wanted to recognize the student from each class who had completed the largest number of community service hours over the last year. During the 2022-2023 school year, FFA members volunteered 81 hours within the community through their FFA involvement. The following five individuals received the Community Leadership Award: Claire Johnson, Kendra Gibbs, Sarah Stock, Ryan Kolsrud and Alaina Gebel.

The chapter then took time to recognize its supporters, including businesses, community members, school staff, administrators, janitors, cooks, Career and Technical Education members and school board members.

The Craig Levi Mathis award is presented to the FFA member who shows dedication to service and outstanding leadership qualities within his or her chapter. The recipients for this award have demonstrated significant leadership qualities during their time in FFA. It was difficult to choose just one recipient for this award, as there were two individuals who shared very similar traits and statistics in the aspects of leadership and service. The recipients of the Craig Levi Mathis award were Cassidy Gibbs and Kiersten Gibbs.

The DEKALB Agricultural Accomplishment Award is the highest award presented to a senior member in the local chapter. This highly respected award exemplifies a student’s scholarship, commitment and work ethic in their academic, leadership and agricultural work experience. This year’s DEKALB award recipient was Alaina Gebel.

The purpose of the Honorary FFA Degree is to recognize those who have provided assistance to the chapter and its members. These two individuals serve as community representatives on the Partner’s in Vocational Education Committee serving as a support system for all of the chapter’s Career and Technical Education programs. The agriculture program receives funding from the committee and they purchased a trailer for the Career and Technical Education programs to use. Lynn Sorensen and Mary Jo Goodman were each awarded their Honorary FFA Degrees.

The next degree recipient isn’t old enough to be an FFA member, but FFA has been a part of his life as long as he can remember. His passion for agriculture and helping others is transparent in all that he does. Marcus Gebel received his Honorary FFA Degree.

Without the extensive support from parents, teachers and friends, the local success in this organization would not be possible. The next individual is always supporting members of the chapter and works hard to promote the Waukon FFA in its achievements, including filling in when FFA members must leave school early for events. The final recipient of the Honorary chapter award went to Traci Byrnes.

Next, the chapter took some time to recognize some of the contest achievements of its members. Kiersten Gibbs was recognized as the Champion in Dairy Production Placement Proficiency related to her SAE. Elizabeth Fossum, Alaina Gebel, Cassidy Gibbs and Kiersten Gibbs were recognized as Reserve Champion for the State of Iowa in Dairy Cattle Evaluation, as well as Reserve State Champion in Farm Business Management. Finally, Natalie Byrnes was named the overall winner in the area of Agricultural Placement for Iowa.

In April 2023 the Waukon FFA chapter had four members receive their Iowa FFA Degree at the State Leadership Conference. The Iowa FFA Degree is the highest degree the state association can bestow upon an FFA member. The following members received their Iowa FFA Degrees: Alaina Gebel, Cassidy Gibbs, Kiersten Gibbs and Natalie Byrnes.

The State FFA believes in high academic standings. Senior FFA members who maintain a high academic standing are recognized each year at the District FFA Convention. These next three seniors have been active members for the last three years, have a grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 or higher at the end of their first semester of their senior year, and have a satisfactory SAE. Alaina Gebel, Cassidy Gibbs and Kiersten Gibbs were recognized and presented with a certificate for their high academic standing.

To conclude the banquet, the 2023-2024 officer team was installed. The 2023-2024 chapter vice-president is Ethan Gibbs, the 2023-2024 chapter secretary is Sarah Stock, the 2023-2024 chapter treasurer is Caleb Helgerson, the 2023-2024 chapter reporter is Mercedes Wilkins, the 2023-2024 chapter historian is Molly Peake, and the 2023-2024 chapter sentinel is Ryan Kolsrud. Additionally, the 2023-2024 chapter student advisor is Alyssa Connelly, and finally the 2023-2024 Little Switzerland FFA chapter president is Natalie Byrnes.