Despite exciting week, Oct.’s National FFA Convention was not without controversy

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Photo Courtesy of: NCHS FFA Instagram // @normalffa

FFA and Diversity Committee members Lanah Collins and Drexel Douglass accepted Community’s Three Star Chapter award at the FFA National Convention.

Community’s FFA chapter was honored as a Three Star National Chapter at the organization’s National Convention & Expo on Oct. 28. 

The award recognizes the group’s activities last year, naming Community among the top 3% of the country’s 8,817 chapters.

Community, co-advised by Mrs. Liz Harris and Ms. Jennifer Stone, was one of 347 groups to earn the Three Star award during the 94th convention in Indianapolis.

The group was required to perform a minimum 15 activities last school year to qualify, demonstrating the FFAs standards of growing leaders, building communities and strengthening agriculture.

The award, Harris said, recognized the 200 FFA members’ activities like using recycled materials to make flower pots for Mother’s Day.

17 of the chapter’s members attended the organization’s annual convention, along with “every school in America that has an agriculture program,” Harris said, during the last week of October. 

Spread across Indianapolis landmarks like Lucas Oil Stadium and Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Community’s FFA attended presentations, participated in workshops, and toured local agricultural facilities.

 It was a “jam-packed week,” Harris said. “We tried to see as much as we possibly could in [the] five days that we were there.”

The highlights of the group’s activities included visits to dairy and shrimp farms and attending a rodeo. 

The chapter toured Tuttle Orchard, learning about growing, harvesting and selling apples before sampling apple varieties and tasting an assortment of apple products. 

Biotown, an environmentally sufficient farm, was another stop on the trip. One where the group learned how manure is made into fertilizer, electricity — enough energy for 10,000 homes, and someday, possibly, gasoline.

But despite the organization’s exciting week, the convention was not without controversy. 

Juliana Bernardi, a member of Community’s FFA, described seeing stands selling Asian conical hats and “pro-Trump merch,” stating that it encouraged cultural appropriation and political affiliation.

During the awards ceremony, Bernardi said, students in the audience were flashing the white power symbol and chanting “Let’s go Brandon,” a political statement insulting President Joe Biden.

The FFA, Bernardi said, “is supposed to be a non-political organization for everyone.” 

At Community, seniors Lanah Collins, Drexel Douglass and Amelia Rodriguez serve on a diversity and inclusion committee, attempting to make all of the chapter’s members feel included, said Harris.

Behavior at the convention, Collins, who is Black, felt “wasn’t very inviting.”

“It seems kind of standoffish to say, ‘this is our organization, we don’t really want … diverse people in it,” Collins said.

Rodriguez believes that “people need to know that that’s not what FFA is supposed to be.” While FFA, as an organization, is still learning and growing, she said “they’re a little behind.”

At the convention, Douglass “wasn’t trying to put [his] political views out there.”

“I think it would have been a lot more fun if people [followed] the same rules,” Douglass said.