by JESSICA ANDERSON
To say this year has been a busy year may be a bit of an understatement. Polk County FFA chapters have gone above and beyond in areas of career and leadership development, community service, and chapter development. We are proud of their accomplishments and want to encourage them to continue seeking ways to share agricultural education with those around them. We would like to highlight some of the accomplishments by our own Polk FFA chapters this year!
Through Career and Leadership Development Events, participating FFA members in grades 6 to 12 are challenged to develop critical thinking skills and effective decision-making skills, foster teamwork and promote communication while recognizing the value of ethical competition and individual achievement. We would like to shine a light on those FFA members that not only practiced countless hours outside of their class time but were also able to perform and successfully showcase Polk County at the state level. The following FFA Chapters finished in the top 10 statewide in their respective career development events.
- George Jenkins High School, 2nd in state
- Westwood Middle School, 8th in state
- 1st place in state, Frostproof High School
- 2nd place in state, George Jenkins High School
- 3rd place in state, Auburndale High School
- 5th place in state, Lake Gibson High School
- 9th place in state, Haines City High School
- The high individual for the entire state of Florida in the citrus evaluation career development event was Autumn Ellis from Frostproof Senior.
- For middle school, 2nd place in state, Dundee Ridge Middle School
- 3rd place in state, Frostproof Middle
- 10th place in state, Bok North
- The high individual for the entire state of Florida in the middle school citrus evaluation career development event was Josephine Sutter from Frostproof Middle.
- 1st in state, Frostproof Middle
- The high individual for the entire state of Florida in the middle school tool identification career development event was Nathan Boyd from Frostproof Middle.
- 5th in state, George Jenkins High School
- For middle school, Dundee Ridge Middle School 8th in state
- 1st place in state, Frostproof High School
- For middle schools, Frostproof Middle 2nd in state
- 6th place in state, Bartow Middle School
- The high individual for the entire state of Florida in the middle school poultry evaluation career development event was Nathan Boyd from Frostproof Middle.
Land and Homesite Evaluation: Southwest Middle, 8th place in state
Nursery and Landscape-
- 4th place in state, Auburndale Senior
- 5th place in state, George Jenkins High School
- 6th place in state, Lake Gibson High School
- 9th place in state, Bartow Senior
- For middle schools, Westwood Middle 4th in state
- Southwest Middle School, 6th place in state
- 8th in state, Lake Gibson High School
- For middle school, 3rd in state, Citrus Ridge Middle School
- Westwood Middle 8th in state
Aquaculture: Lake Gibson Middle School, 8th in state
Tractor Operations: Bartow High School, 8th in state
Meats Evaluation: Southwest Middle, 9th in state.
Ornamental Horticulture Demonstration
- In the marketing division, Hannah Ogburn and Jordan Brantley from Frostproof Senior placed 6th in the state. In the middle school division, Kaley Mixon and Kinley Stripling from Bok North placed 8th in the state.
- In the consumer use division, Celeste Harris and Lilly Purvis from Auburndale Senior placed 7th in state. In the middle school division, Lexie Buck and Caydence Baker from Dundee Ridge Middle placed 5th in the state.
- In the artistic arrangement division, Colby Mattox-McColley and Alex Jencks from Auburndale Senior placed 8th in the state
- In the production division, Kaiya Isbel from Kathleen Senior placed 9th in the state. In the middle school division, Jackson Oakes and Gerado Sandoval placed 8th in the state.
- In the landscape division, Anthony Barragan and Adrian Barragan from Dundee Ridge Middle placed 1st in the state
The following events hold their state finals at the Florida FFA State Convention and Expo in June in Orlando. The following schools won the district event and are advancing as one of the top 12 in the state. We wish them well in their competition in a few months!
Opening and Closing Ceremonies: Kathleen Middle
Creed Speaking: Raelan Sherrouse, Lake Gibson High School
Prepared Public Speaking: Savannah Watts, Dundee Ridge Middle School and Jasymyn Billano, Haines City High School
Extemporaneous Speaking: Kaylee Douge, Bok Academy North and Brooke Butler, George Jenkins High School
Parliamentary Procedure: Southwest Middle School and Bartow High School
We have a team we would like to recognize for sweeping first place in their state event and advancing to the National level of competition where they will represent not only Polk County but all of Florida in October at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis.
Frostproof Senior, Poultry Evaluation Team! Team members include Paula Ramos, Autumn Ellis, Ragan Ogburn, and Aaron Ellis. We congratulate you on your success and wish you the best of luck this fall!
Polk County Star Awards
Students earning their Discovery, Greenhand, or Chapter degree through their FFA chapter and having an established Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) were eligible to apply for a Polk County Star Award. Students completed a digital application and the top five from each degree area advanced to the personal interview round where a panel of judges interviewed them about their SAE. The following students were awarded a $100 check for their hard work and dedication to their SAE.
- Star Discovery Degree Winner: Nathan Boyd from Frostproof Middle Senior FFA won with his Supervised Agricultural Experience in Rabbit Production
- Star Greenhand Degree Winner: Juan Penaloza from Frostproof Middle Senior FFA won with his Supervised Agricultural Experience in placement with his work in watermelon harvesting and transport.
- Star Chapter Degree Winner: Alex Bryant from Frostproof Middle Senior FFA won with his Supervised Agricultural Experience in placement with his work as a ranch-hand.
State and American Degrees
The State FFA Degree is the highest degree that the State FFA Association can bestow on a member. This degree is awarded annually at the State FFA Convention to those members who have met the minimum qualifications set forth by the National FFA Organization. Polk County is proud to have several students receiving this honor at the Florida FFA Convention in June.
The following students are the 2023 Polk County FFA State Degree recipients.
- Gracie Bone, Bartow
- Tobey Price, Bartow
- Jamie Rullo, Bartow
- Emma Self, Bartow
- Joseph Shelton, Bartow
- Jacob Briggs, Frostproof
- Autumn Ellis, Frostproof
- Layna Herndon, Frostproof
- Nathan Jenkins, Frostproof
- Paula Ramos, Frostproof
- Breanna Farris, Ft. Meade
- Dakota Newsom, Ft. Meade
- MacKenzie Smith, Ft. Meade
- Hannah Clayton, George Jenkins
- Gebriella Felger, George Jenkins
- Taylor Talton, George Jenkins
- Cynthia Tortorelli, George Jenkins
- Charleigh Wood, George Jenkins
- Kayley Best, Haines City
- Jasmyn Billano, Haines City
- Emilie Huggins, Haines City
- Hope McKay, Haines City
- Kaiya Isbell, Kathleen
- Mikaylah Lampp, Kathleen
- Emma Martinez, Kathleen
- Nathaniel Bath, Lake Gibson
- Mattisen Keeble, Lake Gibson
- Caitlynn Robertson, Lake Gibson
- Wyatt Sherrouse, Lake Gibson
- Brendon Turcios, Lake Gibson
- Merry Williams, Lake Gibson
- Kieya Mathis, Lake Region High School
- Ashley Burks, Lake Wales
- Jacob Cockrell, Lake Wales
- Bailey Dykes, Lake Wales
- Samantha Shaffer, Lakeland
- Kylee Urbina, Mulberry
- Peyton Baxter, Tenoroc
- Karlin Facente, Tenoroc
- Kaylee Tomon, Winter Haven
The American degree is the highest degree available within the FFA. These students show a dedication and passion unmatched as well as an outstanding supervised agricultural experience.
It is with great pride and honor to share with the 2023 Polk County FFA members earning their American Degree:
- Abigail Parmer, Bartow
- Sarah True, Frostproof
- Allyson Keim, George Jenkins
- Dustina Garcia, Haines City
Florida FFA selects 30 FFA chapters statewide to recognize as Florida’s Finest FFA Chapters. This selection is based off of the completion of the National Chapter Award program application. FFA chapters selected have excelled in the areas of growing leaders, building communities, and strengthening agriculture and have worked to fulfill the mission and vision of the FFA. Our very own Westwood Middle School was selected as one of Florida’s Finest FFA Chapters! They will receive their plaque in June.
High Point Award
The High Point Award is a special and coveted award to Polk County FFA members. This highlights the most active and successful chapters in all of Polk County for the Year. Each year we recognize the top middle and high school chapters. To accomplish this award, these FFA chapters have been involved in nearly every local career and leadership development event we have offered. This year the High Point Award winners are Southwest Middle FFA and Auburndale Senior FFA.
Making a Difference Award
Service learning is a valuable component to the FFA organization and within each of our FFA chapters we annually plan various ways to help those in our communities. Throughout this year, we have seen several community service projects completed by our chapters like school landscaping organized by Frostproof Middle Senior, hurricane cleanup in the community by George Jenkins High School and farm days with the local elementary school organized by Mulberry High School. As a Federation officer team, we planned a service project that we titled the Making a Difference Award. One of the goals of the Federation is to unite our chapters together for a greater good. As we reflected on this during our planning meetings, we decided that this year’s Making a Difference campaign would be to promote agricultural literacy specifically at the elementary level. Florida Ag in the Classroom provided hundreds of agricultural books for our FFA chapters to use when they visited their local elementary school classrooms to introduce agriculture to our youngest Polk County Schools students. After reading to the classes, our FFA members were able to leave those books behind for the elementary teachers. Without partners like Florida Ag in the Classroom to provide these resources, we would not be able to utilize them to spread awareness of agricultural literacy throughout our community. Polk County FFA chapters collectively impacted 116 elementary classrooms county wide. This year the FFA chapter visiting the most elementary classrooms this year was a tie!
Winning the Making a Difference award this year for reading to 35 elementary classrooms is Bok Academy North and Citrus Ridge Civics Academy!
We are so proud of the accomplishments of our FFA chapter and wouldn’t have the success we have without superior agricultural educators like those teaching here in Polk County. We want to especially thank our dedicated teachers for their support of agricultural education and perpetuating strong, dedicated leaders of tomorrow. Thank you for a job well done!