PEM sends first-ever team to national FFA competition
By Janet Kubat Willette
Date Modified: 05/21/2012 1:34 PM
PLAINVIEW, Minn. — Plainview-Elgin-Millville is sending a team to the National FFA Convention.
The six-person Agriculture Issues Forum Career Development Event team took first place at the state FFA convention, earning a chance to compete at the national level.
It is the first time ever that a CDE team from PEM has won in state FFA competition. The chapter started in Plainview 78 years ago.
Team members Blake Betcher, Caroline Rother, Ashley Klassen, Becky Duden, P.J. Aarsvold and Dan Evers selected a topic in February and started their research.
Their topic? Silica sand mining.
They selected the topic as a group, said their FFA adviser and coach Steve Hinrichs, who also teaches agricultural education at PEM. The topic is in the newspaper all the time and there's plenty of resources available.
It's also a local issue, said Rother, a junior. She knows of area farms that have been surveyed for their silica sand content. Her father is also on a town board that is struggling with the issue.
Team members thoroughly researched the issue, compiling the required 10 page bibliography and learning a lot. They knew the issue well, earning 23 points out of a possible 25 on the question portion of their presentation.
Betcher, a senior, did an independent study project on silica sand and was responsible for creating the team's powerpoint presentation. There was so much information on silica sand mining, he needed to narrow his focus and concentrate on the topics they'd selected.
He started with 28 slides and winnowed it down to 15 to fit into the allotted 15 minutes for presentation time at state convention. They didn't compete at the region level, as few teams across the state compete in this event. They competed against six teams from across Minnesota at the state convention on April 24. They were third to give their presentation, starting at 8:45 a.m. It was shortly after noon at the fourth general session that they learned they'd won.
The top five teams were told to go backstage. All six teams went backstage because no one knew how they placed. One team was told they wouldn't need to go on stage. The others proceeded up the stairs and crowded onto the white lines on stage.
One by one, the names of the winning teams were announced.
Friends told them they were the most animated group onstage, said Klassen, a junior. Other teams that won simply stepped forward to receive their awards; they expressed their shock and surprise at winning before being handed the plaque.
Rother had left the convention with Hinrichs and other FFA members before the fourth general session began. They were at a McDonalds when Hinrichs received a call on his cell phone. He took the call outside and she saw him pacing the parking lot. She was sure it was bad news.
"I was blown away," Rother said of when she heard the news. "I obviously had no idea we were going to win."
Preparing for convention required individual study and group preparation. They presented both sides of the silica sand debate, wearing different hats to illustrate their roles.
Evers, a sophomore, presented the farmers point of view. Duden, a junior, played a biologist. Klassen, a Sunday School teacher who loves children, played a mother. Rother played the construction worker. Aarsvold, a sophomore, and Betcher were narrators. Their roles coincided with their interests and talents.
Their closing statement was "What hat would you wear?" Klassen said.
Hinrichs pushed them to do their best in the competition, running through the presentation a final time the night before. He encouraged them to keep rehearsing.
"I'll tell you what, they nailed it that day," he said.
Now, they'll begin preparing for national competition.
They're not sure what the parameters of that competition will be, but they know it will be in a large room and that their presentation will be videotaped. A person will stand by the door so no one enters or exits during it.
At state, about 20 people — including their fans, teams that had already went and three judges — watched their presentation.
Paul Aarsvold, PEM agricultural education teacher and FFA adviser, and Val Aarsvold, Minnesota FFA Foundation executive director, also helped the team prepare.