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Leader no longer 'green' in FFA

10/11/2012

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

She had one thing in mind when she attended the FFA greenhand conference for the Northwest District as a freshman.

"I knew after that I wanted to do more," Beth Augustine said of that cold fall day in Smith Center in 2009.

That was three years ago.

Augustine, now a senior at Ellis High School, has done more -- and then some.

The quiet, shy girl delved into all that FFA had to offer and has emerged as a local and area leader who became chapter sentinel as a sophomore, chapter president her junior year and was elected Northwest District president her senior year.

Now, Augustine not only gets to help lead the 50-some FFA members in her own school but those in 23 other Northwest District schools in northwest Kansas as well.

"Mr. Kohman says, 'You're not even the same person,' " Augustine said of Ellis FFA adviser Bob Kohman. "I cannot put into words what FFA has done for me."

On Wednesday, Augustine joined her fellow Northwest District officers in trying to get this year's new chapter members off to a good start as approximately 225 students from 19 schools converged on Ellis High.

The district officers planned and implemented the annual greenhand conference, a kickoff for first-year FFA members that introduced opportunities in FFA and featured sessions on goal-setting and working with people.

Those just skimmed the surface of what's out there to learn, Augustine said.

"Confidence, work ethic, communication skills ... " she said, getting more excited as she started listing all the benefits of participating in the organization. "You will grow twice as large as you think you are."

Augustine didn't mince words while talking about her own goals.

"I want to go to (Kansas State University) and major in ag education," she said. "I want to teach, and I'm going to be an (FFA) adviser. Mr. Kohman is my role model."

Hill City senior Chantelle Simon, the sentinel for the Northwest District, joined Augustine in leading one of the small-group breakout sessions. Simon told students to expect bumps in the road while trying to achieve goals, but to use those as tools for enhancing their learning experience.

"There are going to be roadblocks, going to be challenges," Simon said as she and Augustine spelled out the word "smart" to highlight words to remember while pursuing their goals -- be Specific and make your goals Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-oriented.

The young greenhands listened attentively and eagerly participated in the activities.

Kohman was an active FFA member as a high school student in Abilene and said, "It's nice to see kids that I work with on a day-to-day basis have some of those same good experiences I had."

He said the greenhand conference is a good chance for young students to get a chance to work with more experienced members on a first-name basis.

"When they get a chance to work with district and state officers, it really gets them charged up," he said of greenhands. "I think there is some awe, and a lot of respect for those older kids."

Augustine said she remembers her junior high days of watching her older sister, Ashley, participate in FFA activities and hopes her two younger siblings can gain some of the same enthusiasm for FFA from her.

Augustine's younger brother, Ryan, is a freshman and was one of 26 Ellis greenhands attending Wednesday's conference. And her youngest sister, Lindsay, is an eighth-grader for whom Augustine has high expectations.

"I can see her being chapter president," Augustine said of Lindsay. "She's always trying to outdo me."

Now that would be a smart goal for Lindsay, trying to keep up with big sis, who embraces FFA opportunities with a zest -- right down to wearing her FFA jacket.

"I love wearing official dress," she said, glancing down at her Northwest District jacket with the word "president" embroidered below her name. "It gives me confidence and makes me feel good being a part of something so much bigger than me. I'm so proud to be a part of it."

* * *

Norton High School dominated the FFA information test at Wednesday's Northwest District greenhand conference at Ellis, but it was a close contest for the top 10 spots.

Only four points separated the top score of 50 and the 10th-place score of 46. Norton swept the top six places in that contest, while Stockton won the FFA information spelldown, and Logan finished 1-2 in the FFA creed speaking contest.

Following are the winners of the three contests:

* FFA information test -- 1. Peyton Renner, Norton, 50; 2. Molly Maddy, Norton, 50; 3. Cameron Heikes, Norton, 49; 4. Quinton Wentz, Norton, 49; 5. Brooke Sumner, Norton, 48; 6. Nick Peterson, Norton, 48; 7. Nikki Vuong, Hays High, 47; 8. Daylan Carlson, Stockton, 47; 9. Elizabeth Keltz, Bird City-Cheylin, 46; 10. Donny Riffel, Stockton, 46.

* FFA information spelldown -- 1. Donny Riffel, Stockton; 2. Nikki Vuong, Hays High; 3. Peyton Renner, Norton.

* FFA creed speaking contest -- 1. Christen Greving, Logan; 2. Kinzie Alexander, Logan; 3. Molly Maddy, Norton; 4. Jarrett Pfannenstiel, Hays High.