Killion honored as state champion in FFA

Sara Clifton
As Orion FFA’s newest state champion, Anthony Killion, left, receives congratulations from chapter advisor Jay Solomonson. Killion, the state winner in agriculture education, was honored during the Illinois FFA convention this week.

Winning state in any event whether sports or vocational is a big deal, especially if you’re one of only two people in Orion history to win such an event.

Anthony Killion, a 2011 graduate of Orion High School, won the state Ag Education Proficiency event on Saturday, April 2, at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Killion completed his SAE (supervised agricultural experience) on his work at Boy Scout Merit Badge Camp at Loud Thunder, last summer.

He has been an Eco/Con or Ecology Conservation teacher for the past three summers at Camp Loud Thunder.

This year it will be no different, Killion headed out on Sunday on Sunday, June 5, for staff week. He will work with scouts until about June 20.  

As an Eco/Con teacher Killion kept his record book, part of the project requirement on his duties at camp.  

“Each year we are given certain badges to certify scouts in. I then develop lessons and present them to the scouts. I’m then able to sign off on the badges if they meet the requirements,” Killion said.

The record book and an interview are the two portions of the competition.  First round is districts, second are sectionals and the third level is state.  This year districts and sectionals were both held in Geneseo.  State was held at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

After competing in the event for the past three years, this is the highest ranking that Killion has received. At each level there are four other participants to go up against. But, this year Killion was the only one at sectionals for this category, advancing him to the state competition, which he won.

Although he came out with a win, the day didn’t start off just as he had expected. Not feeling well that morning, for a number of reasons, and having competitors that seemed to be very enthused for the interviews, he felt nerves starting in.

“All of our interviews were very long, we were the second to last group to finish interviews that day, but I felt that mine was shortest and I had also gone first which made me feel less confident about winning for some reason. The judges also pointed out that there was a mistake in my record keeping, and this shook my confidence,” Killion noted.

In the end all was well.

“I had to check my ears when they said I'd gotten first place because I felt that the other students had done a better job, for no other reason than I felt unsure of my project's quality against theirs,” Killion explained.

Now that he has won state, he received his pin this week during the Illinois FFA State Convention at the Prairie Capital Convention Center, in Springfield.

His project has now been submitted and he may get the chance to go to the national competition this fall at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis.

“I had to fill out an application about my project, where it will now be sent to the National level. They will only pick four participants for each area to compete from the entire 50 states,” Killion noted.

If chosen for a spot in the national competition, Killion will be interviewed based upon what was in his application.

“No record books will be seen at the national level, it is very focused on the interview portion,” Killion said.

“It is more about the project itself and not so much the record keeping, although they see a little bit of it in the application,” he noted.

Killion said that the most important thing he has learned from his ag education experience was interpersonal skills and especially good job interview skills.

“I also hope to become a park ranger and educating people is just one important part of that job,” Killion added.

He now plans to attend Black Hawk College in Moline and then transfer to Western Illinois University and major in their parks and tourism program.

In his past FFA experiences, he has participated mostly

in the CDE (career development experience) area. He has competed in forestry all four years of high school, agronomy last year, and this year horticulture and ag business.

Killion said he enjoyed all of the events equally. “Each is different so it is hard to pick a favorite,” he noted.

The FFA state degree and now state ag education proficiency winner summed up his experience by saying, “it was quite a surprise to win.”

“I expected to go to state this year because I had lost districts the year before by a quarter of a point,” Killion said.  

“But in hindsight I think I had nothing to fear. (Orion FFA?advisor Jay) Solomonson had said that the project that won the year before was very similar to mine. It felt a little unreal, and still does to a point, that my job at Loud Thunder was the best ag education project in Illinois,” Killion concluded.