FFA reaps another state championship

Amelia Martens
ORION FFA Students won the state championship in ag communications on Saturday, May 2, in Normal. The team will go on to the national competition this fall in Indianapolis. From left are Alyssa Zwicker, Amelia Martens, Craig Shehorn, Sara Clifton and Melissa Fielding.

The Orion FFA Chapter is headed to national competition again.

On Saturday, May 2, the Ag Communications team placed first at the state contest held at Heartland Community College in Normal.

Orion participants were Alyssa Zwicker, Melissa Fielding, Craig Shehorn, Sara Clifton and Amelia Martens.

The contest consisted of two written tests, a presentation, and individual practicums. 

Upon arrival at Heartland College, team members took a written test on communications, spanning topics from article writing to broadcast journalism. 

The second test was an editing assignment. Members were handed an article and asked to correct all mistakes. 

“The tests were surprisingly difficult, but I studied hard and got good results,” Shehorn remarked.

The next phase of competition was the presentation. Weeks before the contest, the team got together to discuss their presentation topic, which was FFA community involvement. 

From there the team selected the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life as their presentation platform. The main goal of the presentation was to express to the judges how the event would be publicized.

Before the presentation was written, a proposal was created. The 12-page proposal outlined how the event was chosen, its details and how it would be publicized. Also included was a preliminary budget for publicity. 

Orion’s proposal placed first at the state contest.

Once that was complete, the fun began. 

Sara Clifton created a PowerPoint slide show for the presentation. The slide show gave an overview of the entire event as well as summarizing the different means of communication. 

Meanwhile Zwicker, Fielding, Shehorn and Martens worked on supporting documents. 

In the proposal, the team stated that they would publicize Relay for Life through the use of brochures, flyers, posters, displays, radio announcements, TV stories, the Facebook social networking site, the school websites, announcements in the school’s daily Chargergram, and press releases in newspapers. 

Team members spent an entire Saturday morning plus many hours of their own time developing all of the supporting documents to display during their presentation. 

“We put a lot of time and effort into everything that our presentation needed, in hopes of making it a state-winning project,” Clifton said.

With all of the supporting documents complete, the team could put together the oral side of the presentation. During the week leading up to the contest, team members spent every morning before school practicing their parts. 

“We all worked really well at the practices, which contributed to our success at the contest,” Fielding noted.

At the contest, the team placed second with their presentation. 

“We had great supporting documents and did well with our public speaking,” Zwicker said. “Both added to our accomplishment.” 

Then it was time for the individual practicums. At 12:30 p.m., all 35 FFA members competing in the contest gathered for a press conference given by Dr. J. Randy Winter, a professor at Illinois State University. 

Winter gave his comments on wind energy while members frantically scribbled down notes.

Each Orion participant had a specific task after the press conference. Zwicker was to make a graphic design with the information, while Fielding created a website and Shehorn developed a radio broadcast. Clifton wrote a press release and Martens wrote a news story.

Each member placed in his or her practicum area. Zwicker placed first for graphic design, Shehorn placed first for his broadcast, Clifton second for her press release, Fielding third for her website and Martens third for her news story. 

“We put lots of hard work and effort into the contest and the end result was marvelous,” Shehorn said.

When all of the scores were added up, Orion had won, making it the second state contest they won this year. 

“I am extremely proud of this year’s team. This was the first year for the event so we had no idea of what to expect,” Orion FFA advisor Jay Solomonson said. “The team really pulled together and was rewarded with a state title.”

Needless to say all of the team members were elated. 

“I’m super excited,” Fielding exclaimed.

“This was my first FFA contest and I was happy to contribute to a winning team,” Clifton remarked.

“We’re all good friends and I’m glad that our team can keep going,” Zwicker said.

“I’m very excited that I won the broadcasting category, and I’m looking forward to receiving our award at the state convention in June, plus the competition at nationals in October,” Shehorn observed. “Not many seniors get the opportunity to compete in FFA events after they graduate, but I am fortunate enough to.”

The team will compete at the National FFA Convention Wednesday, Oct. 21, through Friday, Oct. 23, in Indianapolis.