FFA members honored at end-of-the-year banquet

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS Chapter advisor Stacy Fritz speaks about how FFA has been important to her own life and to the lives of her students, as co-advisor Tim Willette listens.

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS Chatfield FFA seniors retire their corduroy jackets at the close of the FFA banquet.

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS Isaac Rain, Chatfield High School's 2018-2019 FFA chapter president, addresses the audience at the opening of the FFA banquet held last Wednesday evening.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Nearly 200 people gathered last Wednesday evening, May 15, to celebrate the 2018-2019 Chatfield High School FFA chapter’s accomplishments during the 20th annual FFA awards banquet held in the gymnasium.

Advisor Stacy Fritz shared that there were 77 members receiving awards throughout the evening. “Welcome, and we’re glad you came. We fed 190 people tonight, and we appreciate all the support you’ve given. We had 77 students on slate for awards tonight, and we took 54 to state. I’m thankful for (co-advisor) Tim Willette being at state because, on Monday, when all the kids are in competitions, he keeps track of them and lets me do my job helping the kids who are scared, who don’t know where they’re supposed to go or want to know if I have ibuprofen or if they’ve gone to the wrong place.”

 She reported, this year, the chapter got second place at state, after getting first place last year.

“There are 470 points…getting first place every year is definitely not something that we want to set ourselves up for, but we love that second place, as we missed first place by just a few points,” Fritz said. “We have gone second, second, first and second, and our goal over the years is to get into the top ten. This is the sixth year in a row that we’ve been in the top ten chapters in Minnesota. We appreciate all the support – we couldn’t do it without you. Also, we’re a three-star chapter at nationals again, and that’s the highest award a chapter can receive. This is the second year in a row.”

Fritz then introduced the students who received their FFA State Degree at the state convention – Jacob Fenske, Isaac Rain, Logan Johnson and Aaron Lowrey – as well as American Degree recipients Alex Coe and Brandon Stephas. She commented that those degrees are the most an FFA member can achieve at the state and national levels.

Fritz also distributed numerous other awards such as the honorary membership degree given to members of the community who have shown exceptional support of the FFA chapter’s activities, and the staff appreciation award that honors the staff members who have given FFA their time and talents. Lanny and Kathy Isensee and All-American Co-op received the honorary membership degree, while departing high school instructor Dave Hinck and school counselor Lindsey Olsen were given the staff appreciation awards. Member and officer Isaac Rain was chosen for the Outstanding Service Award, while Carissa Campbell and Chase Ketterhagen each accepted the Outstanding Leadership Award.

June Hammell then stood to speak and present the scholarship award given in memory of her son, Jared, for whom the FFA holds an annual memorial volleyball tournament to raise scholarship funds.

“Bernie and I would like to thank everyone who continues to support the scholarship program. This year’s recipients are Carissa Campbell, Jacob Fenske and Alaina Faye, Shelby Isensee, Adrianna Crawford and Kaci Goldsmith,” she said.

A representative of the Chatfield FFA Alumni Association was on hand to give that organization’s scholarships to students, but first called for applause for Fritz and Willette for their dedication to the FFA’s success. Kaci Goldsmith, Shelby Isensee, Alanna Goetzinger, Carissa Campbell, Adrianna Crawford and Jacob Fenske each received an award from the association before the Fillmore County Pork Producers chose Kaci Goldsmith for its scholarship.

The time came for senior FFA members to hang up their blue corduroy jackets as a symbol of their final high school FFA experience.

Fritz, an aficionado of flannel shirts, had hung her favorite gray flannel shirt on her tall swivel chair for them to use as a coatrack as part of an ongoing competition between teacher and students to see who could make the other cry over bittersweet occasions, though both sides had declared it a standoff.

“I didn’t do this to embarrass you, but it’s the symbolism…it’s OK to tear up,” Fritz said.

She went on to highlight that some of the students she has advised are graduating this year and have been in FFA since seventh grade, meaning that she’s been with them for the entirety of their high school careers and made them special snacks before big competitions.

However, she related that FFA and agricultural education likely saved her from becoming someone else, and that she’s made it her mission to be a role model for her students. “My ag teacher actually saved me from myself,” she shared. “I had a brother who was killed in a car accident when I was 13, and by the time I got to high school, I was bent on getting into trouble. My ag teacher turned me around and got me excited about FFA. It’s made all the difference and why I became an ag teacher. Some of these kids are coming to the end of a chapter in their lives, and they’re going to go out and do exciting things, so congratulations to them.”

Retiring officers gave up their seats at the head of the room to the 2019-2020 officers – Rain retained his place as president, and Vice President Crawford made way for Beatrice Martin. Martin moved up the table from her place as secretary and welcomed Paige Erickson. Treasurer Goldsmith gave her seat to Ben Roline and Goetzinger passed on her role as reporter to Zayda Priebe. Isensee greeted Logan Johnson, Campbell introduced Sydney Allen as alumni representative and Morgan Zwart departed as historian but welcomed Sami Austin as student advisor.

Rain called for all in attendance to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, after which no further business was found on the evening’s program. Ketterhagen interrupted the adjournment, though, with a statement he wanted to make. “I would like to thank Fritz for all the fond memories, and I’d like to thank everybody for coming out to support us.”

The chapter expressed its appreciation to those who donated to the banquet, including Scott and Jean Winslow, Kappers Big Red Barn, Taher, Inc., and the Chatfield High School kitchen and custodial staff.