FFA Dinner and Dessert Auction benefits student leadership opportunities

Smiles and laughter filled the room in a crowd of both young and old during Sunday's third annual Dinner and Dessert Auction in the commons area at Mahomet-Seymour High School.

"This is the first time we've had a line," said Jennifer Wherley, M-S agriculture teacher and FFA chapter adviser.

Raising more than $10,000 for the 93-member high school chapter, community members gathered to celebrate the agriculture program with an evening of food and fun.

"FFA has really grown, and it's cool to see the community come out," said senior Noah Benedict, the FFA chapter's president. "Everyone's smiling and talking with the FFA members."

With the success of Sunday's event, Wherley credits the FFA's two Dinner and Dessert Auction chairs, senior Jaden Klaus, the chapter's vice president, and Michael Myerscough, the junior vice president.

"Tonight helps us raise enough funds to help with next year's goals," Klaus said.


Benefiting student competitions

Proceeds benefit the students and allow them to compete in area competitions, such as the Career Development Events, which are contests that involve area FFA chapters in both individual and team competitions. Students also hope to perform at the national competition in Indianapolis, as well as the American Royal, a livestock judging competition in Kansas City.

"The exciting part of being Mahomet-Seymour's FFA adviser is that they continue to advance to state and national levels, which is definitely something that's attributed to their talent and leadership," Wherley said. "It also means more registration fees and hotel fees that go along with something like that."

Last year, according to Wherley, the school had one national finalist in the American Royal livestock judging competition and two students who won at nationals.

"The Dinner and Dessert Auction is a great way for us to fund future award winners, so we appreciate that support from the community," Wherley said.


Rallying behind students

Lending his support as the evening's auctioneer, Andy Busch's booming voice helped auction more than a dozen desserts to community members.

"It's a fun time," Busch said. "We have some ag businesses that come out and really show their support for the FFA."

Crediting attendance records to the evening's raffle item, a 49-inch smart TV, which was won by Todd Hubble, Wherley said Fisher National Bank of Mahomet's donation yielded an increased community response.

For Wherley, events such as Sunday's Dinner and Dessert Auction provide students the opportunity to not only work hard, but also to see the genuine support of community members.

"The community support gives them an extra push," Wherley said. "Events like this are another way to watch our students grow, but also recognize them in a manner that lets them know that we're behind them."


A night of reflection

With the support of the community behind them, Sunday's Dinner and Dessert Auction allowed senior officers to reflect on their time in the FFA chapter.

Breanna Bone, a senior and the FFA secretary, said she enjoys the opportunities FFA provides to meet new people and to venture into the community.

"I never would have done that if it weren't for FFA," she added.

Interested in studying biology in college, Bone credits FFA for providing her leadership roles that better prepared her for real-world experiences.

"FFA taught me to be more comfortable with stepping into teaching roles and working with younger students," she said.

Echoing Bone's thoughts, Jenna Ward, a senior and the chapter's sentinel, said even though she will pursue a nursing degree, the FFA chapter provided her countless tools for college preparation.

"I've done a lot of interviewing, communicating and talking with the public," Ward said.

Despite the chapter's agriculture focus, Klaus also views FFA as a way for students to get their feet wet.

"FFA may show students what they want to do in their future," she said, "and the national conventions are a lot of fun, too."

The Dinner and Dessert Auction was also enjoyed by the FFA's younger members, such as Hunter Crowe, an eighth-grader. With his overall passion for agriculture extending back to his family roots, Crowe said his favorite part of FFA is the competitions.

Placing ninth overall in the dairy and cheese state competitions held at the University of Illinois, the junior high student's mother, Erica Crowe, said the competitions and the chapter provide her son a sense of "responsibility."

For Myerscough, FFA provides more than ag-based learning.

"FFA taught me a lot about leadership, and it taught me how to make difference," he said.

First hearing about FFA at her former school in Sullivan, Kameron Hacker, a sophomore and junior sentinel, found the chapter to be a unique opportunity to further her interest in becoming a botanist or studying insecticide resistance.

"It helped me grow as a person," she said. "FFA itself is rewarding and makes you feel accomplished. You learn about things that are beneficial to everyone — not just cows and plows."

Freshman Brayden Bone, who just applied to become an FFA officer, said many students would be astonished if they looked past the "stereotypes" of agriculture.

"There's such a broad spectrum available that when students really take the time to learn about it, their whole earth is shattered," he said.

Aspiring to become a highly ranked chapter officer one day, Bone looks no further than the walls of the agriculture room for inspiration, which is covered in achievements of past and present members.

"Some of those achievements are from my family members," he said. "FFA is really just a big family."

Creating a family of FFA students is Wherley's intentions. The 10-year M-S agriculture teacher said she enjoys the long tradition of students applying themselves and having the opportunity to see students succeed in the agriculture industry.

"The opportunity to help students reach their goals is something invigorating," Wherley said. "You can work for a company and help them obtain their bottom line, but there's nothing more exciting or more rewarding than helping a student."


Next on the agenda

Upcoming events for the M-S FFA chapter include the banquet, where the FFA will recognize new officers and provide an awards ceremony at Farm Credit Illinois, 1100 Farm Credit Drive, at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 26.

Other chapter events include four plant sales at the high school's greenhouse. The dates include April 24 from 5 to 7 p.m., May 4 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., May 5 from 9 a.m. to noon and May 12 from 8 a.m. to noon.

To learn more about upcoming M-S FFA chapter events, visit their Facebook page.


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