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LAGRANGE, IN — In 1965, the consolidated school system of Prairie Heights, LaGrange, IN, hired Ned Stump to teach agricultural classes and serve as the school’s FFA adviser. During his tenure, the program graduated a number of students, developed a school farm and outdoor classroom, and began a camping trip to Canada that continues today. Recently, the Prairie Heights FFA Alumni hosted a 50th Anniversary Canada Achievement Trip Celebration at the Sears Community Center on the grounds of the Prairie Heights School Farm.

Co-teachers Ron Noll and Ben Leu ended their summer with this opportunity to share memories with former students and trip participants. Both men were students under Stump and FFA members at Prairie Heights.

“It is an annual week long trip to Skookum Lake in Ontario, Canada that starts on the fourth Saturday in June,” Noll said. “It is located about an hour and 15 minutes from Sault Ste. Marie. The students earn the trip through a point system with the top 15 point earners going on the trip. We have had students earn up to 1000 points.”

The students acquire the points in a variety of ways, according to Noll. Any student in the program, from freshman to senior, may try to go on the trip which is completely funded by the FFA program. Opportunities to earn points present themselves as cleaning the grounds, competing in the various contests, attending functions sponsored by the FFA program, and participating in community service.

The chapter earns money by selling the crops grown on the farm, renting the grounds for weddings and family get-togethers, a plant sale in the spring and an ice cream stand at the Steuben County (IN) Fair. The monies are used toward the Canada trip as well as sending students to camps and conventions.

During the week, each camper is responsible for food prep and cleanup along with planning games or competitions. Other activities included hiking, fishing, talking around the campfire, and a yearly visit to  the Thessalon Bible Chapel.

“They (Thessalon Bible Chapel) look forward our visit every year,” Noll said. “As a matter of fact, they had a welcome on the overhead projector this last year.”

The alumni created a fundraiser during the celebration that invoked lots of memories and laughter along with money for their scholarship fund. Alumni president Laura Van Roessel read from a list that was compiled by former attendees and referred to as ‘Skookum Sins’. For each ‘sin’ the person committed, they could drop change into one of the jars on the tables. Some of the indiscretions mentioned were water balloon fights, placing a spider in someone’s suitcase, and trapping someone in the outhouse along with other common high school pranks.

The attendees of the celebration appreciated a carry-in dinner featuring lasagna made in a Dutch oven over a campfire along with the sharing of photos and stories.

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