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FFA contests keep our youth sharp

FFA promotes leadership qualities to young people around the nation and one of the opportunities the members have to share what they have learned are the annual contests. Career development competition options include speeches, creed speaking, demonstrations, parliamentary procedures, interview skills, and presentations of agricultural issues. All of the contests require the participants to perfect their speaking skills and present them in a variety of formats. There are eleven different categories the members can choose from.

The public speaking competitions are divided into prepared, extemporaneous, and creed with a question and answer time included in the judging. Prepared public speaking is divided into three grade categories: Jr. High, Greenhand (ninth grade), and Sr. High. Extemporaneous is for the tenth through twelfth graders while the Creed Speaking is for ninth graders.

During the Prepared Public Speaking, members will present speeches that relate to agricultural issues and be prepared to answer questions pertaining to their topic. On the other hand, Extemporaneous Public Speaking contestants need to be prepared to write their speech in a short time frame briefly before sharing it with the judges. These young people have an idea about the general subject they will speak on but not specifics until just before they sit down to write. Again, they will be asked several questions concerning the subject of their talk and their answers will be taken into consideration. The FFA Creed, penned by E.H. Fleming, is the literary work that FFA members live by. The participants memorize the piece, recite it, and answer a variety of questions relating to the creed, the FFA program, and agriculture in general.

The Demonstration section involves a team of members presenting a hands-on talk concerning agriculture. Many of these have included livestock ranging from horses to rabbits to bees. Other topics covered have been hydroponics, tree grafting, and other plant-related aspects of farming. A lot of thought goes into the props for these presentations as aesthetics play a large part in the contest.

Robert’s Rules of Order are studied and practiced as chapter teams prepare to conduct a meeting during the Parliamentary Procedure competition. The groups are encouraged to use several of the actions, presenting them properly. Individual members work together to make motions, express ideas, participate in discussion and conclude with decisions. Questions are asked of the members concerning many of the hows and whys of parliamentary procedure. The younger members compete in the Greenhand and Jr. High Conduct of Meetings while the Senior High teams will show off their skills in Parliamentary Procedure.

One important quality needed when graduating from high school and moving into the adult world of job-seeking is a set of good interview skills. FFA members have an option to pursue this contest where they complete an entire process from filling out an application to interviewing. Job Interview is for the older students and is very popular.

In this day of increased exposure due to the Internet, it is important that students who are studying agriculture learn to express facts and fiction concerning controversies. The Ag Issues competition gives them an opportunity to share the pros and cons of a subject in an appropriate setting. For example, a pseudo-Senate hearing was shared with members presenting alternate views on the issue. Other ideas have been court cases and municipality hearings. The question and answer period will reflect the member’s additional knowledge on the subject they chose.

Michigan FFA members who have won their regional crowns and the first runner-ups will compete at the Michigan State FFA Convention from March 7 – 9. The first place winners qualify for the semi-finals with second place finishers competing for the final two slots, rounding out the pool of eight contestants. Some of the contests (example: demonstrations and public speaking contests) will have an on-stage final with the top two competitors presenting to a full auditorium of FFA members. The winners are announced on stage during the daily sessions. The Michigan FFA Facebook page will reveal the winners as they are announced.