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Arizona teens, local farmer recognized by FFA Organization

December 09, 2010

Teenagers who have a love for agriculture and all that’s related to it tested their skills at the annual FFA Mid-Winter Leadership Conference, Dec. 3. Students from 39 Arizona high schools, as close as Dobson in Mesa and as far away as Monument Valley in Kayenta, competed to be state champs to represent Arizona at the National FFA Conference in Indianapolis in 2011.

Teenagers like Jordan Buzuleciu and Sammy Gubka, both juniors from Gilbert High School, competed in contests in veterinary science and ag sales, respectively. For the first time the judges were ASU students as well as those with 20 to 30 years of industry experience.

“We had to market a product and give a 10-minute presentation in front of judges,” said Gubka. “Our judge made us feel at ease and comfortable.”

Buzuleciu had a similar experience with the ASU pre-vet student judges, and as a participant believes she gains so much more beyond preparing for the FFA contest. “The FFA has provided me with career experience, leadership and public speaking skills, and I get to meet people from all over the state.”

With people from industry doing the judging, students tend to expect more of themselves, which will help prepare them to be strong contenders at future national competitions, according to George Seperich, professor in the Morrison School of Agribusiness and Resource Management in the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University Polytechnic.

“Recently, four Arizona chapters of the FFA finished in the top 10 at the National Conference,” said Seperich, the president of the FFA Foundation in Arizona. “I anticipate they will do as well if not better next year.”

For 15 years the Morrison School of Agribusiness and Resource Management has been hosting FFA conferences on the Polytechnic campus, starting out with just 47 students and 12 teachers. The Dec. 3 event welcomed 574 students, 78 teachers and 80 judges.

In addition to the contests, this year the event has expanded to include a golf tournament to help raise support for FFA conferences, contests, scholarships, camps, awards and leadership training in Arizona.

Bobbie Bolt, director of advancement for the FFA Foundation for Arizona, said the tournament brings agricultural industry sponsors and supporters together with the students so they get to meet the students and feel confident in the future of FFA and what it’s doing for youth in the state.

“We want to introduce and/or re-introduce them to what FFA is today and demonstrate students are actually learning workforce and leadership skills that will translate well in future careers in the ag industry or any industry, really,” said Bolt.

In addition to contests, leadership training workshops led by FFA Officers, many of whom are freshmen in college, were held for those participants who finished their contests early.

The conference concluded with a ceremony with some of the novice talent being recognized as state champs, and a special acknowledgement of agricultural maven June Morrison with a gift of appreciation for her family’s support over the years to FFA and agricultural education.  In October, The National FFA Organization recognized Morrison, a long-time Gilbert resident, with a VIP Citation.

Even though Buzuleciu and Gubka teams did not place, both agree the FFA means so much more to them. “Being a part of the FFA is like having a second family,” they said.

About the National FFA Organization
The National FFA Organization, formerly known as the Future Farmers of America, is a national youth organization of almost 524,000 student members across the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education.

Media Contact(s):
Christine Lambrakis, 480/727-1173, 602/316-5616,