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Nonnewaug High School's Chief News Source

NHS Chief Advocate

Nonnewaug High School's Chief News Source

NHS Chief Advocate

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Playmakers Podcast: Scott Viveros (Episode 5)
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T.J. Butkus loads his wood furnace to try to keep warm during the winter. (contributed)
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Gianna Lodice '24 and Layla Coppola '24 February 15, 2024

Woodbury FFA Students Showcase Skills at National FFA Convention

Eric Birkenberger
Woodbury FFA students gather around an FFA symbol in the lobby of the Indianapolis Convention Center during the National FFA Convention.

INDIANAPOLIS — Year after year, FFA members across the country excitedly await one of the biggest events in the FFA community: the National FFA Convention. This year, the convention took place in Indianapolis, Indiana, from Oct. 30-Nov. 4.

Fifty-three Woodbury FFA members, parents, faculty, and alumni made an appearance, along with NHS superintendent Brian Murphy.

At each year’s National FFA Convention, students have the opportunity to compete in various competitions, attend workshops and general sessions, and connect with other members from all over the nation who share the same passion. 

Following their success at the state level in the spring, Woodbury’s Quiz Bowl, Mechanics CDE, and Code of Conduct LDE teams represented the state of Connecticut at the national level. 

After a long day of travel, Oct. 31 consisted of the Quiz Bowl competition, where sophomores Boe Stokes, Macey Chimel, and Luciano Pedros completed a set of 100 questions regarding the history and current standings of the FFA.

The trio placed eighth out of 243 teams. Additionally, Pedros placed 16th individually, Chimel placed 27th, and Stokes placed 33rd. To celebrate their accomplishments, as well as the holiday taking place, the chapter had a Halloween party later that night.

On Nov. 1, attendees had the opportunity to explore the convention and expo while the Mechanics CDE and Employment Skills CDE competitors competed.

The Mechanics CDE team consisted of Noah Blood, Nathan Hayes, Devon Zapatka, and Noah Zupan. After completing a written exam and fixing different electrical systems and issues, the team placed in the bronze category. Blood, Hayes, and Zapatka placed bronze individually, while Zupan placed silver.

Emma Bigman competed in the Employment Skills CDE, where she participated in various events mocking the real-life job application process. 

“My competition consisted of completing a resume, cover letter, job interviews both in person and over the phone, follow-up letters, a networking luncheon, a job application, and a job offer through a phone call,” said Bigman. “I practiced questions with Mrs. [Jennifer] Jedd and prepared for the telephone job offer. It was difficult to prepare because you can’t exactly predict what they’ll ask you in your interviews or how the networking activity will go, but the confidence through the practice questions definitely helped me prepare.”

As a transfer student, Emma Bigman acclimated quickly to the new setting, advisors and peers. Following the stress of the rigorous competition, Bigman was happy to celebrate with the new chapter she now calls home. (Jennifer Jedd)

She advanced past the first day of competition, placing gold as one of the top 12 competitors in the nation.

“Being able to make it to the second day of competition was a gift,” Bigman adds. “I believe I’ll be able to help whoever we send next and give them tips to help them prepare for the state competition and hopefully even nationals.”

The Code of Conduct LDE team also competed Nov. 1. The team consisted of Pedros, Mia Layseca, Isabelle Longley, Connor Cabeleira, Maddie Roberts, Sabrina Myshrall, and Christa Freel. 

Within the competition, each team member completes a 25-question written exam on parliamentary procedure. Then, the group runs a mock FFA meeting, make three debates, and then are given one oral question to answer by the judge.

“We practiced every Monday with Mr. [Tom] DiMarco running mock meetings, practicing our oral questions, and studying possible parliamentary questions,” said Cabeleira.

“They got ranked as a silver medal team,” said DiMarco, Woodbury FFA Conduct Team advisor. “I think they did well. Their performance was one of the best they’ve had.”

When students weren’t competing, others were exploring the convention and expo center, attending general sessions and workshops, viewing monuments, or exploring the Indianapolis Zoo or Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“This year’s National Convention was a lot of fun attending as an officer,” said Chloe Walsh, Woodbury FFA Chapter reporter. “Last year was spectacular, but it was stressful going for a competition. I felt as though this year was all about the connections I could make, and I was able to have fun in a different way.”

On Nov. 3, the Woodbury FFA crew attended the fifth general session, where 2023 graduates Danni Syrotiak and Joey Pelletier were awarded top-four in the country for their proficiencies. Syrotiak placed in her efforts for the Environmental Science and Natural Resources Management category, while Pelletier placed in the Diversified Horticulture area.

Leading up to their awards, Danni Syrotiak, left, and Joey Pelletier completed a series of questions regarding their SAEs and individual work places. While on the national stage, the two were recognized by name and workplace description. (Jennifer Jedd)

“Being on stage was the coolest,” said Jedd, the Woodbury FFA veterinary science instructor. “All of the work is done by the students. I am just there to help them make everything come together well and make sure they make everything sound correct on their application.”

“Our students have some amazing SAE projects, and I love being able to see them recognized appropriately for all the hard work they do,” Jedd adds. “I learn more and more every year and our submissions get better every year, and hopefully we’ll get a national winner in an upcoming year.”

On Nov. 4, most Woodbury FFA members started their travels home, while some stayed to attend the last general session, which included American Degree awards, the 2022-23 national president’s retiring address, and the induction of the 2023-24 national officer team.

This year, five Woodbury FFA graduates received their American Degree: Courtney Rowland, Abby Svarga, Hannah Kostka, Jacob Wilmot, and Matthew Syrotiak. 

Matthew Syrotiak also represented not only the Woodbury FFA, but also the state of Connecticut as the 2023-24 national officer candidate. He participated in a series of interviews throughout the week. 

“I got to stay and watch the selection process in person with his mom and sister,” DiMarco said. “It was a very emotional time; there was a lot of excitement and nerves. Once they announced it, there was a bit of relief from the pressure of the nervousness. We were sad because he unfortunately wasn’t selected, but when we met up with him after he was in great spirits and was happy with the outcome of the team.”

The 16-hour bus ride after the trip gave members the opportunity to reflect on the events that took place throughout the week, relax with their peers, and view the general session footage via livestream to cheer on fellow members. 

“The bonds we made and the skills we developed were spectacular and will last a lifetime,” Walsh said. “Everyone was able to learn how to motivate others and evolve as a chapter.”

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About the Contributor
Emma Cummings '24, Senior Editor
Emma Cummings is a senior at Nonnewaug and is a senior editor for the NHS Chief Advocate, focusing on ag/FFA stories. She is from Oakville and has three dogs, a cat, and two guinea pigs at home. She is also an active member of the Woodbury FFA program at Nonnewaug. Within the Woodbury FFA, she is serving as the chapter treasurer, is a captain of the Woodbury FFA Timber Team and Milk Quality CDE team, and she shows sheep and rabbits for 4H. After high school, she plans to continue her education in the animal science field. She is very excited to partake in the Chief Advocate program as it allows her to stay engaged in the school community and what interests her.
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