The Waterloo FFA chapter brought another accolade home this weekend after it won an award Thursday during the National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis.
The group won the National Premier Chapter Award in the growing leaders category, making the Waterloo chapter one of five to win an award of that level this year.
“Growing leaders is the area I’m most proud of what we do in the program,” Waterloo FFA advisor Tim McDermott said, noting it focuses on leadership skills that will be valuable after students graduate. “I’m proud of the work that the students do and look forward to what they’re able to continue to do with the skills they developed through the activities they participated in.”
As part of the growing leaders category, the Waterloo FFA completed activities in various areas like personal growth and scholarship.
To win this award, however, it focused on its work to develop healthy lifestyles.
In that area, chapter members created an exercise video titled “Fun Fitness in Agriculture” for students in grades 1-3 to use in physical education classes or at home.
“We had no idea this would ever get where it was. The main objective was to work with younger students in the district and community while also promoting healthy lifestyles,” Waterloo FFA Vice President Charles Dake said. “We expected it to impact the students at the high school and at Zahnow, but we never expected it to go as far as we did.”
Dake and Waterloo FFA Reporter Alexis Mudd were two of the leaders of the project, working with a committee of FFA members of various ages that included Megan Vogt, Sophia Dell and Riley Middendorf.
The chapter officers, which did not include Dake and Mudd at the time, came up with the idea.
Zahnow Elementary School P.E. teacher Karla Bivins was also instrumental in creating the video.
To win this national award, the chapter completed an application and went through three rounds of judging.
The first one of those took place in April at the state level, where judges decided that application qualified for national consideration.
This summer, judges determined the Waterloo FFA made the top 10 and would therefore compete for the chapter award at the national event, which took place last week in Indianapolis.
Those judges also told the chapter to focus on the healthy lifestyles portion of its application.
At that point, Dake and Mudd started working on a presentation on the video that included 10 slides with numerous pictures.
In the eight-minute presentation, the students explained the project, highlighting that it had impacted over 400 elementary students and FFA students who worked on the effort.
Following the presentation, Dake and Mudd faced eight minutes of questions from the judges.
Both students said they knew they felt good afterwards.
“As soon as we walked out of the room,” I knew that was definitely the best presentation we had ever given,” Mudd, a WHS junior, said.
As the students waited to learn how they performed, Dake said he tried to convince himself to be happy with making it to the top 10 at nationals, considering there are over 8,600 FFA chapters
So, when it was announced on stage that Waterloo won the award, it took a moment for it to register with him.
That was not the case for Mudd.
“It was thrilling we found out we were in the top 10 in the first place because we worked so hard on it,” she said. “Then we worked hard on the presentation and a lot of stress went into that. Then being on stage and they said Waterloo, it was like ‘oh my gosh.’ I felt like I was hit by a truck.”
When Dake realized what happened, he had a similar experience.
“I was just so happy that all of that hard work and dedication, not only from our chapter and committee members, but also from the work on the presentation, came out an award-winning, number one chapter award,” the WHS senior said.
In addition to the national chapter award, the Waterloo FFA was named a three-star chapter – a distinction it has earned several times in recent years.
New FFA bus
Waterloo FFA members traveled to nationals in style, as the chapter recently purchased a new 2020, 14-passenger activity bus.
That replaced the group’s 2005 version, which it had for about six years.
Taxpayers did not have to pay for the new automobile at all because the chapter received a $10,000 grant and alumni funding to pay for it.
The alumni have been purchasing buses and vans for the Waterloo FFA for years.
“It just allows us to have transportation to get the FFA members to all the activities that we get involved in and lead up to the growing leaders award and all the things that go into that,” McDermott said.