Pilot Point FFA fields three teams at state
By Abigail Allen
Three FFA teams at Pilot Point High School have been competing at the state level this week, but this year’s competition has had a twist—the competitors haven’t left town.
The Career and Leadership Development Events competitions have happened remotely.
“For district and area, everything was — our speeches and our performances — were recorded, and then we’d do live Zoom call questions,” Piper Brownlee said. “And with state, we’re given the opportunity to actually do the speeches and performances in front of our judges.”
Eight students have had the opportunity to display their skills. Avery Brown, Brownlee, Caroline Vincent and Jake Miller make up the Public Relations team.
“Our whole theme is talking about how FFA can bring us into the workforce, and it’s really beneficial, especially because I’m a senior and I’m about to be in college and into the workforce,” Brownlee said.
A huge component of public relations is being convincing, and that’s exactly what the students’ mentors, husband-and-wife team Blake and Sarabeth Hesteande, have helped them learn how to be, Brown and Brownlee said.
There’s a set list of 20 questions that the judges can pull from to test the team members’ knowledge of their topic.
This is Brown and Brownlee’s fourth year to be part of the public relations team, and it’s their first time to qualify for state.
“It really shows how much we’ve grown as a team,” Brownlee said.
Brown and Vincent are also part of the Radio team, with Ty Whitely as the third member.
“It’s just like a radio broadcast,” Brown said. “We have to have lots of character in our voice and speak very clearly. Can’t studder or anything like that, so you have to be very precise with what you say and how you say it.”
And there can be no background noise, she added.
“You have to take all your jackets off, your shoes, all that,” she said.
This is Brown’s first time to be on the team. She was inspired to try for it this year after helping last year’s team prepare.
The Senior Skills team features Aaron Strittmatter, Aiden Bickers and Maddye Pope.
For it, the students demonstrate their knowledge of skills they’ve attained through FFA.
Unlike Public Relations and Radio, Senior Skills includes a demonstration of the specific technical skills the students have learned. The piece of equipment Bickers, Strittmatter and Pope presented about this year is a mower.
“We go in and give a presentation on maintenance and taking care of the mower, pretty much,” Bickers said.
“But you just have to demonstrate an agricultural-related skill and just show your knowledge on it,” Strittmatter added.
Although the competitions this year from the district level up have been different than ever before, the students said they’re grateful for the experiences they’ve had from competing.
Brown feels like she’s benefitted from the way the competitions have happened this year, she said, because performing for a camera doesn’t cause the same adrenaline spike that performing in front of other people does.
“I’d be more nervous, so I’d mess up more,” Brown said. “Now that I’m just in front of a screen, I’m totally chill about it.”
They miss the trips, though.
Bickers and Strittmatter, who were on the Junior Skills team together their freshman year and made it to state as part of the Senior Skills team last year, said they hoped to take first place in state this year.
The outcome of the competitions was not determined by press time. If any of the teams won their events, that means the younger students can’t compete the following year in that same event.
Bickers said he’ll carry the skills he’s learned with him throughout life.
“Actually being able to work on mechanics myself, I won’t rely on somebody ... to do my work for me,” he said.
Strittmatter agreed with Brown, Brownlee and Bickers that the Hesteandes have taught them much more than just how to navigate the agricultural sciences world.
“[We’ve learned how to have] a good speaking voice from Mr. Hesteande, and just teaching us, having faith in us,” Strittmatter said. “Teaching us how to memorize scripts and how to say it to a group of judges has really helped us giving speeches in class or just talking to a group of people for a project or whatever it may be.”
The students also encouraged others to follow in their footsteps.
“If you’re hesitant in joining FFA, you definitely should because it’s so beneficial and you’ll thank yourself for joining later,” Brownlee said. “It’s done so many good things for me, and I’m just so thankful for our program.”