The Park Rapids FFA returned to the national FFA convention in October for the first time in over three decades.
Six Park Rapids members traveled to Indianapolis for the 94th national FFA convention along with their FFA advisors, Stephen Funk and Amber Seibert. Jim Neubauer also attended to help chaperone and coordinate the schedule for Jillian Neubauer as she competed in the national FFA talent competition.
In total, nearly 60,000 FFA members from across the country attended the convention this year.
By being selected into the in-person rounds of the talent program, Jillian was among the top 20 acts from across the country. She had to prepare and submit 10 different pieces that she would perform on the piano and had the opportunity to play all of them during the convention.
Jillian played on the talent stage at the Indiana Convention Center multiple times during the convention and had the chance to play a baby grand piano as entertainment for over 350 distinguished guests at the FFA Foundation breakfast for almost an hour.
Jillian said, "Going to national convention in Indianapolis has been the highlight of my high school career thus far. The support I received, not only from our group but everyone I met, will be something that I will remember forever. It was amazing to see all of the people that gathered together, unified as one, and I was proud to represent the Park Rapids FFA."
The rest of the Park Rapids students were attending as delegates to take in workshops, sessions and keynote speakers, network with members from across the country and attend the world’s largest career and college fair.
Delegates attending for Park Rapids FFA were Kelsey Berghuis, Isaac Knapp, Eli DeVore, Hailey Kimball and Tyler Hillukka.
The delegates visited the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis, where they got to see paintings, art, pottery, and artifacts of western Native Americans and their culture.
The career and college fair consisted of more than 250 exhibitors, and it was a great opportunity to explore the many career pathways in agriculture and natural resources.
DeVore said, “I loved being able to experience the colleges from all over the country. It was also very cool to meet with other members from across the nation.”
Students participated in several workshops that focused on the various parts of the FFA mission statement – premier leadership, personal growth, and career success. It was a great time to network with other chapters from around the country.
Berghuis said, "I loved being surrounded by people who are interested in some of the same things that I am. It was fun to see Indianapolis too!”
Hillukka exclaimed, “I had a great time. … I learned so much about putting back into the community and working hard to help others and myself.”
The group got to experience new foods and culture. They stopped at Millenium Park in Chicago, walked along Lake Michigan, visited historic sites, identified some of the local flora and fauna and even got to shake the hands of a couple of national FFA officers.
Convention was a very rewarding experience for the Park Rapids FFA advisors as well. Seibert said, “I loved seeing the ways our students embraced the entire convention experience. They represented Park Rapids so well! They visited with colleges, learned about career opportunities from industry professionals, attended leadership workshops and were attentive and respectful during keynote speeches and sessions.
“National FFA Convention is a trajectory-changer for many students, and I am excited to see the ways these students will use what they learned at the convention to impact our chapter and community.”
Funk added, “It was powerful to see our students finally have the chance to experience something in-person and to see them have the same type of networking opportunities that countless FFA members have experienced in the blue jacket. Our chapter even got mentioned during a national officer’s retiring address as a program that was making a difference by chartering, growing and giving opportunities to our students in the midst of a global pandemic.
“Our members in attendance did a great job getting involved to make the most of their convention experience, and now I hope that they will bring those lessons back to apply in our school and community.”