FFA Behind the Emblem: Sleepy Eye

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299 members
Sleepy Eye, Minnesota
Brown County

Tell us about your chapter. The Sleepy Eye FFA Chapter is an affiliated chapter. Every student enrolled in an agricultural class is also enrolled in the FFA chapter as part of the three-circle model. Program affiliation allows all students who are enrolled in an agricultural education program to be eligible for the benefits and opportunities of FFA as a part of the total program delivery. Under program affiliation, students have access to leadership and personal development. Skill development through FFA is not for only a select few but will be offered to every student in every class, every day. We provide countless activities for our students to be involved in all areas of our chapter, including leadership, career skill development and community service. We have opportunities for our students at the local, regional, state and national levels. The Sleepy Eye FFA Chapter makes sure to have all activities free or at an affordable rate so our students can participate. We do this with grants from United Way as well as the great work and support of the Sleepy Eye Agricultural Program Boosters.

What is unique about your chapter? Our diversity, the sheer number of opportunities we provide and safety education programs. Our school and community are about one-third Hispanic, and we are proud that our chapter reflects the diversity of our community. We are also proud that our leadership/officer team has that same reflection. We want everyone to feel like they belong in FFA. The number and diversity of our activities provides opportunities for all of our students to get involved and shine. Our chapter truly does it all so that every student can find something they enjoy in FFA. Those same activities help them grow as people and as leaders in the Sleepy Eye community. We offer many safety education programs that involve animals, chemicals, grain, tractors, machinery, all-terrain vehicles and more. We are in rural Minnesota and want to keep our kids safe whether they have animals or a farm of their own or visit one someday. We do these activities at our school, in our town, at Farmfest, at the county fair and even at the Minnesota State Fair.

How does your chapter volunteer in the community throughout the year? The Sleepy Eye FFA Chapter has many service projects, and we always try to help anyone who reaches out to us and needs our assistance. We have two ongoing programs called Wee Deliver and Adopt-a-Senior. These involve our members making cards for their third grade buddies and seniors at the care center and assisted living facilities in our town throughout the school year. Both include end-of-the-year get-togethers where our members meet and talk to different generations within our community. We also do at least one service project every month. Some of these include helping with our backpack food program, making tie blankets for the holiday box project, making the wellness kits that we present to every 7-12 grade student in our school, helping put up lights for the community lights in motion display, packing meals for Food for Kids, making spring quote posters for the nursing home, teaching safety to youth and so many more. What we love is how many of our students are willing to participate as well as develop that sense of community and genuine interest in doing something for others.

What fundraisers does your chapter do throughout the year? Our main fundraiser for our chapter is the fruit sale, in which our members are encouraged to sell at least 20 items. The members who achieve this status are able to attend the reward trip to a Mavericks hockey game. We also have a 4-acre field that is managed by the Berkner family, which is a fundraiser for our chapter. The biggest fundraiser we have is what the Sleepy Eye Boosters do for our students. Local businesses and individuals support our chapter through different levels, and we truly could not have the program we have without them.

What are the biggest events of the year? National FFA Convention & Expo, the crop show, National FFA Week, state FFA convention and the chapter banquet. This year, we were a Model of Excellence top 10 chapter in the nation. This was a huge honor for our chapter, and our members were recognized at the National FFA Convention. Our fall crop show is in conjunction with our trap show awards, Greenhand night and parents night. It showcases the junior high and high school overall winners and individual crop champions. National FFA Week is a fun and busy week for our chapter. We hold events for the entire school and involve them in dress-up days, an animal carnival, an appreciation breakfast for staff and supporters, a student dance and FFA lock-in, emblem hunt and more. It is a great way to highlight the opportunities for FFA members and celebrate with others around the country. State FFA convention is held in April, and we will have approximately 70 members participating in Career Development Events, the state FFA band and choir, earning state FFA degrees, receiving state proficiency awards and conducting service projects. We round out the school year with our chapter banquet where we present degrees and awards to our chapter members as well as recognize our biggest supporters for the year.

When was your chapter founded, and how has it evolved? The chapter was chartered in 1939 with 20 members. Our chapter was founded on the same three-circle model that we have today. The chapter is bigger than it ever has been, and we currently have three agricultural teachers in our school and 299 members. We teach classes in so many different areas, including animal science, plant science, natural resources, food science, business, welding, electricity, construction, small engines and more. We work with the parochial schools in our district and homeschooled students to allow them to be involved in the FFA chapter. Being flexible and willing to work with all of these students has definitely strengthened our program. We are proud of our chapter and its members’ involvement at the chapter, region, state and national levels.

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