HERMISTON — Stepping off a bus, coming back from their trip to a national competition, Hermiston High School students seemed upbeat. On Sunday, Oct. 30, bags in hand, they spoke excitedly about their recent victories, and they relayed tales of their journey to Indianapolis and back.
Their mentor, ag teacher and FFA advisor Sandy McKay, boasted of their achievements.
“They did great,” he said.
McKay took the trip with them, and he was the first person off the bus when it stopped on the side of the school.
Members of the Hermiston FFA team competed in four divisions — Employment Skills, Creed Speaking, Food Science & Technology and Conduct.
Among the top winners was Kylie Temple, who placed fourth in the nation and received a gold medal in the Employment Skills division.
“Employment Skills requires extreme dedication to be successful with a lot of onus placed on the student to put in the extra hours creating a resume and other employment documents, going through dozens of practice interviews and polishing networking skills,” McKay said.
He spoke highly of Temple as a person and a student.
“Kylie has shown time and again that she is one of the most impressive young ladies around,” he said. “Her work ethic and naturally outgoing personality have aided her in becoming one of the most hirable high school students in the nation.”
Temple said this is the biggest win she has ever experienced in FFA, though the victory doesn’t tell the full story.
“It isn’t just winning fourth in the nation that really excites me,” she said.
Temple said she was most excited about the success of her team, as well as being in the company of outstanding people from different parts of the country.
“We became friends so quickly,” she said of the people she met at the competition.
She added she and members of her opponents formed a group chat on Instagram and even created inside jokes.
“We didn’t really even care about winning,” she said. “We all had a passion for agriculture. Yeah, we were there competing against each other, but we had a good time.”
Having come back, she said she wants to continue competing in ag events and mentoring younger FFA members.
“Wherever FFA takes me, that’s where I want to go,” she said.
Other big winners included Ainsley McCann, who received a bronze medal.
“Creed speaking is the entry level public speaking contest for first year FFA members,” McKay said. “Ainsley won the Oregon State competition as a freshman.”
The FFA advisor credited McCann for doing extremely well in Indianapolis.
“It takes a lot of composure and courage to stand on a stage by yourself and perform a speech and face the judge’s questions,” he said. “We are very proud of Ainsley and her amazing accomplishment.”
McCann, who was competing in her first national FFA competition, said she felt proud of herself and happy about the trip.
“I feel super good about it,” she said. “It was super cool, seeing all the other state winners. We made it to the same point, and it was an honor to be around them.”
Meeting new people, she said, was the best part of the trip. McCann added she hopes she is able to make the trip next year.
Food Science & Technology
Elizabeth Doherty, Cadence Cooley, Isela Echols and Hector Leal made up the Food Science team, and it received a bronze award.
“Individually, Isela received a silver medal, and Elizabeth, Cadence and Hector received bronze medals,” McKay said.
Food Science & Technology is a complicated competition that incorporates all components of food safety, handling and product design, McKay explained.
“I’m proud of us,” Cadence Cooley said. “I think we did really well as a team.”
She added this trip was a learning experience as it gave her a better understanding of the origins of her food.
Echols said this was a good experience for her, too.
“I was very impressed with myself,” she said. “I gave a lot of hard work.”
Both Cooley and Echols stated they had fun on the trip to Indianapolis, which included stops for activities, including zip lining and visiting a zoo.
Still, McKay was all business when describing the students’ success.
“This team was rebuilt for the national competition,” the advisor said of the team. “These kids have worked very hard to be ready for the highest level of competition.”
Conduct of Chapter Meetings
Elle Blakely, Cozette Cooley, Jaydan McKim, Payton Howard, Amy Armstrong, Addison Garberg and Alexis Castillo, together, received a gold team award and individual gold medals, according to their advisor.
“The Conduct team made it to the semi-finals and are among the top 12 teams in the entire U.S.,” he said. “This is one of the hardest team competitions that ninth graders can take on and includes components of ritual demonstration and parliamentary procedure based debates.”
McKay stated their victory came as the result of much hard work.
“The hours that these amazing young ladies have put in over the last 10 months is unbelievable,” he said. “They have shown a level of dedication that very few high school students possess.”
McKay added Blakely was one of only 31 out of 294 competitors to achieve a perfect score on the written test component of the competition.
Cozette Cooley made several positive comments about her team.
“I think we did really good,” she said. “We gave, what I think, was a perfect performance. Our debates were good. Everything was super organized, and I’m super proud of how we did.”
This experience, she added, is likely to have a strong influence on her future in FFA. She and other Conduct competitors already are talking about other divisions in which they would like to compete, she said.
Also, she added, her team’s performance is giving her a boost to do well in other aspects of her life.
“I really feel good about this, all of this,” she said.