Eighth-grade FFA off to a great start in Prairie du Chien

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Eighth-grade Discovery Degree members were recognized at the FFA Banquet on Sunday. From left are: high school student Aisja Achenbach, chapter sentinel, sophomore mentor; Breanna Smithson, Sadie Torgerson, Reaghan Lear, Payton Key, Eowyn Earle, Lucas Kramer, and high school student Avery Cornford, chapter president and senior mentor. The annual FFA Banquet recognizes the achievements of FFA members. (Photo submitted)


Prairie FFA teams qualify for State Competition

By Ted Pennekamp


The Prairie du Chien FFA Chapter has added an exciting new element this school year with the beginning of eighth-grade FFA.

“This is brand new for us and it has been a long process,” said FFA Advisor Diane Colburn, who also teaches agriculture at the high school. Colburn said she has been trying to get eighth grade students involved in FFA since she began teaching at Prairie du Chien High School four years ago.

Colburn said an online class has been developed for the eighth grade, and she checks regularly to make sure all students have kept up with their assignments and projects.

Eleven eighth graders signed up at the start of the second semester for FFA and the online class. “High School FFA President Avery Cornford has been instrumental in getting the eighth-grade program going. In addition, Aisja Achenbach has also been mentoring the eighth graders,” said Colburn.

Bluff View Intermediate School Principal Aaron Amundson, High School Principal Andy Banasik and Brent Seamans, Bluff View science teacher, have also been a big help in getting the program started.

“The administrative support has been great,” said Colburn, who noted that an eighth-grade FFA gives the students a big head start before they enter high school.

“It’s definitely an experience advantage,” she said. “They get an extra year of experience. This will allow us to be more competitive with other FFA chapters.”

In addition to the online class, eighth grade FFA members are involved in FFA activities. In fact, students participated in the Southwest Wisconsin Career Development event hosted by UW-Platteville this past Thursday. Five eighth graders participated in the Middle School Essay Contest and four were involved in judging. One member was on the Senior Dairy Judging Team, one on the Livestock Team, one was an alternate to judge on the Livestock Team but observed and learned a lot, and one was on the Dairy Products Team.

More than 2,000 students were involved at UW-Platteville, which is a state qualifying event.

The results are unofficial so far, but it appears that two of Prairie du Chien’s teams have earned trips to the State FFA Competition at UW Madison on April 26.

“Both of the teams included eighth-grade members!” said Colburn.

The Senior Dairy Team placed sixth in the contest - both Meg Katzung and Aisja Achenbach placed in the top 20 individually, with Luke Kramer (eighth grade) and Avery Cornford adding solid scores to help the team place sixth.

The Livestock Team placed third in the contest with two members placing in the top 10.

Payton Key, eighth grade, tied for second place in the contest but was placed third in the tie-breaker. Chad Achenbach placed sixth with his individual score. Both of these strong scores, along with solid scores from Madeline LaRoque and Haylie Langdon put the team at third. 

The UW-Platteville competition was quite an event for the Prairie du Chien FFA.

Colburn said the Department of Public Instruction established Discovery Degrees in 2000 for eighth and seventh-grade FFA students, and several schools in the state have had eighth and seventh grade programs ever since.

For the 2018-19 school year: 181 of the 252 Wisconsin FFA chapters have one or more students registered as grade 6, 7, or 8. Multiple FFA awards, contests and leadership programs have been developed specifically for seventh and eighth graders. Now, Prairie du Chien students have joined in.

Colburn said eighth grade FFA students also get a partial high school credit. In addition, they can be mentors to the eighth graders next year.

Before beginning a seventh grade program, Colburn said she would like to get a strong eighth grade going first. She anticipated, however, that Prairie du Chien FFA will continue to expand its opportunities in the future.

“We would like to grow, grow, grow,” she said with a big smile.

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