MFL MarMac senior earns coveted Iowa FFA Degree

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MFL MarMac senior Kayleigh White was the recent recipient of the coveted Iowa FFA Degree, the highest honor the state can bestow upon a member. (Submitted photo)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

MFL MarMac senior Kayleigh White was the recent recipient of the coveted Iowa FFA Degree, the highest honor the state can bestow upon a member.

 “It’s really exciting,” she said, “looking back at all the time I put in and, as an ag kid, to know how appreciated you are.”

To earn the degree, students must meet several requirements, including active FFA membership for at least two years, as well as participation in five FFA activities above the chapter level.

White has served as MFL MarMac’s reporter and, this year, was the chapter’s president. She’s also been active in judging events, contests and conventions.

In addition, Iowa FFA Degree recipients must complete 25 volunteer hours, demonstrate leadership and have a satisfactory scholastic record. Along with her FFA service, White is Clayton County’s Dairy Princess—a position that’s allowed her to work closely with the community, especially kids, and educate others on the dairy industry.

The final degree requirement tasks members with earning and productively investing $1,500 or working 375 hours in a supervised agriculture experience, or SAE. Not surprisingly, White’s SAE centered around dairy production. She’s worked at several farms over the years, including Walter Dairy, Henkes Dairy, Little J Cattle Co. and White Farms.

“It’s four years of hard work, FFA activities, volunteerism, grades and involvement” said MFL MarMac Agriculture Teacher and FFA Adviser Sarah Wille. “The Iowa Degree ties it all together in a bow.”

White said meeting the requirements was easier because “the hours are things I’m already doing. I’m already working on farms and doing community service.”

A key aspect is recording it all.

“You need to have three to four years of record books, recording your hours and activities like FFA meetings and trips,” White noted.

The senior is the third MFL MarMac student in three years to receive an Iowa Degree, but prior to last year, it had been 10 years since one of the chapter’s members earned the honor. 

White credits Wille for some of that success.

“She’s been our rock,” White said. “She’s full of opportunities and shows such good work ethic.”

For their part, Wille said the students are focused and driven. 

“I hope we can keep the success going,” she shared.

White recently filmed a recruitment video she hopes will encourage younger students to join FFA. Being involved develops respect and responsibility, she said. 

“Contests and events help you prepare and make sure you can get things done on time,” she added.

Most importantly, White said, FFA can provide a sense of belonging.

“When I was a freshman, I was terrified,” she recalled. “I didn’t know where I was or where I belonged. But after I put on that blue and gold jacket, I discovered who I am. I learned you can do anything you put your mind to.”

Wille watched that first-hand.

“I remember when she was a shy, timid freshman,” the teacher said. “Now, she’s really blossomed.”

White plans to attend Mount Mercy University this fall, majoring in nursing. Agriculture won’t be far from her mind, though. She hopes to continue working toward an American FFA Degree, the highest degree achievable in the National FFA organization, while also earning a farm business management degree and one day have her own dairy cattle.

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