Yesterday I told you about a certain blue jacket that has been hanging in my parents’ house for the last 20 years. Every time I see my jacket I am taken back to memories of a small metal building located next to the Meadville school, the Missouri Governors Conference, the National Convention in Kansas City and State Convention in Columbia, Missouri.
As a small school in north central Missouri, Meadville offered the usual sports; basketball, softball and track, and offered the usual organizations; Student Council, National Honors Society, SADD and what was called FHA at that time. It did not offer what many small rural schools offered – the FFA. Now my memory is a bit fuzzy on this, but apparently a few of us pestered the Superintendent about not having a FFA chapter; pestered him enough that a call was made and a plan formed and in the fall semester of 1995 we had an Ag Teacher/Advisor and the beginning of a chapter.
What does it take to start a chapter of the National FFA Orginization? HARD WORK. Really, it was hard work. It took time, dedication, effort from everyone along with a fantastic teacher to lead the charge. We were very lucky to have the teacher that we did in the beginning and I, for one, attribute our success to her, Mrs. Lichte-Courtney. At just four feet tall, she had a dedication to us that is unparalleled. She had never started a chapter before, but her past experiences as an Ag teacher and an alumnus of the Norborne FFA made her the right person for the job.
When you begin a chapter, everyone is consider a Greenhand, a first year student. Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors were all on the same learning curve and we all got to have our classes in the new little metal building built for Ag and Shop class. We would have to walk outside the school, on the sidewalk that runs in front of the school building, (K-12 is all in one building) so not to walk through the elementary and be a distraction to the younger students to get to our classroom. At that time we did not have a “bell” in our little building, so we had to watch the clock carefully, (being tardy to your next class happened on occasion). In this building is where our practices were held, (before and after school), where we drank milk and tasted cheese, where we made plans for the chapter and leaders were shaped. It is also where Mrs. Lichte-Courtney promised us a steak dinner and a movie in the city IF we got on stage at State Convention. (Being on stage meant you placed in the top three for the whole state.)
Melissa, a classmate and FFA alumnus, recently wrote this about those early days of the chapter: “That first year our team went to the Governor’s Marketing Competition, Ms. Lichte drilled us for hours and hours. There were a lot of early morning grumbly weekend drives to the school in my old Dodge Aries. When we won and received our plaques I will never forget that she said, “You had this thing won when you walked in the building.”“
Being new to FFA, attending our first National Convention was amazing! So many blue jackets, from all of the 50 states, in one place. Going to the trade show and attending a session I know were fantastic experiences, but what I remember most is that we lost a student. Don’t worry, he was found! We traveled to Kansas City with another school and one of their students started not feeling well in the middle of the day. No one knew this or that he had found the medical area and was there. This was well before everyone carried cell phones and it took forever to find him. We were very late getting home that night from convention.
Where ever we went and whatever we did, we knew we had to do it well and make an impression. So when I say we practiced and we studied, I MEAN we practiced and we studied – A LOT. When it came close to State Convention time, Mrs. Lichte-Courtney would let us take some class time to work on our CDE teams, but only when it got really close to state convention time. We came in before school, after school, on weekends, whatever it took to get our practices in. We were on a mission to prove something, not just to the community and our base chapter, Chillicothe, but to ourselves too. We needed to prove to ourselves that we could do it. All of our hard work and dedication paid off and after only one year, instead of the original three, we were granted the chance to apply for our own charter.
We are now approaching the 20th Anniversary of that charter date. We now have 20 years of history consisting of accomplishments, different advisors, different students, a national team, countless area officers and a state officer. So what do you do with all of that? Would you celebrate? Would you bring together those who started it all and have supported the chapter through the years? Would you invite Alumni to return and reminisce about their days of being a member? Would you celebrate 20 years?
Blessings to you,
Laurie – Country Link
*Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of “Would You Celebrate 20 Years?”.