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  DOES YOUR AMERICAN CHAIN HANG LOW?
 
By: Morgan Gadd, Texas FFA News Staff
October 15, 2014

 
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The American FFA Degree is a tapestry of intermingled experiences, a mass of influences wielded to produce meaningful impact in a member’s life. As the highest level of membership you can achieve, the American FFA Degree represents premier leadership, personal growth and career success

Chessie Garrett, Mt. Pleasant FFA, began her journey when she came into the world. The small herd of Angus cross calves her parents put in her name at birth jump-started her supervised agricultural experience (SAE). Her active involvement in the Texas Junior Livestock Association, FFA and 4-H has been studded with various leadership positions and competitive performances. However, she attributes her successes and future potential to the FFA.

“FFA molded me into the person I am today. My SAE made me get out there and grow my connections, grow my responsibilities and grow my love for agricultural advocacy,” Garrett said. “The American Degree is a highlight of my achievements, and I will forever be thankful for the individuals and associations that got me here today.”

Garett is one of 174 Texas FFA members who will be receiving their American FFA Degree at National Convention, Oct. 29-Nov. 1, in Louisville, KY. These individuals, and thousands of other American Degree recipients, have countless hours invested in their programs. 

Austin Langemeier, Marion FFA, is now an Animal Science and Business student at Texas Tech University. He believes that his dedication to his projects and involvement with the FFA equipped him with the tools he needs for his future.  

“My American Degree will certainly help build my resume, but the most important benefit I received through these efforts is the gain of work ethic, responsibility and communication skills,” Langemeier said. “Within any occupation, a person will be required to use all three to be successful, I feel like I am a step ahead because of the opportunities I have pursued and learned so much from.”

While other Star awards represent excellence in an SAE area, the American Degree represents the hours and experiences racked up in the pursuit of an agricultural career. It is also a demonstration of outstanding leadership skills, community service, scholastic achievement, as well as many hours invested and sacrifices rightfully made in order to advance experiential learning. Although the application process demands attention to detail and persistence, anyone with the will to follow through with a well-planned SAE program can reach this honor. 

For three years Blaze Currie managed the American Degree Ceremony held at National Convention.  He believes that the ceremony may be the most eloquently and purposefully written ceremony we have in FFA. The National FFA Officer Team and staff work tirelessly to ensure flawless execution of the ceremony.

“It [the American Degree] is the absolute highest award available to FFA members. The national FFA president shakes every recipients hand even though the ceremony lasts for hours,” Currie said. “Those camera shots capture proud students in blue jackets being honored for their excellence.”

While Currie has no doubt served in a pivotal role in the American Degree process, his experience is one all members should bear in mind. Currie says not receiving the degree is his greatest regret from his FFA experience.

“What I like about the degree is that it is very well-rounded. Recipients of the American FFA Degree must not only have career success on their mind, either through science, placement or entrepreneurship, but must also have demonstrated service to their fellow man and influence amongst their peers, Currie said.”

The lines shared by the organization’s President mere seconds before the degree is bestowed upon recipients reflect the significance of the degree. 
 
The fact that the emblem of the FFA is surmounted by an American eagle is significant. The eagle is symbolic of strength,courage, the national scope of our organization and the extended honor which has been conferred to you.

From earliest times, the eagle has been used as the emblem of leadership, power and progress. At the head of their legions, the Romans carried a golden eagle perched upon a spear. 

In 1782, the United States adopted as its emblem the eagle with outspread wings, a shield upon its breast holding an olive branch and a sheaf of arrows in its talons. The eagle is a bird of superb strength, keenness of sight and marvelous powers of flight. As the eagle soars high, so let your vision soar and lead you to greater heights of achievement. Bring clear and purposeful thought to bear on your problems. Be strong and fearless in spirit and action.

On behalf of the National FFA Organization, I confer upon you the American FFA Degree, together with its honors and privileges. 

Garrett, Langemeier, Currie and thousands of other FFA stakeholders each have unique experiences with the American Degree. Whether they are recipients, advisors or industry members, the American Degree is an award that recognizes a diverse group of excellent members. 

“The award is a symbol of what is ultimately expected of FFA members and attainable with foresight, diligence and commitment,” Currie said.
 
 
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