'It was definitely an experience I will never forget.' - Jessica Rhoades, Molalla FFA member

SUBMITTED PHOTO: MACKENZIE BEHRLE - The group of Molalla FFA students who attended the National Convention pose in front of Bankers Life Fieldhouse where general sessions happened and where the Indiana Pacers play. From left to right: Jessica Rhoades, Sam Moore, Halie McCloud, David Fregoso, Ryan Dunigan & Austin Alexander

Members of the Molalla FFA chapter attended the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana at the end of October, and some of them earned high honors.

John Cross, Molalla FFA chapter president, was selected to play in the National FFA Band along with 83 members from across the United States. In June, he sent in an audition tape in which he played two scales and a solo piece. SUBMITTED PHOTO: MACKENZIE BEHRLE - Molalla FFA member John Cross participated in the National FFA Band at the National Convention Oct. 23-29.

"Once I got there, it was intense rehearsal from the get go," Cross said. "But, throughout the week I got to play in front of important national donors and crowds of thousands of people. I also met incredible people from across the country. It is an experience I will never forget."

In addition, two Molalla FFA members earned their American FFA Degrees.

"Less than 1 percent of FFA members ever earn this high honor because of its very rigid standards," said Molalla FFA Adviser Mackenzie Behrle.

But Austin Alexander and Ruvim Burlachenko both earned the honor.

"Austin Alexander was able to receive time away from the Air Force Academy where he is a sophomore and fly out to walk across stage and receive his degree," Behrle said. "Ruvim who is in an electrician apprenticeship program was unable to attend."

SUBMITTED PHOTO: MACKENZIE BEHRLE - Austin Alexander and adviser Mackenzie Behrle pose after Alexander received his American FFA degree at the National Convention Oct. 23-29.

The other Molalla FFA members who attended with Behrle were Sam Moore, David Fregoso, Molalla FFA Chapter Treasurer Halie McCloud, Jessica Rhoades and Ryan Dunigan. Dunigan is currently serving as an ambassador for the Oregon FFA State Foundation, which works to raise funds for agricultural education and the Oregon FFA.

"It was definitely an experience I will never forget," Rhoades said. "Creating bonds with people that live in other states but one thing brought us all together: a love for agriculture and the FFA, and that was truly amazing."

The students were among a record more than 67,000 members from all over the United States in attendance at the convention.

"I thought it was amazing seeing just how many FFA members there are," Moore said. "Coming from a small town it was amazing. Being in the same room as FFA members from across the nation was incredible."

Molalla FFA members not only attended convention sessions, but they also were able to tour different agricultural facilities such as Fair Oaks Dairy Farm; and they heard from motivational speakers like Laila Ali. They were also exposed to new ideas from other members.

"It was interesting to hear about how other kids farm in other parts of the country, especially dairy farming," McCloud said. "I am so used to these huge farms with giant pastures. It was neat seeing how and what free stalling was."

SUBMITTED PHOTO: MACKENZIE BEHRLE - Molalla FFA students stop for a photo before flying home from the National Convention Oct. 23-29.

Molalla members had a rich experience at the convention, where they were able to broaden their horizons, glean new ideas about agriculture and bring them home to their little town.

Kristen Wohlers
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