Two agri-science experiments place in the top 10 and the environmental and natural resources team earns bronze

SUBMITTED PHOTO - From left to right, members of the Newberg FFA Environmental and Natural Resources team Todd Halleman, Kennedy Rainey, Abigayle Darula and Kylie Holveck, along with NHS FFA advisor Bailey Field, show off their bronze award from the FFA National Convention last month. 

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Newberg returned home from the FFA National Convention sporting gold, silver and bronze awards for its performances in agri-science and the environmental and natural resources team competition, but the most lasting color in the minds of the six students who made their debut Oct. 24-27 might just have been blue.

With approximately 60,000 people in attendance, never have Alyssa Berry, Abigayle Darula, Todd Halleman, Kylie Holveck, Morgan Lemen and Kennedy Rainey stood out less in their FFA jackets.

"The whole sea of blue jackets was an amazing, life-changing thing to see and I couldn't ask for anything better," Rainey said.

Holveck made the biggest splash individually, earning third place in the environmental science division and a gold medal for her agri-science experiment on the ability of mealworms and superworms to consume sytrofoam.

"To be third in the nation, you're recognized on stage and that's huge," Newberg's FFA advisor Bailey Field said. "You're presented to 60,000 people as a top agri-scientist in the nation, so it's really exciting for little Newberg for sure."

Holveck, who graduated in the spring and now attends Portland Community College, found that both worms were not harmed when eating the product that otherwise takes thousands of years to degrade, given they had enough water and some other provisions.

"It would have been cool to get first, but at the same time I'm really excited to get third place," Holveck said. "It was really something to start this project almost a year ago and have it go all the way through October. It was a great conclusion."

Kennedy Rainey and Cody Cox placed 10th in the social science division and won silver for their agri-science experiment about consumer preferences about raw and pasteurized honey.

Cox was unable to attend the convention, so Rainey had to handle the entire presentation to judges, explaining how their surveys showed a strong preference for raw honey, but also that many consumers simply didn't know that the pollen in raw honey can be helpful to one's immune system. After winning state, Rainey and Cox spoke directly with beekeepers to get more input and to share how they can improve their marketing.

"Just like my mom and I, we had no idea before this project that there was a difference," Rainey said. Now we never buy processed honey."

Newberg had two other state champion agri-science experiments, one by Halleman and 2017 grad John McCarthy and the one by Lemen, that earned bronze nationally, but did not make the top 12 and earn an invite to the convention.

With McCarthy unable to attend, Darula, the chapter president, joined Halleman, Rainey and Holvek to help Newberg earn bronze in the environmental and natural resource team competition. All four earned bronze medals individually as well.

For Field, it was her eighth trip to nationals but her first as a teacher since joining the high school faculty in fall 2016.

"Oftentimes teens get annoying after 24 hours a day for six days, but getting to be with these students just makes me excited about my job and what I get to do because I get to work with these students all the time and get to watch as they develop their skills," Field said. "Kylie didn't want to talk. She was very shy and now here she is presenting on a national stage. To watch that is just huge."

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