Youths win prestigious award

National FFA bestows American Degree on Cline and Kohlmeyer

By GARY HENRY ghenry@prairiepress.net
Posted 11/12/19

When Bryce Kohlmeyer and Alivia Cline talk agriculture they do so with verve about their passion for what they hope becomes a lifetime career.

Agriculture has already shaped them and how they …

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Youths win prestigious award

National FFA bestows American Degree on Cline and Kohlmeyer

Posted

When Bryce Kohlmeyer and Alivia Cline talk agriculture they do so with verve about their passion for what they hope becomes a lifetime career.

Agriculture has already shaped them and how they approached studies at Paris High School.

“I knew from an early age I wanted FFA to be my sport in high school,” said Cline. “I have a passion for agriculture. I grew up on a farm.”

Kohlmeyer expressed a similar idea about how he wanted FFA to center his time in high school. It was the area where he most desired to excel.

They graduated from Paris High School in 2018 but their involvement with FFA did not end when they walked out of the door diploma in hand. Both had set a goal of earning the FFA’s American Degree, which is the highest status FFA gives to its members and cannot be earned until one is out of high school for at least a year.

The American Degree is a prestigious honor since only about .5 percent of FFA students nationwide receive an American Degree.

“As much as I put into it, and the passion I have for it, I wanted the American Degree,” said Kohlmeyer. “I wanted to be part of that half percent.”

Advancement in FFA is partially dependent on the quality of a person’s record book. Cline and Kohlmeyer explained, as the name implies, record books are a laborious practice that details all aspects of an agriculture project undertaken by a student. Every penny spent and every penny earned must be documented along with the amount of time devoted to working at something.

The record book starts freshman year in high school and is kept every year all the way through the American Degree, if a student pursues that course. A carefully maintained record book helps students prepare for operating a business.

“You learn how to work and be responsible,” said Cline. “You also learn the importance of staying on top of things.”

Kohlmeyer acknowledged he has a tendency to procrastinate but the rigors of keeping the record book somewhat cured him of that behavior.

“You can’t delay when you are working on a project because it is so hard to get caught up,” he said.

Students pick the topic they want as an FFA project and stay with it throughout high school.

Cline’s record book documents her goat production, and Kohlmeyer kept records on his show pigs and a produce garden he operates with his family.

They kept their record books current after graduating and the books were part of the interview process by the state FFA as a step toward the American Degree. The books were forwarded to the national FFA for review after the state interviews.

Saturday, Nov. 2, was the culmination of the journey. Cline and Kohlmeyer were at Indianapolis, Ind., for the national FFA convention, which included the presentation of certificates and American Degree pins to more than 4,000 people having completed the requirements.

“We had been to the national convention before, but it was the first time we saw the American Degree ceremony,” said Kohlmeyer, adding it was a bit of a nerve-racking experience.

“It’s a reflection of the accomplishment I’ve been working for over the last five years,” said Cline.

The American Degree is an accomplishment they believe will be important as they pursue college transfers, scholarships and eventually employment. Kohlmeyer is currently a general agriculture student at Ivy Tech in Terre Haute, Ind., and wants to transfer to Murray State as an agronomy major. His long-term plan is to join his grandfather’s business as a seed dealer.

Cline is studying to be a veterinarian technician, but her goal is to continue on and become a large animal veterinarian.

They also had some advice for young students approaching high school and an FFA program. To do well in FFA requires an early commitment to the program, a willingness to serve as chapter officers and do whatever tasks are needed to improve the program, and it is important to set goals for what one hopes to accomplish through FFA.

“I gave myself that goal (earning the American Degree), and I stayed with it,” said Kohlmeyer.