Connect with us


Montague FFA Chapter is game-changer in the school district

The ‘FFA Cats’ recently claimed title of Top National Chapter at MSU convention.

MONTAGUE – Montague Area Public Schools has a long-standing tradition with its Future Farmers of America (FFA) program.

To be specific, it’s closing in on the century mark.

“I think it’s cool that the teacher who chartered the Montague FFA on March 5, 1931, was R.R. Oehlri, who taught until 1948. He then moved into administration and possibly set the tone for the support and success of the program for the teachers and administration who followed,” said Kate Feuerstein, who is one of four advisors for Montague FFA.

“Also, since 1993, the school has had at least two FFA advisors.”

Maddie Kaminski, Makenna Schwass, and Sherri Lemmen join Feuerstein as current Montague FFA advisors. Service dog Buddy also does his part, Feuerstein said.

The advisors guide the students, who uphold the immense amount of pride in Montague’s FFA program.

FFA is a national organization aimed at promoting agriculture education as well as the development of leadership skills in high school and middle school students.

A large portion of FFA is based in leadership contests, annual competitions in which students compete against others from across the state in different contests relating to agriculture and public speaking. Other aspects of FFA focus on community service and taking leadership positions across the group.

In the recent state convention at Michigan State University, Montague was named Top National Chapter. Senior Aurelia Ambriz, who is the Montague FFA Chapter’s vice-president, and senior Anna Woller, who is Montague’s secretary as well as regional treasurer, spent a few hours preparing to share their chapter’s program of activities and presented to a panel of judges.

Senior Blake Herremans became the first State Star in Agricultural Placement in “FFA Cats” history.

“Being named the top chapter is an accomplishment I’m proud of, along with finding success in the Michigan FFA Stars program,” Feuerstein said.

Senior Blake Herremans received the “Star in Agricultural Placement” award for the Montague FFA Chapter. (Photo courtesy of Montague High School)

Tradition never graduates

The strong tradition of Montague FFA continues.

It requires much effort and coordination, but community support is an absolute must.

“My entire teaching career has been in Region V, and so I have been familiar with Montague and the success here,” said Feuerstein, who is in her eighth year in the Montague district and also her eighth year being involved with Montague FFA. She works at Nellie B. Chisholm Middle School and teaches agriscience.

“I am proud of the students, parents, staff, administration, and community members, the City of Montague and the City of Whitehall, for their support in all we do.Without the support, the success wouldn’t happen or be as consistent. It takes work and drive to maintain it.”

In a given school year, approximately 200-250 Montague high school students are involved in FFA at varying levels. Some students focus only on certain events, while others choose to participate in multiple activities. The high school group stays busy year-round from handing out flags at the Fourth of July parade to helping out with a fish boil set-up and much more. Feuerstein said there is something for everyone.

At the middle-school level, Montague has around 30-40 students involved in activities, including hosting school assemblies, putting on a hot chocolate bar for staff, and participating in contests such as horse-jumping, parliamentary procedure, and public speaking.

Seniors Aurelia Ambriz, left, and Anna Woller are officers for the Montague FFA Chapter. (Photo courtesy of Montague High School)

FFA is inclusive

Montague FFA members come from varying backgrounds.

“I mainly participate in FFA because I’ve grown up on a third-generation family farm my whole, entire life, so I really just like to showcase my agricultural knowledge in that way,” Woller said. “My sister, Emma Woller, she was also very successful in FFA and so I’ve always looked up to her in this organization and I kind of wanted to succeed like she did.”

Ambriz’s story is different than Woller’s, but through FFA they and other students work together for common causes.

“I (unlike Woller) was not a part of any agricultural-based past with my family,” Ambriz said. “We’ve always lived in city areas, so I’ve never really participated in that aspect of it, but I started participating in the leadership side of it during middle school and I just kind of fell in love with the contest and being able to work on the type of public speaking and leadership aspect of FFA.”

Montague senior Eric Brown is a six-year member of FFA. This year, the 4.378 student served as chapter president.

State convention is a highlight for Brown and other FFA members. It’s a four-day trip to the MSU campus in East Lansing, where one can see all of the different competitions and some of the best competitors in the state.

“It’s always been a very fun trip and an amazing experience,” said Brown, who has traveled and experienced much during his time with Montague FFA.

Brown has attended the state convention every year since eighth grade and he’s competed at that level three times.

“This year at state convention, I received a few awards for my competitions and also my job at S&S Lawn Service,” he said. “I received the fifth-place award in parliamentary procedure. I was the state winner for proficiency in landscape management. I received an academic excellence award and was the winner of a gold state degree. These awards mean a lot to me as I have put in several years of work to get to this point.”

Photos courtesy of Montague High School

Growth opportunities

An area of growth that Feuerstein has witnessed during her time with Montague FFA is the success of students being named State Stars. Award areas exist in placement, production, agribusiness, and agriscience research. Students go through a long and tedious application process with several rounds of interviews. Since 2018, Montague has boasted 10 finalists and five State Stars.

Another area of growth for Montague FFA has been at the middle-school level. In the fall of 2017, Feuerstein began teaching ag classes at NBC. She said students have competed well and served their school community.

With Lemmen’s guidance, middle-school students have landscaped the front of the school along with other outdoor projects at the high school and in the community. During that time frame, more than 300 hours of service have been invested. Montague has had 14 junior high conduct of meetings teams (parliamentary procedure) and 17 public speakers since 2017.

At the end of the day, FFA is about learning life skills and developing relationships. Feuerstein said it’s been amazing to be able to create opportunities for students.

“When I was student teaching at Springport High School, my mentor teacher, Pat Henne, told me that ag teachers spend a lot of time with students at conventions, contests, and driving in vans to various events,” she said. “It is that time in which we are lucky enough to get to build a better person.

“I have always remembered that and try to do that through conversations, pushing students to try something new, and to be bold and brave.”

Community impact

Like the students involved in Montague FFA, Feuerstein is proud of the achievements of the organization and community impact it makes.

Montague FFA impacts many people in many ways.

“I would have to say that my proudest achievements include seeing students gain confidence and realize that they were among the best of the best through competitions, interviews, events, and more,” Feuerstein said. “I’m proud of starting a middle school FFA program, seeing Sherri Lemmen develop an after-school program for students to gain skills in leadership, landscaping, and working with community businesses and residents to help beautify their areas.

“I’m proud to be able to carry on long-standing programs like Mother’s Day Planting with the second-graders and helping out the RRO Harvest Day along with adding on new programs like Veteran’s Honor Wall, recycling Christmas trees for goats, collecting products for the Muskegon Rescue Mission, and more.”

Photos courtesy of Montague High School

Montague seventh-grader Sophia Sanchez enjoys being part of the middle-school program because she likes learning and educating others about how FFA is helping agriculture.

Sanchez looks up to Lemmen and Feuerstein and appreciates their impact on Montague FFA. Practices have been highlights for Sanchez, even when they result in laughter.

“The FFA is an amazing thing to consider doing because you make lots of memories and impact and help (others),” Sanchez said.

Feuerstein said that FFA provides something for every type of student. It offers leadership contests in various topics and offers skills contests in aspects such as floriculture and forestry.

Students have the ability to earn money by completing proficiency applications and applying for scholarships.

“FFA can break students out of their shells. FFA is the perfect vehicle to grow leaders and push students to think differently about school, their future, their current jobs, etc.,” Feuerstein said. “It gives students a chance to develop confidence, public speaking skills, and more.

“Each group of students brings their own unique experiences, backgrounds and personalities to the group every year. The students who are involved with one activity or 20 activities are all stepping out of their comfort zones in their own ways. This particular group is no different. I love them all in their own way and I enjoy seeing where life takes them.”

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

Must See

More in Arts