Whiteland FFA nets many awards at state convention

The Whiteland FFA Chapter had a first-of-its-kind win with seven state champion titles and placement as a top 10 chapter in the state.

Five students from Whiteland High School earned seven state champion titles at Indiana’s FFA Convention. Each student will head to the National FFA Convention in November to compete against FFA members across the United States.

Four students won agricultural proficiency awards and became state champions in their proficiency category. Josie Kelsay won outdoor recreation proficiency, Brody Polesel won diversified livestock production, Cian Cribbs won agricultural education and Sydney Pryor won veterinary science. Agricultural Proficiency Awards honor FFA members who have excelled through their Supervised Agricultural Experience, or SAE, programs and developed specialized skills that can be applied to their future careers.

Each student had to complete a portfolio-type application highlighting their hours worked and skills acquired through their SAE programs. The award is a culmination of years of hard work and hands-on experience. Winning an agricultural proficiency award isn’t something a student can study or prepare for in advance.

For Polesel, he worked at least four jobs and put in “countless hours” to show his proficiency in diverse livestock. Finding that diversified livestock to work with was a challenge in itself, he said. Polsesel worked with cattle, goats, sheep and horses. It was exciting for Polesel to see his four years in FFA come together to get a state championship title, he said.

One of the hardest parts of the project was switching knowledge and learning skills between the different livestock, he said. He thought he knew a lot about one livestock, only to realize how little he knew about them once he began working with them, he said. Starting fresh with each new animal was a hard learning curve for him to overcome, he said.

“You replay all the things that you did, all the jobs that you loved and all the ones that you’re like ‘I just want to get this part of the project done so I can move on,’” Polesel said. “All of that is kind of going through the back of your mind as you’re hearing your name called on that stage. So I felt very proud and very excited.”

Jack Kelsay was this year’s state winner in Creed Speaking. He rehearsed a five-paragraph creed from memory outlining the organization’s values and beliefs regarding the industry of agriculture. He then had to answer three questions related to it.

Hearing his name called on stage as the State’s winner felt “pretty dang good,” he said. Knowing the amount of work that he put in during after-school practices and with mentors makes him feel accomplished, he said.

“It’s really cool to be on that stage and be part of the younger demographic and be able to show what I got,” Jack Kelsay said.

Winning a state championship title in FFA is harder than what people think, Jack Kelsay said. He spent hours after school with advisor Hannah Goeb and another mentor to perfect his creed.

“It came down to just how we said a singular word so it got really down to the wire. Very nitpicky, but that’s what it takes,” Jack Kelsay said.

As a rising sophomore, Jack Kelsay has developed leadership and public speaking skills through FFA and feels more advanced as a leader, he said. When the need arises, he’s confident he will have the leadership skills to succeed.

Josie Kelsay won the State Star Award, an award that recognizes members who have excelled throughout their FFA Career and within their supervised agricultural experience program. Josie Kelsay also placed first in the Dairy Handler competition.

She submitted a portfolio, a culmination of four years worth of hours and accomplishments, three references and a personal narrative for the Star in Agricultural Placement Award.

Josie Kelsay was surprised and excited after she was announced as a State Champion in two categories, but being named the Star Farmer felt like everything was set into place, she said. She knew before the awards ceremony that she was in the top four because she had interviewed and given a site visit to the judges. Nobody knew who had won the State Champion title until they opened the envelope and read her name, she said.

“I’m really glad it happened that way and I couldn’t be more thankful for the community and my Ag teachers for supporting me.”

Her proficiency stems from working at her family’s farm, Kelsay Farms, where she teaches children about agriculture, helps greet guests and drives the Moo-Choo when needed.

Josie Kelsay was shocked when she heard her name announced, she said. And the moment is extra special because her grandfather won the same State Star Award in the early 70’s.

The Whiteland FFA Chapter was also ranked a top 10 chapter out of the 229 chapters in the State of Indiana. In August they will find out their exact ranking in the top 10, Goeb said. The chapter was also named a Model of Innovation in Community Service for their various community service initiatives throughout the year.