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FFA banquet wraps up year

PINE PLAINS — Having grown too large for the school’s cafeteria, the Pine Plains FFA chapter hosted its annual banquet for the first time in the Stissing Mountain Middle School gymnasium last Friday, June 4.

The banquet is an opportunity for the chapter to look back on the past year and provide reports on the many FFA activities held throughout the school year. Awards, certificates and plaques were presented, and new officers were installed at the conclusion of the meeting.

The banquet, a celebration of the past FFA year, was a formal affair. Officers called the meeting to order and followed strict operating procedures. The banquet was technically the final meeting of the year, and a motion was needed just to postpone the program so that the 31 members and 171 guests in attendance could eat dinner.

Held concurrently with the banquet was a silent auction, which parent Ronda Murphy organized with the FFA. The members went door to door, visiting local businesses in the surrounding area in hopes of collecting donated raffle items.

“All the businesses are so excellent to our program,” Murphy said. “We have at least 50 businesses who participated and they’re all great with the kids.”

For FFA President Colleen Smith and Vice President Shannon Fletcher, both sophomores, being FFA officers has been a lot of work but a transforming experience.

“I absolutely loved it,” Shannon said during dinner.

“It’s a lot of work,” Colleen added. “You have to run every meeting and you try to set an example for other members. But I decided to run because I felt it was time to step up. I really like the organization.”

“I started out very shy,” remembered Shannon, “and the FFA has really made me come out of my shell. I became much more comfortable with public speaking and it’s really not such a big deal anymore.”

Student advisor Chris MacNeil said that the past year has been very busy compared to years in the past.

“But it’s been a very good year,” she said. “Considering the economy we were always wondering how our fundraisers were going to do, but the community has been really supportive.”

The guest speaker for the evening was Pine Plains graduate Rick Welsh, who said his experience in the FFA, which was a new program to the school 20 years ago, was a “crash course” that affected the rest of his life.

“I see a lot of people here tonight that I knew [from the FFA program],” he said, “which is a testament to the community. It shows that they really support what you have here.”

Near the conclusion of the meeting an installation of new officers was held. Jonny Weinberger became the new FFA student president, with Ashley Bartholf named vice president.

State Senator Vincent Leibell made his last official appearance at the banquet in that role (he’s put in his bid for Putnam County executive), but pledged that he would continue to attend in years to come.

“It’s a wonderful organization,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate to know so many people that have been involved in the FFA, and I think it’s one of the greatest organizations in America for our young people.”

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