by Emily Carey

The small town of Grahamsville, NY, came together June 13 to celebrate the Tri-Valley FFA chapter as they hosted their 71st Annual Banquet and Awards Ceremony. Past, present and future generations of FFA members and supporters gathered at the Grahamsville Fairgrounds for the event.

The Tri-Valley FFA is known for creating great leaders both in and out of the classroom. This year, the FFA chapter had much to be proud of and thankful for.

“We want our members to discover their strengths and work with their energy to grow. Focus on your skills and abilities and develop them every day. Do not fear failure,” Jacob Lucak, the 2021-22 chapter president, said during his opening remarks. “As Tri-Valley FFA members we have lived this and are proof that hard work pays off – I mean, we made it through a pandemic and managed to win all three areas of the National Chapter Application, and are the 2022 New York State FFA Chapter of the Year! If we can have this much success in a year with hurdles, just imagine what we can all accomplish in the future!”

Not only did the chapter find success this year as the 2022 NYS FFA Chapter of the Year, members also found individual success. Students were recognized for having outstanding Supervised Agriculture Experience projects, their work in the plant or animal agriculture industry and community service they performed over the year. One Tri-Valley member, Katie Dauch, organized a soup drive to support local food pantries. Students made and bottled over 100 cans of soup that will help to feed over 150 people in the community.

Students were recognized for competing in Career and Leadership Development Events, receiving Proficiency Degrees and for other special honors, such as animal care, volunteering in the elementary agriculture classroom, working in the greenhouse and more. Van Furman was recognized for his musical talents as he was a part of the National FFA Band, where he was the youngest band member and also served as first chair – a huge honor. Furman performed in front of over 50,000 people. Louis Bilancione, Adam Furman, Briar Knight, Melanie Leis, Jacob Lucak, Gail McAndrew, Dylan Poley, Keegan Stroop and Brooke VanAken were recipients of Empire Degrees, the highest honor an FFA member can receive from the NY FFA Association.

The community’s support of this program was apparent as the fairgrounds where the ceremony took place filled with people of all ages, many of whom are alumni of the program, who came out to show their love and support for youth in agriculture. Many members of the community were recognized for donating to the FFA chapter to support students during trips and competitions, volunteering their time to chaperone or help at events and for their vast experience and knowledge they share with the students.

Tri-Valley FFA celebrates strong year

Tri-Valley FFA members welcomed the community to their annual Banquet. Students were recognized for their success and accomplishments over the past year. Photo by Emily Carey

The Tri-Valley FFA Alumni Association, represented by Catherine Bender, presented a scholarship to a senior who has demonstrated leadership throughout their time in FFA, served as a chapter officer and is planning on continuing in an ag field in either a two- or four-year college program. This year Gail McAndrew was awarded the scholarship of over $500. She will be attending West Virginia University to study animal genetics and bovine reproduction. Other graduating seniors of the Tri-Valley FFA program will be attending schools across NY, studying adolescent education, mechanics, environmental protection and more.

The banquet concluded with the installation of the 2022-23 officers as the retiring team welcomed the new leaders into their elected positions. The 2022-23 officer team is Adam Furman, president; Katie Dauch, first vice president; Nicholas Bender, second vice president; Eden Noren, secretary; Keegan Stroop, treasurer; Jasmine Grimila, reporter; Tabitha Mulholland, webmaster; Grace Deyo, historian; Van Furman, sentinel; Ariana Small, parliamentarian; and Louis Bilancione, Jacob Lucak and Dylan Poley, student advisors.

“I am beyond excited to get to work with these amazing young people in Tri-Valley FFA next year. Congratulations to the newly elected chapter officers for 2022-2023!” Tara Berescik-Burke commented about the newly elected officer team.

Berescik-Burke has taught agriculture at Tri-Valley since 2000 and has been instrumental in instilling leadership qualities and a love for agriculture in her students. She teaches a variety of classes from animal science to floriculture, runs Tri-Valley Blooms, a wedding floral business, coaches FFA teams for competition and more. Her commitment to the program is apparent in all she does.

Tri-Valley FFA’s other advisor, Ashley Wightman, teaches middle school agriculture as well as the greenhouse and landscaping classes. Wightman has a green thumb and is teaching her students to love getting their hands dirty and working with the soil. During the banquet, she recognized several students for their commitment to working in the greenhouses and helping with the plant sale this year.

While FFA is for students in grades 6 – 12, Tri-Valley Elementary School also has a green thumb. Kim Doyle is teaching elementary school ag science classes to students in pre-K through fifth grade. Doyle is an alum of the Tri-Valley FFA program and also served as the 2016-17 District 2 FFA president, 2017-18 NY FFA state reporter and as the 2018-19 and 2019-20 NY FFA national officer candidate. Doyle is proof of Tri-Valley FFA’s ability to grow and create great leaders.