A-W junior earns school’s sole FFA Degree
AKRON — Akron-Westfield High School junior Alexa Swoyer was recently awarded the FFA Iowa Degree at the Iowa FFA Leadership Conference in Ames.
FFA members go through an application process which is reviewed to determine if they will receive the award, according to Akron-Westfield Agriculture Education/FFA Advisor JaCee Hogue.
“I applied for this award towards the beginning of the year. My advisor, Ms. Hogue and I worked hard to get all my minutes put into the record books and filled out a lot of information,” Swoyer said.
“I was extremely proud of Alexa when I found out she was getting her Iowa Degree. I knew how much hard work went into her application and her SAE’s so it was exciting to see her receiving recognition for it,” Hogue said.
“This award means that I have put a lot of hours and work into what I enjoy doing and at the end of the day it isn’t about getting an award for it but it is about showing yourself and others that you worked hard for it,” Swoyer said.
FFA members who qualify have met minimum involvement requirements in all components of the three-circle model: SAE, FFA and classroom/laboratory.
“When picking an SAE (supervised agricultural experience) we try and make sure students find something they have an interest in,” Hogue explained. “For example, we had baby chicks in the classroom and by doing this it encouraged Alexa, as well as other members to work with our school chickens.”
A Fine Balancing Act
Swoyer has always had two SAE projects going at the same time.
“I help my uncle out around the farm and I help with the cattle and fencing. At the same time I was babysitting but the state said babysitting didn’t count anymore,” she said. “So, our FFA chapter got chickens and ducks and I was in charge of them. We had around 14 chickens and four ducks. I would feed and water them everyday, collect eggs, and then every Friday and Monday I would bring the eggs to the school’s teachers lounge and sell them. Also, 1-2 times a week we would clean the chicken coop and lay new bedding down. In the winter I would have to make sure the heat is working and the chickens are being kept warm.”
A Steady FFA Path
Swoyer’s participation in FFA began in 8th grade when she was able to take ag classes.
“In my freshman year, I took Applied Ag and as a sophomore I took plant and soil science and horticulture. First semester of junior year I took foods and now I am taking Ag Business,” she said.
She has also invested a lot of time in the chapter and its activities.
“I was recently selected our chapter’s president in March and before that I was our chapter’s secretary. I joined FFA my 8th grade year and I have enjoyed every minute of it. I have been involved with committees, our scarecrow festival, adopting a family, fruit sales, conducting meetings, job interview, omelet breakfast, tractor pulls, and cleaning up the fair within my chapter,” Swoyer said.
Accolades Along the Way
She received the Star Greenhand Award her freshman year, and as a sophomore received the Star Chapter Award. This year she was the only member from A-W to apply for the Iowa Degree.
“I always knew I wanted to be in FFA because growing up I loved working around the farm and at the time I thought FFA was only for farmers. When I joined my 8th grade year there wasn’t much I could do besides go to meetings but I still enjoyed it. Then, my freshman year I got more involved and I would like to thank my old advisor, Randy Kroksh, for giving me that opportunity. I joined committees and started helping out more,” she said.
Unfortunately, that year was cut short due to COVID.
“My sophomore year is when I got involved more and I learned much more. I learned that FFA is not for farmers, it is for everyone. You don’t have to know anything about the farm to enjoy your time within the FFA chapter,” Swoyer said.
Building Her Skill Set
During this time she developed leadership skills, communication skills, and grew as a person.
“My freshman year I competed in Conducts of Meetings and I was the president. That taught me how to stay calm when there are a lot of people watching because I could not mess up. We made it to districts but just fell short of making it to state,” she said. “To show my leadership skills I applied for an officer position my sophomore year. To become an officer you have to have an interview with the alumni. When I heard I had to do that I was scared. But, FFA has taught me great leadership and communication skills and I knew I could do it,” she continued.
Later on she got secretary for her chapter. Not only was she now an officer but was also competing for Job Interview.
“I made it to districts for a job interview but due to a miscommunication with the staff at the competition I could not perform,” she said.
Now in her junior year, she competed in the State Board and the chapter received a gold at state.
“Also, this year I was selected president as our chapter and received my Iowa Degree. So, all together, I participate to compete, learn leadership skills, communication skills, and to meet new people. There are over 18,000 members in FFA and some of those people can become your best friends,” she said.
Setting Her Up for Success
Swoyer’s future plans are to attend SDSU in Brookings and major in pharmacy.
“My FFA experience will help me a lot with my future because I can use my leadership skills and communication skills to help better other people and work hard to what I want to achieve,” she said. “FFA has taught me a lot about working hard because it does take up a lot of time and it has taught me great time management. That will help a lot in college because college is a busy time for everyone.”
Hogue added, “It makes me happy to see her set an example for our underclassmen and encourage them to work hard and keep good records.”