MIFFLINTOWN -When five freshman entered a classroom at Juniata High School, little did they know the journey they would take. Together they have traveled more than 9,620 miles, attending leadership conferences, conventions and career development events.
This is the story of five seniors who embarked on a journey of a lifetime. Each journey was a little different from the others, but they shared a common goal - promoting agriculture and FFA.
Each individual had their own reason to participate. Most had family influences that pushed them to take an agriculture class. One individual came for the girls, and another wanted something similar to 4-H. Whatever their reason, each left a different person.
Chad Eberle, left, Katie McLaughlin, Clancein Donough and Josh Snyder are recognized at the 2014 Pennsylvania Farm Show for earning the Keystone Degree. This is the highest FFA degree offered through the state of Pennsylvania.
When you are looking for the traditional "ag" student, you think of Clancein Donough. He took agriculture courses as an avenue to escape traditional education courses. Donough enrolled in every possible agriculture class at Juniata High School. Growing up on a dairy farm, he was no stranger to agriculture, but he also was not afraid to stray away from the normal. At the 2014 Farm Show, he earned Grand Champion PA Preferred Chocolate Cake. FFA allowed Donough, who had never traveled out-of-state, to visit Indianapolis and Louisville. He gained friendship from around the country.
Place 17-year-old Katie McLaughlin in front of an audience of 3,500 people, and she will deliver. That is more than some 40-year-olds can do.
McLaughlin grew up showing beef cattle and thought it would be interesting to try FFA. Being an academic student, her parents were concerned vocational courses would hurt her chances of being accepted into a good college. Instead, FFA opened many doors and allowed her to discover a talent she never knew she had - public speaking.
She has competed at the state and eastern regional and national level contests. McLaughlin even made state FFA history when she was a winner in two state FFA contests in 2012. This fall, she will attend The Pennsylvania State University.
Chasing girls led Joshua Snyder to the agriculture classroom, but when he got there he saw more. He saw how the senior FFA members were leaders. Snyder wanted to be a leader like them.
He got involved in leadership roles in the chapter and began to shine. As the senior member of the Milk Quality and Products team, Snyder pushed his team to place at the state FFA contest. They advanced on to Massachusetts for the eastern states competition. Gaining time management, organization and communication skills, Josh realized he wants to pursue enlisting into the armed services and then a career as a state police officer.
Wiring an electric diagram, welding and fixing an engine now comes second nature to Maddie Zendt.
Looking at Zendt, you would never guess she would excel in an agriculture mechanics course. FFA allowed Zendt to come out of her shell and take opportunities to further herself. From singing the national anthem at the opening ceremonies of the 2013 PA Farm Show to performing at the Eisenhower Auditorium during the PA FFA Convention, Zendt used her talent to leave a mark in Juniata FFA. Zendt hopes to own her own business someday because FFA allowed her to learn important business and networking skills.
Zendt plans to attend Lycoming College in the fall, majoring in business management.
Captain of the football team and all-star baseball player, Chad Eberle enjoyed the family atmosphere he gained in FFA. After his first FFA leadership conference, he was hooked.
Even though he was not raised on a farm, Eberle discovered a passion for showing pigs. He has earned Supreme Showman and Grand Champion Middle Weight honors at the Juniata County Youth Fair.
With his influence through FFA and working at Hoober Inc., Eberle will be attending The Pennsylvania State University or Delaware Valley College in the fall, majoring in agriculture business management.
Though their time is almost over at Juniata High School and FFA, their journey has just begun. Each student started on a path that will build a lasting legacy.