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Silver Bay FFA members earn American Degrees

William Kelley High School FFA members celebrate Andrew Evenson and Gunnar Frahm receiving their American degrees at the National FFA convention, from left: Zachary Lewis, Andrew Evenson, Gunnar Frahm, Rhiana Steele-Mathes, Raina Braun and Leah Bott. (Photo courtesy of Leah Bott)

For Silver Bay native Andrew Evenson, the moment felt like the end of a long journey. For Gunnar Frahm, also of Silver Bay, the moment was bittersweet.

"It was both rewarding because it was the culmination of all this work, but it also meant that it was the very end of my high school and college career in FFA," Frahm said.

The two William Kelley graduates both received their American Degrees at the 91st National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis on Oct. 27. Both are the first members of the Silver Bay chapter of the FFA Organization to receive the degrees since the chapter was started in 2014.

To be eligible to receive the American FFA Degree, members must meet qualifications such as receiving a State FFA Degree, holding active membership for the past three years, completing secondary instruction in an agricultural education program and operating an outstanding supervised agricultural experience program. Community service, leadership abilities and outstanding scholastic achievement are also required.

According to Frahm, fewer than 2 percent of all FFA students receive their American degrees.

"It was a little bit weird because there were a lot of people getting their American degrees on that day, but we also know that such a small percentage of people get their degrees, statistically speaking," Evenson said. "You don't think of 600 people as a small amount, but there were 60,000 people at that convention, so it is pretty significant."

Evenson and Frahm had to keep extensive records of their activities throughout their entire time in FFA. Both joined the organization as part of the forestry team, but also branched out into other areas of FFA.

Frahm's research project on "Agriscience Research — Integrated Systems" received first place in its category at state competition in 2017.

Frahm and Evenson were members of the forestry team that made it to the national competition after winning first place at state in 2017. Frahm continued with the team, which finished third in the nation. Evenson wasn't able to compete in the national contest due to National Guard obligations.

Outside of the prestigious awards, both credited their involvement with FFA as making a significant impact in their lives. Before joining the forestry team, Evenson said he wasn't a very involved student.

"I never went to any dance or did extracurricular activities. I just did school and went home every single day," Evenson said. "Then my junior year, I got coaxed into joining forestry with my friends and that just sort of sparked a new me, almost.

"After that, I joined National Honor Society, robotics, student council," he said. "I started going to dances, setting up the dances. Basically, forestry marks the beginning of a development of myself as a person." Frahm credits FFA with furthering his interest in research, an important aspect of his studies in biochemistry at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Student-adviser deal

Frahm and Evenson weren't the only members of the William Kelley chapter to be receive recognition at the convention — their FFA adviser, Leah Bott, received the Honorary American FFA degree.

This award is given to those who advance agricultural education and FFA through outstanding personal commitment. Frahm encouraged Bott to pursue the degree.

"After the last national convention, I was feeling sad because we were done with FFA," Frahm said. "Ms. Bott said it didn't have to be the end if I wanted to pursue an American Degree. I said I wasn't going to do it if she didn't go after her honorary degree. It was a crazy deal."

"It took a bit of work, but I ended up getting nominated," Bott said. "It was really rewarding to receive my degree at the same time they did. They're such dedicated and outstanding young adults. It's been an honor to work with them."

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. 

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