MFL MarMac seniors earn prestigious Iowa FFA degrees

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Seniors Dusty Berns and Dacia Schoulte have earned their Iowa FFA Degrees, the highest rank that can be conferred upon active members by the Iowa FFA Association. The two were recognized at state convention in April. (Submitted photo)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

 

For the fourth straight year, one or more MFL MarMac students has earned an Iowa FFA Degree, the highest rank that can be conferred upon active members by the Iowa FFA Association.

 

Seniors Dacia Schoulte and Dusty Berns were among the just over 730 students—or less than 5 percent of FFA members statewide—who were honored at the state convention in April.

 

“There were over 6,000 FFA members, advisors and parents there that day. Getting up there to receive our Iowa Degrees was such a big accomplishment for all the hard work we’ve put in. It sealed the deal on an amazing experience,” Berns said.

 

Students must check off a list of criteria in order to earn their Iowa Degrees. That includes having an active Supervised Agricultural Experience, or SAE, through which they have either worked 375 unpaid hours or earned or productively invested $1,500, according to Schoulte.

 

FFA members must also earn at least 20 hours of community service, give a speech relating to agriculture, hold an officer position at the chapter level or above and participate in FFA events and activities.

 

Schoulte, who’s the current MFL MarMac chapter president and served as secretary a year ago, received her Iowa Degree based on two SAEs.

 

“One, I work on my family farm, which gives me plenty of unpaid hours,” she explained. “I also work at Butikofer Grain and Cattle in St. Olaf, which helped me achieve the earned over $1,500.”

 

Through FFA, 4-H and National Honor Society, Schoulte completed well over 20 hours of community service, and has participated in dairy judging as well as ag broadcasting and conduct of meetings at contest. Her speech, delivered last year in public speaking, focused on the farming crisis.

 

Berns said his SAE changed throughout high school, from helping his dad on the family farm to working at Quillin’s. He finally settled on working at Casey’s to meet the requirements.

 

“Casey’s has taught me more about food safety, and that’s what I learned through my SAE. It counted as paid hours, and through Casey’s I’ve learned how to properly and safely manage food in the kitchen and make sure everything is sanitary,” he shared.

 

Berns earned community service hours through NHS and working the FFA blood drive. He’s the current student alumni representative for the chapter and has competed in horse judging and attended the leadership conference.

 

“My speech, in public speaking, was a very basic definition of how loans work at a bank. I related that to agriculture and how farmers are able to get higher loans for farm equipment and what not,” he said.

 

Both Schoulte and Berns acknowledged they’ve come a long way from shy freshmen.

 

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do, how involved I wanted to be,” Schoulte recalled. “Then, junior year was my first officer position. That really taught me how to be a leader. Now, I get to encourage younger kids and grow this program. It’s super cool.”

 

Berns was introduced to FFA by his older sister, who cited opportunities to grow as a leader.

 

“I didn’t really do many events my freshman year, but my sister forced me to help set up for the blood drive and I started my community service then. Through the years, seeing the events you can join and how you can grow as a leader inspired me to later go into horse judging,” he said. “We were [advisor] Ms. Wille’s first horse judging team, and we placed top of class in halter judging.”

 

“Junior and senior year, I decided to get even more involved by shooting for officer positions, getting involved on committees, going to events,” Berns continued. “It shows FFA is more than being a farm kid—it’s for everyone. It’s amazing to understand the agricultural side of this world and understand the food on your plate has a lot of hard work behind it.”

 

Schoulte and Berns said watching others achieve their Iowa Degrees encouraged them.

 

“We’ve definitely gained motivation from previous years,” Berns stated.

 

“We were freshmen when this stretch of them first happened. It was nice seeing those older girls get their Iowa Degrees,” reflected Schoulte, who will strive for the next level American Degree when she attends Iowa State University for animal science. “It’s really good that every year we have someone, and I know we have some lined up next year and I’m sure the year after that. It’s good for our program and shows we’re growing.”

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