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Tiny Burnt River School shines at national FFA convention

One student received an American degree while two exchange students placed ninth nationally.

By Aliya Hall

Capital Press

Published on November 7, 2017 3:34PM

Shelby Swindlehurst with her American Degree. She is the first student from Burnt River School District to receive the degree.

Courtesy of Jessica Wilson

Shelby Swindlehurst with her American Degree. She is the first student from Burnt River School District to receive the degree.

FFA advisor Jessica Wilson and exchange students Gustavo Ferrareto and Tim Barabas with their agriscience project comparing the agricultural knowledge in 13 countries. They placed ninth in the nation.

Courtesy of Jessica Wilson

FFA advisor Jessica Wilson and exchange students Gustavo Ferrareto and Tim Barabas with their agriscience project comparing the agricultural knowledge in 13 countries. They placed ninth in the nation.

Stran Siddoway, Tim Barabas, Tyler Belveal, Noah Ray, Gustavo Ferrareto, Shea Swindlehurst, Shayla Winton, Shelby Swindlehurst and Jessica Wilson at the FFA national convention. Barabas and Ferrareto placed ninth in the agriscience competition and Shelby Swindlehurst was awarded the American Degree.

Courtesy of Jessica Wilson

Stran Siddoway, Tim Barabas, Tyler Belveal, Noah Ray, Gustavo Ferrareto, Shea Swindlehurst, Shayla Winton, Shelby Swindlehurst and Jessica Wilson at the FFA national convention. Barabas and Ferrareto placed ninth in the agriscience competition and Shelby Swindlehurst was awarded the American Degree.


UNION, Ore. — Shelby Swindlehurst was one of the first to join Burnt River School’s FFA chapter when she was a sophomore at the high school. Now a sophomore at Eastern Oregon University studying agricultural sciences, she was awarded one of the organization’s top honors, the American Degree, at this year’s FFA national convention.

The degree is awarded to FFA members who have “demonstrated the highest level of commitment to FFA and made significant accomplishments in their supervised agricultural experiences,” according to the FFA website.

Less than 1 percent of members are awarded the degree each year.

“At first I didn’t realize how big it really was because I’ve never been around anyone who had it,” she said. “Same with my advisor, but she knew it was a big deal. This year when I went to nationals, it was an eye-opener about how big an accomplishment it was.”

Swindlehurst is the first in the Burnt River School District to receive this award.

Among the requirements for the American Degree are: receiving the State FFA Degree, being an active member for the past three years, having completed three years of systematic secondary school instruction in an agricultural education program, having graduated from high school, maintaining records to substantiate an outstanding supervised agricultural experience, earning at least $10,000 and productively investing $7,500 and having participated in at least 50 hours of community service.

Along with Swindlehurst, seven other students from Burnt River participated at the convention. Shayla Winton, Noah Ray, Stran Siddoway, Shea Swindlehurst and Tyler Belveal went for the experience, and Gustavo Ferrareto and Tim Barabas competed.

Ferrareto and Barabas were exchange students from Brazil and Germany, respectively. Their Agriscience project compared 13 countries’ agricultural knowledge.

“I didn’t believe when Mrs. Wilson sent me the message telling me that we made it to nationals,” Ferrareto said. “It was an incredible thing for Tim and I, the first people from Burnt River in FFA Nationals convention. Being exchange students made us feel a lot more special because we had the feeling that we did awesome even being against American high school students.”

The results of their project showed that agricultural knowledge in urban areas of the countries were “not outstanding at all,” Barabas said. The most surprising find: the U.S. ranked last in the overall average scores.

“Even in a country with an extremely effective agricultural education with FFA and subjects like animal science, ag mechanics, ag business and plant science, urban areas have a huge problem,” Barabas said. “In our opinion, the lack of agricultural knowledge is an international problem, which can be solved even better by the cooperation of nations.”

Ferrareto and Barabas placed ninth at the convention.

Although Burnt River High School, about 40 miles southwest of Baker City, Ore., has only 19 students enrolled at the high school, 17 of them are involved in FFA. Jessica Wilson, FFA advisor for the school district, said that half of the population is exchange students from around the urban U.S. and abroad.

“It’s an opportunity we have that’s available,” she said. “I’d like it if we could get more kids to come to the school, kids that want to be in ag and experience life in the West.”

Rory and Krystal Swindlehurst offer lodging for exchange students at the Burnt River Integrated Agriculture Research Ranch (BRIARR). Krystal Swindlehurst said she hopes that it helps the school grow.

“At our state convention almost every kid in our group was up there competing against schools with three thousand kids,” she said. “I just think it shows that as a group they’re very committed.”

Barabas and Ferrareto said FFA was instrumental in their exchange, and they thanked Wilson and the entire Burnt River School District for their support. Barabas said that next to the community, agriculture was what helped him and Ferrareto have a great year.

“Agriculture gave us no time to become bored in a town that consists of one main street, a gas station and one school. It brought us together with the entire school on the weekends and created a very special relationship between every single individual in school,” Barabas said. “It taught us to respect our food and the people taking care of our nutrition.”





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