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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019 2 weeks ago

Ocoee High alumna receives prestigious FFA degree

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Alumna Hannah Wagner is the first FFA member from Ocoee High to receive an American FFA Degree, the highest honor in the organization.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

In the National FFA Organization, there is a gold standard that only 1% of its members will achieve — and Ocoee High School alumna Hannah Wagner is part of that group.

FFA is a youth organization that prepares its members for leadership and careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture. 

The American FFA Degree is the highest degree achievable in the organization and it shows an FFA member’s dedication to his or her chapter and state FFA organization. 

Additionally, it “demonstrates the effort FFA members apply toward their supervised agricultural experience and the outstanding leadership abilities and community involvement they exhibited through their FFA career,” according to the National FFA Organization’s website.

Wagner, who graduated from OHS in May, has been involved in FFA since she was in seventh grade at Ocoee Middle School. She first joined the organization due to her love of animals, but once she got involved, she realized FFA was so much more.

 

“The main part of it really is the leadership side, and I got very into the public speaking,” Wagner said. “I started for the animals but I fell in love with the people and atmosphere. I ran with it from there and, God willing, have been very successful with it. FFA is about personal growth, premier leadership and career success. I would say those are three things I had tremendous improvement on from being in (FFA).”

Throughout her high-school FFA career, Wagner served in a variety of leadership roles. She was president of OHS’ FFA chapter from her sophomore through senior year, and she was the first FFA student from Ocoee to serve as the Orange County FFA Federation president.

Wagner even went beyond that to become the first Ocoee FFA member to serve as vice president of the Florida FFA Association’s District IV. Now, she is the proud recipient of an American FFA Degree.

“There are are about 669,000 FFA members across the country and less than 1% will ever receive their American FFA Degree,” Wagner said.

This year, according to the National FFA Organization, a record 4,353 FFA members received their American FFA Degree at the 2019 National FFA Convention & Expo. In addition to the degree certificate, each recipient received a gold American FFA Degree key.

“I started for the animals but I fell in love with the people and atmosphere. I ran with it from there and, God willing, have been very successful with it.” — Hannah Wagner

To receive the degree, members have to go through an extensive application process in which they outline everything they’ve done in their FFA careers and meet a variety of criteria. That includes receiving a State FFA Degree, holding active membership for three years and demonstrating outstanding scholastic achievement.

Wagner found out over the summer that she would be receiving her American FFA Degree at the national convention in Indianapolis, which took place at the end of October.

Now, Wagner is finishing her associate’s degree at Valencia College and hopes to transfer to the University of Florida to get a degree in agricultural education and communication.

“It’s hard to put into words,” she said of how it felt to receive that degree. “I would say that it’s just a very honorable feeling and you feel numb almost, like, ‘Did this really happen?’ …After I got off stage and received it I went outside and I told (FFA Adviser Amy Anderson) ‘I remember sitting in your class as a seventh grader and when you were teaching about the different degree levels in the FFA.’ … I thought, ‘That’s the best of the best, I’m never gonna get there.’ I am there and I did get it, and so to be at that level and accomplish something like that, it’s just an overwhelming feeling.

“I would not have gotten to the place I am without people pushing me and having my tribe behind me helping me along,” she added. 

Danielle Hendrix is the Associate Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Central Florida, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in world comparative studies. ...

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