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FFA Scholarships — Words from winners

By Katy Mumaw, Senior Content Writer, National FFA Organization

Where can you find more than 1,000 scholarships available with only one application to complete? At FFA.org, that’s where! The National FFA Organization along with the National FFA Foundation are proud to report that almost $2 million in scholarships were available in 2013 and they are ready to receive 2014 applications.

The 2014 scholarship application went live on Nov. 15, however educators in Paola, Kan., started the conversation with students in mid-October with plans to begin the application process as soon as they return from the holiday break. Teachers Brett Brownback and John Menefee have had considerable success in the FFA scholarship program over the years. Located near Kansas City, Brownback and Menefee have the opportunity to work with urban and rural students. "Our mix of students allows us to have lots of different types of SAEs that fit into different scholarship and award categories," Menefee said. "I feel privileged to have walked into a really good program that continues to be well-recognized."

Menefee requires that all seniors apply for scholarships at the local, state and national level regardless of interests or post-graduation plans. He spends a day or so in class walking them through the application process and fielding questions. The rest of the work must be done on their own.

His advice in attaining national FFA scholarships is twofold: one, simply apply and two, it starts with the students’ freshmen year. Get them involved in chapter inter-curricular activities and extra-curricular activities in the community. "I tell my students ‘it is not all about your GPA when you leave here. It is about your involvement and school and community activities’," Menefee said.

Todd Marks, a 34-year veteran in agricultural education, agrees that getting students to think about the application sooner rather than later is important. “Starting with their sophomore year, I encourage students to document their projects and community involvement. Then, when they are filling out the application, proofreading is so important.”

Marks teaches in the Harrisburg, S.D., school district, the fastest growing district in the state. He currently serves 204 members in his affiliated chapter located right outside of Sioux Falls. He has had FFA success throughout his tenure as an educator, averaging one to two scholarship recipients most years.

“I like the fact that it [the scholarship application] is like a clearing house; you fill out one application and you can apply for so many different scholarships,” said Marks. This helps him sell the value to his students.

Marks’ advice to young educators or those who are starting to work applications into their program, “Proofread, proofread, proofread and ask those of us who have experience to share a past winner application with them or help in other ways. I would be happy to proofread for them,” he said. “But just know that I may be seeking some help from those younger teachers too, with technology, as more processes go online,” Marks added with a chuckle.

For more information about FFA scholarships, visit FFA.org/scholarships. The application submission deadline is 5 p.m. EST Feb. 1, 2014. (A 2014 signature page postmarked no later than Feb. 8, 2014, is required to complete eligibility.)

Additional applicant tips

Additional advisory tips

Paola FFA also won the Ford Truck Scholarship in 2006 and again in 2012. This $3,000 award is given by the National Association of Agricultural Educators and you are able to spend the money how you see fit. This year half of the money is going to send our students to leadership workshops and the other half is starting up a new community project where members will help retired and/or elderly farmers take care of their properties. Taking the time to fill out the application is bringing new opportunities to everyone involved in their agricultural education program. – John Menefee, Paola, Kan.

To qualify for the grant, an FFA chapter must have a local Ford dealer participating in the scholarship program and a minimum of three high school applicants for the Built Ford Tough – FFA Scholarship.