National FFA honors the late Phillip LaGoy of Vernon-Verona-Sherrill FFA with an American FFA Degree.
For several years, Vernon-Verona-Sherrill (VVS) High School FFA member Phillip LaGoy (pictured above, right, with childhood friend Chuck Sreca and Alumni and Supporter Heather Perry) had his sights set on earning the prestigious American FFA Degree received by less than one percent of FFA members each year. Just hours before he passed away at the age of 19, his dream became a reality.
LaGoy was first diagnosed with a rare form of cancer known as Ewing’s sarcoma in 2015 when he was 16 years old, at which time he served as vice president of the VVS FFA alongside his childhood friend, Charles Sreca. After several months of treatment, LaGoy was pronounced cancer-free at age 17, and he and Sreca continued to serve as co-vice presidents of their chapter during the 2016-17 school year.
“My son, Charles, and Phillip met in kindergarten and were friends ever since, so I had the pleasure of knowing Phillip for most of his life,” says Sheila Sreca, treasurer of the New York FFA Alumni and Supporters. “He was a wonderful friend to my son, and I’ll forever be thankful they were able to continue to grow their bond as FFA members and officers.”
In December 2017, LaGoy’s cancer returned, and he passed away on September 23, 2018 – but not before being recognized for his many achievements in FFA.
“Paulette Schiebel [president of the New York FFA Alumni and Supporters] reached out and, with the assistance of Phillip’s chapter advisors and New York FFA Association state staff, submitted Phillip’s application for the American FFA Degree,” says Brett Evans, supervised agricultural experience education specialist for the National FFA Organization. “We understood his condition was serious, so we expedited the process. But make no mistake, Phillip earned the degree. He did the work and met all the requirements, and we are proud to honor him in this way.”
The American FFA Degree is presented to recipients at the National FFA Convention & Expo each October, but national staff ensured LaGoy was notified of his achievement right away – on September 22, 2018 – and shipped his degree overnight.
Although LaGoy passed away before receiving the physical certificate, it arrived in time for his funeral and was prominently displayed during the service.
“Phillip was engaged in our FFA program since he was in the seventh grade, and he was heavily involved with our chapter’s maple syrup operation,” says Keith Schiebel, retired agriculture instructor and former VVS FFA advisor. “His passion for FFA was always evident. He absolutely deserved the American FFA Degree, and I’m so happy he was able to receive that honor before he passed.”