The professional agricultural cluster in Ellis County is thriving.

With more than 12,000 guests attending the 89th annual Texas FFA Convention, Ellis County students spent a week attending leadership workshops, participating in agricultural activities, and recognized for their outstanding achievements.

“Although it’s an agricultural organization, we’re based more on leadership these days than just the practices of farming,” expressed Ryan Vines, Maypearl High School agricultural science teacher.

“The FFA is all about promoting personal growth, career success, and leadership,” added Jake Mullican, Red Oak High School agricultural science teacher and FFA advisor. “Being involved in a program like this, the students are able to continue to develop and hone those attributes to their fullest.”

As the nation’s largest FFA association with more than 119,000 memberships, the Texas FFA Association held its 2017 convention in Corpus Christi with approximately 12,000 guests reported to be in attendance.

This year, 22 students from Ellis County were bestowed the highest degree of membership and recognized through an award dubbed the Lone Star Degree.

According to a Waxahachie ISD press release, the Lone Star Degree recognizes FFA members who have received the Chapter degree, been active FFA members for at least two years, and completed at least four semesters of agricultural science at or above the ninth-grade level.

Not only that, but students must also maintain a Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) program, demonstrate their leadership skills, and show a commitment to the FFA through involvement at the chapter level and above.

The Waxahachie, Red Oak, and Maypearl FFA students recognized were among the 2,400 FFA members to receive this esteemed degree on July 14.

The five Maypearl FFA students to receive the Lone Star Degree included Rylie Williams, Kylie Burns, Caleb Adams, Dilon Bronar and Connor Pickard.

“It’s a big leadership award and a great thing for them because it opens them up to a vast array of scholarships that they can receive within the organization and other agricultural paths,” Vines noted. “These kids are constantly working. Our program has grown tremendously in the last eight years, and that is definitely because of the students. We are very proud of our kids.”

Adding to the list, the Waxahachie FFA Chapter gained recognition for eight students, including Jerica Bell, Maegan Connor, Lila Dineen, Kyle Hernandez, Whitney Johnson, Madison Salzar, Brandie Steele and Hallie Walker.

“All of our kids work hard, but that group of eight are the ones that are consistently there,” explained James Glenn, Waxahachie High School agricultural science teacher and FFA Advisor.

“They meet at seven o’clock in the morning to practice and stay at the barn until seven at night, and we, Brooks Humphrey, Jeanette Middleton, and myself have the hardest working kids,” he complimented. “We receive nothing but compliments on them from the community, and I’m pretty proud of them.”

Also receiving the honor were nine Red Oak students, which includes Michael Edwards, Mackenzie Harkins, Mikaela Harkins, Malori Hendricks, Bronson Lincks, Jarrett LaDue, Rylee Overbeek, Grace Valentine and Holly Mullins.

“We had nine students who received their Lone Star degrees this year which was more than any other chapters in the county,” Mullican pointed out. “Our chapter continues to grow every single year and it’s because of the hard work and effort of our students who put in the extra hours.”

In addition to the Lone Star award, Red Oak FFA also received the State Superior Chapter rating, recognizing the chapter’s completed and documented activity that relates to each of the 15 quality standards of the program.

“Our chapter received a superior chapter rating from the Texas FFA this year, which only the top ten percent of the chapters in the state of Texas receive,” Mullican articulated. “It shows the time and effort the members not only put in with their community service projects but also their involvement with other aspects of leadership and career development events."

Waxahachie FFA also accepted special recognition through the Golden Horizon Award.

“The Golden Horizon Award is given by chapter where the kids collectively won that award,” Glenn described. “It’s based on our involvement and how we did in different events throughout the year."

“And we’ve won that award for the last three years, and there are only about 15 schools in Texas that get it, so it’s pretty exciting,” he added.

For more information about the Texas FFA Association or how to get started in a local chapter, visit


Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer