National convention

Seymour FFA Member Reaches Creed Semi-Finals at National Convention

Audrey Newkirk has recited the FFA creed several times over the past year.

As a freshman at Seymour High School in the 2021-2022 school year, she chose the creed as her leadership development event. This recognizes outstanding members in grades 7-9 for their ability to present the FFA National Creed from memory and answer questions related to it.

Written by Professor Erwin Milton Tiffany of the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Agricultural Education in the summer of 1928, the creed outlines the organization’s values ​​and beliefs regarding the agricultural industry, FFA membership, citizenship and patriotism.

It was adopted at the FFA’s third national convention, then revised at the 38th and 63rd conventions and now consists of 258 words, six sentences and five paragraphs, according to ffa.org.

Reciting the creed has become a rite of passage in its own way.

All of Newkirk’s hard work paid off, as she won the district contest in March and the state contest in June and was a semi-finalist (top 16) nationally in October.

She was among eight candidates for Scottsburg district and 12 state and 52 national, both in Indianapolis.

Newkirk, now 15 and a sophomore at SHS, said contestants can get points if they start speaking before judges ask them to start reciting the creed, and they can also lose points. points if they miss any words of the creed.

Seymour FFA adviser Micah Dillman said the focus for the district was on learning the creed without making mistakes. From there, Newkirk worked on the flow and presentation of the creed.

District judges said Newkirk was an excellent clear speaker, but she delivered the creed a little too forcefully and loudly, so she worked on it to enter the state convention pageant.

“I think between the district and the state, that’s where she’s made some really cool improvements,” Dillman said. “That’s when she realized what the words she was saying really meant, and she became more drawn to the words and just more expressive in how she connected to the words and used his fluctuating voice and presentation to draw you in as a crowd to connect with those words as well.

Newkirk agreed with this assessment.

“Not just saying the words, but understanding them really helped me bring emotion and relativity to it,” she said. “There are lines like the joys and the discomforts of agricultural life, and I know the joys and the discomforts because I had to live very good harvest years on my family farm where we have an excellent result and then years where either there is too much rain or there is drought and we had to face a lot of difficulties.

The night she attended the state convention, Newkirk learned she was in the top four. The next day, on stage at a general session, she was announced as the winner.

“I was stunned,” she said. “I was so excited about this opportunity and immediately thought, ‘I still have work to do’ because I was ready for something more. I was so excited that I got the opportunity.

Newkirk’s preparation for the national convention included video calls with past national speakers, reciting the creed in school agriculture classes, and presenting the creed at meetings of the Seymour City Council, Seymour School Board Community School Corp. and the Premier Ag Board of Directors.

“It was a really cool experience just learning comfortably and speaking meaningfully in front of a lot of people,” she said.

At the national convention, the field of 52 candidates—one from each of the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands—was randomly split in half for the preliminary round. They remained in a room without their cell phones or resources until their names were called to appear before the judges.

The field was narrowed down to 16 semi-finalists, who had to recite the creed a second time. Then the bottom four had to do it for the third and final time.

These top four were gold finalists, while five through 16 were silver finalists and the rest were bronze.

Newkirk joined FFA in the seventh grade and competed in preparation for public speaking that year and in the eighth grade and both years reached the state level, and she said her comfort in speaking in front other people had started many years earlier in church. Since then, she hasn’t felt nervous speaking in front of people.

“Of course, I wanted to make it to the top four, but the experience alone has boosted my public speaking skills so much. I can only say the comfort it brings to be able to speak in front of people,” he said. she said, “I was with these random kids that I’ve never met in my entire life, and just talking to them and seeing their stories and all that stuff was really cool.”

Having that natural ability to speak in public has worked to Newkirk’s advantage, Dillman said.

“The FFA creed is tough language,” Dillman said. “We don’t talk that way these days, and her ability to understand what she’s saying and then use her speaking skills to draw you in and help you understand what she’s saying is really her strong point because she understands it and then knows how to present it so that others can understand it. I sincerely believe that’s what really separated her from others because of this ability that she had.

Dillman said she and other Seymour FFA advisers were impressed with Newkirk.

“She exceeded any expectations we had of her, and I told her she taught me a lot about not only the process of having a national finalist, she taught me how to be a better advisor and how I can better prepare students in the future for this competition,” Dillman said. “She’s worked really hard and is very deserving. We’re just proud of her and can’t wait to see what the future holds for her.”

This school year, Newkirk said she is returning to public speaking preparation for her leadership development event. This involves writing a speech on an agricultural topic, memorizing it, and presenting it.

“I can start at the district. I will write my own essay and then hopefully I can reapply for it and compete in another national competition,” she said.