Waupaca FFA is No. 1
Riley elected state treasurer
By Angie Landsverk
Waupaca’s FFA chapter was named No. 1 in the state, and one of its members was elected a state officer during this year’s state FFA convention.
The 88th annual convention took place in Madison this month.
In 12 out of the last 17 years, Waupaca’s FFA chapter was named the state winner of the National Chapter Award.
“The reason that I am so passionate about FFA is it is real-world learning, real-world leadership,” said Jen Erb, who teaches agriculture at Waupaca High School and is the FFA chapter adviser.
Waupaca’s chapter ranked first out of 238 chapters in the state and now advances to national competition.
Its members earned third place in the Strengthening Agriculture Division, first in the Growing Leaders Division and first in the Building Communities Division.
The National Chapter Award application involves ranking a chapter in each of those three divisions, said Erb, who just completed her 25th year teaching at WHS.
She said it is agriculture education, FFA and Supervised Agricultural Experiences that result in her students being as diversified as they are.
In the case of Elisha Riley, who just graduated from WHS, Erb credits Riley’s involvement in 4-H and FFA as helping her become the leader she is today.
Riley was elected the Wisconsin FFA 2017-18 state treasurer during the state convention.
“She has all the good attributes to be a state officer,” said Erb.
Riley said she was one of six candidates and had several interviews before she was one of the top two candidates.
“I was so surprised,” she said. “I’m really glad how everything worked out.”
Riley explained why she wanted to be a state officer.
“I remember in seventh grade going to my first state convention,” she said.
The state officers were on stage to open and close the convention.
“They were great role models,” she said.
Riley also wants to be a role model for students.
Last week, she was in Marshfield for training and this week, she attended the Wisconsin Association of Agriculture Educators Conference, in Appleton.
Riley will spend the year traveling and visiting FFA chapters.
She will receive leadership internship credits and plans to begin studying biotechnology in the fall of 2018, at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
Erb said this is not the first time one of her students was elected a state officer.
Tyler Salisbery served as state reporter from 2004-05, and Jim Melby was the state reporter from 1999-2000.
Jim Piechowski served as the state treasurer from 1993-94 and then as the state president from 1994-95.
Erb credits the support the chapter receives from the district’s administrators, school board and community as reasons why it continues to be successful.
“When I came here, there were probably 60 kids taking ag classes in the high school,” she said. “We’ve diversified. We added the entrepreneurship class, the biotechnology class, and we added dual-credit transcript courses with Fox Valley Technical College.”
After three years in the district, Erb saw the Agriculture Department go from a one-person department to a two-person department.
Rene Lehman just completed her 20th year teaching at the high school.
“Right now, we have 143 members in FFA. They can be in FFA from seventh grade until they’re 21,” Erb said. “When I started, there were probably about 30 students in FFA.”