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Rugby FFA host awards banquet

By Sue Sitter - | May 1, 2021

Rugby FFA students pose with awards they won at a ceremony April 26. Top row, from left are: Kordell Kraft, Thatcher Volk, Cole Vietz-Reile, Megan Harmel, Lauren Voeller, Rylie Keating and Ryan Slaubaugh. Bottom row, from left are: Amy Volk, Amber Selensky, Katelyn Duchscher, Callie Oppen, Tyra Lysne and Dalton Vietz-Reile.

The Rugby High Future Farmers of America honored members of their chapter and community with a banquet held at Rugby High School the evening of April 26.

Guests enjoyed a supper of roast beef and all the trimmings and ice cream for dessert in the school’s commons area before heading for the Tillman Hovland Auditorium for an awards presentation and more.

After their opening ceremonies, the chapter welcomed State FFA Sentinel Jayden McDonald, who delivered a speech sprinkled with humorous quips. “I almost went home, because I saw that I was already here,” MacDonald joked, referencing an FFA member who looked quite a bit like him.

Former UND football star Hunter Pinke delivered the keynote address for the evening.

Pinke told the Rugby FFA members he could relate to them “as a class B kid.” FFA had played an important role in his middle and high school years in Wishek, Pinke said as he displayed high school photos of himself in an FFA jacket. He named several high school activities students usually participate in, noting, “You have FFA; you play basketball, football, baseball, track; you do all these things because if you don’t, you don’t have a team.”

Pinke talked about his faith, describing two tests in his 22 years of life, one that changed his perspective on life and one that changed his future.

The first test in Pinke’s life came just before an FFA program in Wishek, when he learned that a close friend had died in a car crash. He found the strength to carry out his duties despite the emotional trauma he suffered from the fresh shock of the devastating news.

Rugby FFA Adviser Kristi Tonnessen had been at the FFA event, serving as an advisor when Pinke had learned the news, he said.

Pinke’s second life-altering test came after he secured a spot on the UND Fighting Hawks football team and began his studies in engineering. On a skiing vacation in Colorado, Pinke chose to take an alternate trail down a ski slope, where he hit a tree, shattering several vertebrae in his spine. As a result, he would be paralyzed from the chest down and adjust to life in a wheelchair.

Pinke credited his faith in Christ with his survival and the lessons he learned about life. He described the people he met as he recovered, including a Colorado nurse who had spent 30 days in a coma before waking up and recovering completely. Pinke asked FFA member and future nursing student Callie Oppen to play the role of the nurse onstage.

He told the audience he resolved to have “no bad days.”

“You can have rough days, lots of rough days,” Pinke explained. However, he said, each new day is a gift from God.

Audience members gave Pinke a standing ovation for his inspirational speech.

With a slightly quavering voice, Tonnessen took the stage next to present awards for achievements made by chapter and community members.

Receiving awards for career development events were Thatcher Volk, agronomy; Katelyn Duchscher and Amber Selensky, ag sales and Derek Jacobs, livestock evaluation.

In leadership development events, awards went to Katelyn Duchscher, employment skills; Selensky, extemporaneous public speaking; Amy Volk, prepared public speaking; Jaclyn Duchscher, creed speaking and Ryleigh Keating and Ryan Slaubaugh, demonstration.

The top salesman honor went to Grace Mahle.

Jaclyn Duchscher received the Discovery Star Award, given to middle-school students for their dedication and active FFA membership. Taylor Pritschet received the Greenhand Star Award, given to first-year FFA students who begin a path of active involvement in the field of agriculture. Selensky received the Ag Placement Star Award for her continued involvement in the field of agriculture, while Thatcher Volk received the Farmer Star Award for his work and involvement on his family farm. Agribusiness Star Awards went to Kordell Kraft, who has worked to restore a vintage tractor and a car, and Cole and Dalton Vietz-Reile, who have started a lawn care business.

Retiring officers honored at the ceremony were Chapter Sentinel Lauren Voeller, Chapter Reporter Callie Oppen, Chapter Treasurer Megan Harmel and Chapter President Tyra Lysne.

Voeller received the Outstanding FFA Member title for the Rugby Chapter, while Selensky and Katelyn Duchscher each received an achievement award.

The Rugby chapter also presented local agribusiness professional Amber Feickert with an honorary degree, citing the support she gave to FFA students and events throughout the year.

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