by A.F. Mayor Marc Beitia
Taking the good with the bad, bittersweet, close but no cigar, or perhaps the old Wide World of Sports adage, “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” best describes the week that was. It started on the waters of the Snake River and I hope it ends amidst the cool currents of Spring Creek. After spending my last hours on the river until next October, last Sunday morning I met the American Falls FFA Ag Issues team at the Ag building because they wanted to practice. I don’t say no to a group of kids who want to get better, especially kids like these.
One of the lines in their presentation that has haunted me since Karen Sanchez wrote it, and I will paraphrase, “74 percent of the students in my community qualify for free or reduced lunch. Many of my friends live in poverty with their parents working two or more jobs but lacking the time and money to gain better employment skills. As children we tend to follow the examples of our parents. We have to do better than this.”
This statement was further solidified for me Saturday night in a conversation I had with folks working toward the economic development of our community. Part of the conversation centered around the loss of our middle class and the businesses that used to employ them. I am so thankful to those employers who have chosen to stay in our community and willingly provide a living wage. So, when I have students who tell me they want to work in the early morning hours, during lunch, or on their weekends, I rarely say no because chances are three to one it involves a student who has found something that will help move them and their future families out of our 74 percent.
Monday afternoon and evening found me in three meetings. At the first, we were able to verbally declare substantial completion on the new wastewater treatment plant, having just passed the requisite seven day performance test. The substantial completion walk through inspection is scheduled for April 23. The landscaping, curb, gutter and pavement are what is left of this major portion of the project. Once final completion is reached by or before June 11, the City will then go to bid on the new laboratory and shop facilities for the WWTP.
At 6 p.m. I met with Jordan Gehring, Wade Povey, Kristen Jensen, Jeremy Peirsol and Jeff Nelson to discuss common interests in the development of the properties north of the SH-39 bypass. That meeting was followed by a Joint Transportation meeting with ITD, Power County Highway District, the city and other interested parties where several regional projects were discussed, along with current and possible new access point to the SH-39 bypass that will allow our community to grow and attract new businesses and families. New access points to a state highway present a “sticky wicket,” as I have previously written about, but I thank those involved for continuing the conversation and searching for a common good solution.
Tuesday was full as well. The Ag program was visited by the University of Idaho’s Agricultural Education Department’s Dr. Jeremy Falk and eight of his students as they were concluding a tour of Idaho Ag programs on their way to the State FFA Leadership Convention in Twin Falls starting the next day. The best thing about that two hours was the interaction and conversations between my students (many included in the 74 percent) and those working toward a college degree, some of whom shared similar backgrounds — the ‘better is possible’ light started to shine a little brighter in the eyes of a few of my students.
After returning several phone calls and emails Tuesday afternoon at city hall, I headed back to the Ag Building to work on finalizing the Ag Issues portfolio and putting the finishing touches on a few other things for the next day’s state competitions. We decided to call it a day at 8:30. They were ready. Riely Geritz was ready with her prepared public speech, Lindsey Woodworth was ready for her Job Interview event, the Freshmen Parliamentary Procedure team was ready, the Reporters Scrapbook was complete, Morgan Cortez was ready for her Star Farmer and Beef Proficiency interviews, the National Chapter application and the officers were ready for their interview, the Equine Evaluation team had a good foundation, Hunter Morris was cocked, locked, and ready to rock on her run at a state FFA officer position.
FFA, like other Professional Technical Education Student Organizations (PTESO), is different than programs like football and drama in two distinct ways: One, PTESOs are intra-curricular, in that they put into practice much of what is taught in their classrooms, while activities like football and drama are offered outside the normal school day or are extracurricular. The other main difference is that all FFA chapters compete against each other; there is no segregation of competition based on the size of school. The members from Rockland, Aberdeen and American Falls compete against chapters like Meridian with over 2,300 students and ten teachers. With 84 chapters and over 4,000 members, our state competitions determine the very best of the best.
The FFA membership of our chapter totally reflects the demographics of our entire school from ethnicity to socio-economic status and gender. And, those who competed this last week in the Idaho FFA State Leadership Events mirrored the same. As a chapter, American Falls experienced unprecedented success. As they were announced, I stood in awe of our members. For the fourth year in a row, the Ag Issues team won. In their first time ever competing, the Freshmen Parliamentary Procedure team placed fourth. Riely Geritz won the Prepared Public Speaking event. Lindsey Woodworth won Job Interview. The Equine Evaluation team finished out of the top four but respectably for a team of freshmen. Morgan Cortez was recognized for having one of the best beef projects in the state. Twelve members received their State FFA Degree. Our Reporter’s Scrapbook placed second to Meridian. And, in the National Chapter selection process, the American Falls FFA Chapter was ranked #1 in Idaho. The “thrill of victory” never came to mind, but an overwhelming sense of pride in my students certainly did.
Then my heart broke and tears filled my eyes. She had prepared herself for the past four years doing everything she could to ready herself for the four day selection process that determines state officers in the FFA. In a field of 30 and then 13, she proceeded through the process to the final selection of six, but her name was not called. After years of continual preparation the “agony of defeat” should be a bitter pill for anyone to swallow. Hunter’s disappointment following was understandable. I hope she considers a second attempt — not succeeding and defeat are two very different things — different perspectives — Hunter knows the difference.
Until next week…