Paris FFA Named Top Chapter in America
February 19, 2022
Written By Neal Fandek
The Paris (Mo.) FFA chapter won the National Model of Excellence, the award for the top chapter in the country, at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis in October 2021.
How do you become No. 1 among nearly 9,000 chapters? By going beyond teaching basic ag and science, bake and fruit sales, ham curing, metalworking, Christmas toy drives, and 5K runs.
How far beyond? Think coyote hunts, plastic flamingo farms, community meal sharing and smoke detectors.
Coyotes Hunting Coyotes
The Paris High School mascot is a coyote, and the predators are a statewide problem. That gave graduate FFA member Ethan Chapman an idea. Why not host a coyote hunting tournament? The chapter organized competitive team hunts, and the students shot more than 20 of the critters.
Josh Bondy, Paris FFA co-advisor, says the coyote tournament is a prime example of not quashing students’ wild ideas.
“If the kids are behind it and excited, we are going to go all out,” says Bondy, who’s been teaching for nearly 20 years, and not coincidentally has been named Outstanding Rural Teacher of the Year by the Missouri Association of Rural Education.
Audrey Nobis co-advises the Paris FFA chapter with Bondy. She is a Paris High School graduate who returned to teach seventh- to ninth-grade students.
“These kids bring so much energy, so much excitement,” Nobis says. “It’s something new every day. You never know what to expect.”
Chapter members pour that energy back into the community, donating student-raised chickens to the Paris Senior Center and Meals of Plenty, a meal box program assembled for food-insecure people in the local community. Paris FFA members also knocked on about 500 doors, offering homeowners new smoke detectors and replacement batteries.
The flamingo farm was Bondy’s idea to tackle student isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The idea came to him on an ag teacher group call discussing how to keep kids involved and engaged during the shutdown. The project asked each student to host a flock of plastic pink flamingos on their property and post a positive message on social media within three days. If a student didn’t post a message, Bondy, Nobis or fellow students would stop by to show care and support.
The groundwork for the 2021 awards was laid in 2019 when teams of Paris students began working on their FFA presentations. The Paris FFA chapter received top 10 national FFA honors in 2020, but the students thought they could do better. So the chapter members honed their presentations at the Rotary Club, local businesses and elsewhere.
“I was confident in them,” says Nobis, observing their poise. “I knew they’d do well.”
Paris FFA won five national awards, including third in poultry and fifth in an ag issues forum. Ethan Chapman, who came up with the coyote hunt idea, placed in the top four for service learning.
All in all, Missouri FFA did exceptionally well. Centralia, Elsberry, Mexico, Aurora and Braymer FFA chapters placed in the top 10 in different categories. The state FFA chapter won the national Outstanding Innovation Award for a leadership summit, and two Missouri FFA members won Agricultural Proficiency Awards. Missouri FFA members received 539 American FFA degrees, the second-highest number from any state. The top award also came with $500 for Paris.
But the real reward, Bondy says, is the support the Paris community has shown year in and year out. Within days of the announcement, signs and banners popped up all over town, including a sign greeting motorists entering Paris.
“The community is always there to support us,” says Bondy. “So we try to give back. They know it all comes full circle.”
But Bondy, Nobis and their students are not resting on their laurels. They’re already prepping for the next contest season.
“We just keep plugging and chugging,” Bondy says. “We have new goals.”
And that’s what it takes to be No. 1.