After years of dedication and countless hours of preparation, the Minarets High School parliamentary procedure team won the Future Farmers of America National Parliamentary Procedure Championship in Indianapolis, Ind. last Friday.
The team, coached by Kristi Mattes, included: Sarah Graves, chairman; Rachel Oatman, secretary; Sarah Bradshaw; Cody McDougald; Joshua Dowell; and Breanna Cairns. Graves, Oatman, Bradshaw and McDougald are all recent Minarets alumni and Dowell and Cairns are currently Minarets seniors.
Because the now college students were in high school when they won their respective state titles, they were allowed to compete at nationals this fall. All of the students have done, or are doing, FFA throughout all four years of high school and each took home a $1,000 cash scholarship for winning the national championship.
"Our team was so determined to push through all of the difficulties and struggles throughout the years and come out on top," said Bradshaw, who now attends Simpson College. "There was nothing that any of us wanted more or worked harder at to achieve."
Because four of the team members had moved away to college, getting together to prepare for the championship was a challenge but Mattes made sure it happened. Three weeks before the contest the team held a weekend retreat and practiced from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day. The team then left four days before the competition began in Indianapolis to practice and "get back in the swing of things," Mattes said.
Competitions were held for three days. Students began by taking a written test with 45 multiple questions, then were given five quotations out of Roberts Rules of Order and they had to identify what page and what line they could be found on in 30 minutes. Over the three days, students gave three demonstrations of parliamentary law in which they had to use five specific motions and were given a topic. They also had a problem solving event in which the team was given a scenario that could potentially happen in parliamentary law and the team had to justify their decision from Roberts Rules of Order.
"It is truthfully impossible to put into words how much I learned from this competition," Dowell said. "It makes you think on your feet ... Above all else though it gives you the professionalism to use in your everyday lives, and makes you grow as a person."
Throughout the three days, test, demonstration and problem solving scores were calculated and teams were eliminated -- from 42 to 12, then down to four -- before Minarets High School's parliamentary procedure team was finally announced as the national champions.
"The feelings were absolutely overwhelming," Dowell said. "As soon as the team was announced, we jumped from our seats and the applause thundered."
"It was the most incredible feeling," Graves said. "Being surrounded by your closest friends and being able to share that moment with them was something special. I will never forget that moment a day in my life."
Bradshaw said winning was about putting in hard work and effort for the good of the team.
"We didn't do this for ourselves," she said. "We did this for each other and in the end we learned that nothing is impossible if you put in the time, passion and sacrifice."
For Mattes, who has been working for a national championship for 36 years, finally winning was an indescribable feeling.
"All the work and the time and indecision that the kids had about what they were doing, and time they were spending, made everything worthwhile," Mattes said. "To be such a young school and have this accomplishment, it's not like anything else you'd ever feel. I've been trying to do this for 36 years and here we are."
Although Mattes has had state champions before, this is her first national win and she says Minarets is going to keep aiming for the national title.
"Once you set the bar, the students will definitely rise to the occasion," she said. "We have some excellent students already working towards this goal that will move into this last group's spot."
Besides winning the championship title, all six students also became accredited parliamentarians at the championship. They had to take a 50 question test to do so and have to score at least an 80% or higher to become certified. Out of the 263 students who took the test, only 116 became accredited. Mattes said those students can now be asked to judge any of these competitions themselves and teach.
As a result of the competition, Mattes said all six students decided to make agriculture part of their future career and because they really love what they're doing.
Dowell plans on pursuing a degree in animal science and then continuing on to receive a doctorate of veterinary medicine. He wants to focus on food animals -- animals to be used for human consumption. He says FFA is more than "just cows and plows." He says it's helped him with everything from showing animals to competing in speaking contests -- things he can benefit from throughout his life.
Cairns says she plans on pursuing a degree in ag communications and says the competition played a part in helping her find her passion.
"This competition was one of the most memorable experiences of my life," Cairns said. "The excitement level was at a record max all week long. We met a lot of new people and the majority of other states were extremely sweet. It was a great opportunity to develop new relationships with people from all over the nation."
Cairns was also named outstanding member of the competition, but says what she learned more than anything was the power of a team.
"I was honored to be with five other amazing and intelligent individuals," she said. "We came together as a family, and fought for one common goal. Never underestimate the power of team."
Graves, who currently is pursuing a degree agriculture education at Chico State, says FFA has made her who she is today.
"My ability to speak in front of people comes from the fact that I have been given immense opportunities through the FFA and it has given me the confidence to stand in front of a group of people and talk to them," she said.
Minarets Principal Michael Niehoff said students wouldn't have unique opportutnies like this if it weren't for hard working staff like Mattes and all the ag advisors and their students.
"Winning a National Championship in any arena is an exciting and rare thing for most high schools. It's no surprise that our students in FFA would be the ones to bring that level of recognition and accomplishment home to our school and community. We are indeed proud of and honored by the National Championship by our Parliamentary Procedure team."
Chawanakee Unified School District Supintendent Bob Nelson said he was thrilled with the success of the Minarets FFA program.
"We pride ourselves on putting our kids out into the community to compete in real-world events such as this, and these six students represent the best and brightest of what Minarets is all about," Nelson said. "As a district, we could not be more proud of their national championship."