A love for agriculture is infectious.
The passion started simply for Alexis Wasinger when she raised and sold her first lamb at age 8. Over time, the passion grew and so did her menagerie of sheep, horses and cows. She joined FFA in her freshman year of high school and took every opportunity to deepen her passion and her knowledge.
After four years, that passion has paid off. Wasinger will be one of eight Buffalo High School seniors honored with the Wyoming FFA State Degree this year.
“I’m really excited, and I’m proud of myself because it’s something I was able to accomplish on my own,” Wasinger said. “I’ve been dedicated to agriculture since I was 8, and this degree shows how dedicated I am.”
Joining Wasinger as this year’s state degree winners from Buffalo FFA are Elsa Freise, Anson Turner, Porter Wing, Walker Silbernagel, Tyler Terry, John Zorbas and Gabby Land.
According to adviser Jake Evans, only one other chapter in the state had as many state degree recipients in 2020 as Buffalo FFA did.
“Typically at the state level, about 120 to 140 students receive state degrees each year,” Evans said. “When you look at the kids that start the FFA program as freshmen, only 3 to 5% of those are going to be honored with a state degree. So this honor really says a lot about the dedication that all of these students have shown to this program over the years.”
The Wyoming FFA Degree is awarded to high school seniors and FFA members “who have delivered the highest level of commitment for FFA and made significant accomplishments in their supervised agriculture experiences or SAEs,” according to Wyoming FFA adviser Stacy Broda. Each year, less than 10% of FFA members throughout the state earn their state degree, which is the organization’s highest honor available to high school students.
Each recipient of the degree must spend four years working on a supervised agricultural experience, which can be anything from raising sheep to training horses. For her SAE, Wasinger raised and sold sheep, horses and beef.
“I learned a lot, and I joined the shepherd program at the high school, which allowed me to grow in my knowledge,” Wasinger said. “I was also able to purchase a couple of Targhee sheep for my herd, which were great investments.”
To receive the degree, a student must earn and productively invest at least $4,000 worth of work or complete at least 2,000 hours of work in an agriculture-related business.
State degree recipients must also serve as a chapter FFA officer or committee member, be an active FFA member for at least two years, complete 360 hours of agricultural education, have a satisfactory academic record and complete at least 50 hours of community service, Evans said.
That’s a lot of work and time commitment, but the hardest part, according to Wasinger, was simply sitting down and doing the paperwork for the degree application.
“The hardest part was probably just filling out my application because I’m not very good at keeping records,” Wasinger said. “But, with the help of Mr. Evans, I filled it out. It was kind of cool to look back at what I’ve accomplished over the last four years.”
Earning a state degree qualifies students for various scholarship opportunities as they head into college, Evans said. But four years of hard work have also instilled lessons in his students that are far more important than a financial award.
“It shows a commitment to four years of completing a task,” Evans said. “Employers from across the state and across the nation know what a state degree represents and what it means. Whether you are going into the ag field or not after high school, having your state degree speaks highly of the kind of person you are and the commitment you have to doing a job and doing it well.”