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FFA takes the gold

Nationally ranked forestry team! 

Cedar Springs FFA Forestry team takes gold at national competition. From L to R: (L to R): Sam Kleynenberg, Eli Kleynenberg and Gideon McConnon. 

In August, Eli Kleynenberg, Sam Kleynenberg, Trevor Marsman, and Gideon McConnon eliminated half of their competition in the first round of the National FFA competition for Forest Equipment Identification, Forestry General Knowledge, and created a Michigan specific forestry issue presentation around the topic of forest pests and how to control them. It was announced that they would continue to compete and represent the State of Michigan on October 27 at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

“I am extremely proud of what this team has accomplished thus far. It was extra special for me to be working alongside my brother Trevor in his last ever FFA career development event,” said Cedar Springs High School’s FFA Advisor Brent Willett.

On October 26, the Cedar Springs Forestry Team took to the National FFA Convention. The team settled nicely and awaited instruction with their Coach and FFA Advisor, Brent Willett. The team was instructed that they would be in the afternoon group to compete on Wednesday, October 27. After a team steak dinner, the men prepared for Wednesday morning with their final practice. The men represented the team well as the team competed in Compass & Pacing, as well as Forest Product Identification. 

From L to R: Gideon McConnon, Trevor Marsman, Eli Kleynenberg, and Sam Kleynenberg of the Cedar Springs Forestry team.

The team members competed as individuals in Tree Identification and Timber Cruising, which added to their team’s total points. 

Willett commented, “These men put in hours of extra time, including weekend practices. You can give kids everything they need to succeed, but it takes heart and determination and a community of support to make it all come together. These men did just that.” 

The Team excelled, taking 8th in the Nation with Gold Honors! A big congratulations to Sam Kleynenberg, who was recognized on the big stage for placing in the Top 10 in the Nation, as he received Gold and placed 8th in the Nation individually within the Forestry Career Development Event. Trevor Marsman, Gideon McConnon, and Eli Kleynenberg all received Silver Honors. 

Back row (L to R): Principal – Mr. Verwys, Eli Kleynenberg, Gideon McConnon, Sam Kleynenberg, Hayden Poffinbarger, Keith Goltz, Ethan Hanes, Morgan Chaffin, Mr. Willet. Front row (L to R): Vanessa Koebel, Caleb Skelonc, Connor Skelonc.

A big shout out to Cedar Springs High School’s Vice Principal, Mr. Verwys, as he joined the team on their road to victory. Verwys, who does not have a background in FFA, shared his thoughts with FFA Reporter, Mrogran Merlington, about the amazing experience to see what FFA is all about. “My favorite part of being at the FFA National Convention was seeing CSHS students compete and succeed on a national level.” Verwys also mentioned that he is “more convinced than ever that CSHS needs to not only continue but grow our support and participation with FFA. The bottom line for me is that the FFA is simply good for kids and the more students that we can encourage to participate, will benefit each individual and our school and community as well.” 

Sam Kleynenberg is part of the graduating class of 2021 and returned for nationals along with his class and teammate Trevor Marsman, who now wrestles for Cornerstone University. Kleynenberg had a few words to say on behalf of his time and experiences while participating in FFA. “FFA really does attract the best kinds of students: ones that aren’t only interested in the words inside of a textbook, and the ones that aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.” Kleynenberg also mentioned that he “can’t express how thankful he is for the experience that he’s had with the Cedar Springs FFA.” 

Marsman expressed a similar sentiment after his five year journey with FFA, which started in 8th grade. “FFA has helped me gain so much knowledge about agriculture and natural resources, but it has mostly impacted me by teaching me how to handle situations that are not always the easiest and how to overcome struggles in life.” Marsman remarked about the challenges of the competition when he stated, “you have to persevere and get out of your comfort zone, that’s what FFA is about! As a team we had to learn non-native species to Michigan and understand how they had value in other states, while they have little in ours.” 

While their teammates competed at the National Convention, seven other FFA students traveled to the National Convention to attend the Career & College Expo and several General Sessions. During the opening session, students heard Keynote Speaker Courtenay DenHoff. DenHoff used storytelling, fashion, and the Fancy Lady Cowgirl brand to bridge the gap between urban and rural cultures. At the Career and College Expo, students met with industry professionals learning about agriculture products and how students can be a part of the future of agriculture and natural resources. After achieving all that they did at the National Convention, the students were able to unwind and celebrate another successful year of FFA at the Brett Young Concert and the World’s Toughest Rodeo. Students also took an educational tour around Indianapolis Motor Speedway where they participated in the tradition of kissing the bricks.

The team deserves a round of applause for all the hard work they put into placing 8th in the nation. This achievement was made possible because of all the continued support from the community, including former FFA Advisor Mr. Larry Reyburn, Max Schrimpf, Principal Ron Behrenwald, and Vice Principal Jeremy Verwys. With ongoing support, the FFA program will continue to help better and strengthen Agriculture Education at Cedar Springs High School. 

If you would like more information about Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources Education at Cedar Springs Public Schools, please visit FFA’s website. https://sites.google.com/csredhawks.org/cedar-springs-ffa/home. For updates on FFA and to see what is going on in Agriculture classes, you can also follow FFA’s Facebook page @ Cedar Springs FFA.   

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Ray Winnie
Intandem Credit Union


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