Freehold FFA Competes at Nationals

Arielle Yu, Staff Writer

In general, a majority of people probably get a little anxious over presenting a speech or PowerPoint to their peers; however, it’d probably be a lot more nerve-wracking to do so in front of professionals in a certain career field! I’m pretty sure that would be enough to make anyone sweat bullets.

This may sound scary, but that is exactly what five students from the Freehold FFA Chapter had to do at the National FFA Convention & Expo just this past week. These students were sent to represent New Jersey after placing second overall at the state level. Although there were originally seven members on the team, only five were able to go to Nationals: Nicole Haralampoudis, Renee Hoerning, Oliva Ribas, Gabbie Vilanova, and Arielle Yu.

After delayed flights and eventual cancellation the day before, the team was set to fly out at six in the morning the day of the competition. Luckily, they were able to make in time to compete in their event!

The Agricultural Issues Forum was an event that required the team to develop a presentation/skit focused on a problem in agriculture. It had to be a maximum of fifteen minutes long, with an additional seven minutes just for questioning from audience members. Freehold’s representatives choose to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) when compared to organic products.

When the time came, Freehold and the other chapters were split up randomly so that no group from a certain ranking range was in the same room. These groups then drew times to present, where the Freehold Chapter set up to present at two in the afternoon. The idea was that a group of judges would evaluate the team based on their skit and ability to answer questions. Only a few teams from each room would be able to move onto the next round.

Freehold did not advance, but that does not mean all their hard work went to waste. At a luncheon they attended on the last day, Freehold found out that they were to receive a bronze ranking along with several other chapters!

Besides their event, the girls from Freehold’s chapter were able to explore everything else that Nationals had to offer. The Indiana Convention Center had an entire hall dedicated to the National Expo. There, Nicole Haralampoudis was tasked with helping at the New Jersey Hall of States booth – another event. The rest of the team was able to walk around, meeting representatives of various career fields and colleges along the way. They were even able to dedicate time to purchase a couple of souvenirs for themselves! All of them were also able to participate in various games and activities such as cornhole, country line dancing, photo booths, a rodeo, and many more!


The Patriot Press was able to speak with Renee Hoerning, chapter president and a member of the Agricultural Issues team, on what she thought of the experience.

She says, “Competing in Agricultural Issues really allowed me to get a new perspective and understanding of other people’s beliefs. Overall, Nationals was a great chance for us to meet many members from all over the United States and territories that have the same interests as us!”

Although the girls didn’t win, that doesn’t mean they didn’t get the experience of a lifetime. As seniors at FTHS, they most likely won’t get this chance again and were glad to be able to form strong bonds with one another before they go their different ways at the end of the year.

It is a bit too early in the year to be saying this, but the Freehold FFA Chapter hopes to be able to help represent New Jersey again at the next National Convention!