University News

WIU Agricultural Educators Continue to Inspire Future Agricultural Leaders

June 23, 2022

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MACOMB, IL – The Illinois State FFA Convention was held in Springfield, IL, June 13-16, and, once the last gavel dropped, Western Illinois University's Agricultural Educators recorded numerous achievements that highlight leadership activities among their students.

Sydney Riden, a 2021 agriculture education graduate and agriculture teacher at Rushville-Industry High School, inspired her student Rachel Hood to follow her dreams in becoming an Illinois FFA Major Officer. Hood was elected the 2022-2023 IL FFA president.

FFA chapters are reviewed and evaluated every year on the activities they conduct. The Streator FFA Chapter was announced as the Premier FFA Chapter in Illinois, which is considered the top program in the state. Riley Hintzsche, a 2014 agriculture education graduate, is the FFA adviser for the Streator agriculture program.

Illinois FFA Stars, who are individuals that receive recognition for their SAE's (Supervised Agriculture Experience), are also presented prestigious individual awards. FFA Stars Sam DeCounter, a 2002 agriculture education graduate, has been inspirational in assisting his son Braydon DeCounter, of the West Prairie FFA chapter, to obtain the Illinois FFA State Star Farmer designation.

Aaron Heartt, a 2001 agriculture education graduate, and Hannah Libby and Brandon Livingston, both 2020 WIU agriculture education graduates, encouraged Katie Wagner, of the Mercer County FFA chapter, who was awarded the Illinois FFA State Star in Agribusiness to continue her dream of managing her own agribusiness.

Discovery FFA Stars are dedicated to middle school FFA members. Morgan Lemley Nelson, a 2019 agriculture graduate and the agriculture teacher at Pleasant Plains High School, recorded two Discovery FFA Stars. Bryson Stickler was awarded the Discovery FFA Star in Agribusiness and Amelia Krispensky was awarded the Discovery FFA Star Agricultural Placement.

Drake Slutz was awarded the Discovery FFA Star Farmer, who is from the Sycamore FFA chapter, which is guided by 2018 agriculture education graduate Christian Thurwanger. John Davin, a 2003 agriculture education graduate, had the top creed speaker in the state of Illinois, from the Staunton FFA chapter.

All of these educators have put in a substantial amount of time with their students to achieve new heights and their encouragement has certainly been highlighted in this year's Illinois FFA Convention.

For more information about WIU's Agriculture Education program, visit

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