(Picture provided by Jacob Hauser)
Jacob Hauser pictured with his grandfather, a 1959 recipient of the American Degree, and brother, who received his American Degree in 2017
(Picture provided by Stephanie Burns)
Tanner Burns, one of only 59 West Virginia FFA members to receive his American Degree

By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate

            During the 92 Annual FFA National Convention, Tucker County was represented by two outstanding young men receiving the highest degree of the FFA, the American Degree.  Tanner Burns and Jacob Hauser both attended the convention this past week in Indianapolis, Ind. where they were welcomed across the stage while 65,000 FFA members looked on as they shook the hand of outgoing National President Luke O’Leary.

            The American Degree is reserved for the elite, most dedicated FFA members to receive with less than 1% meeting the requirements.  To be eligible for consideration, one must meet the following standards:  received the State Degree, an active member for the past three years, record of satisfactory participation on chapter and state level, satisfactorily completed the equivalent of 540 secondary school instruction in an agricultural education program, or have completed at least the equivalent of 360 hours of the educational requirements with the addition of at least one full year of enrollment in a postsecondary agricultural program, or completed such program.  The candidate must also have graduated high school at least 12 months prior to the national convention when the degree is to be presented, have in operation and maintained records to substantiate an outstanding supervised agricultural experience program (SAE), must have earned at least $10,000 and invested at least $7,500 or earned and productively invested $2,000 and worked 2,250 hours in excess of scheduled class time.  The candidates must also have record of outstanding leadership, community involvement, and a scholastic record of “C” or better.  Finally, the applicant must also have dedicated at least 50 hours of community service within at least three different community service projects or activities, which cannot be duplicated from the SAE entries.

            In order to achieve all of these requirements, the hopeful recipient must begin this endeavor as soon as they are eligible to be a part of an FFA organization and keep substantial records.  Burns and Hauser both set their eyes on this prize at an early age and hit the ground running as soon as they entered the TCHS chapter of the FFA.

            “I wanted to get my American Degree because it’s a family tradition with me becoming the third person in my family to receive this degree,” explained Hauser.  He is the third person in his family to receive this honor beginning with his maternal grandfather in 1959 and his brother in 2017.  “It is FFA’s highest degree and only 1% of FFA members achieve this honor.  It’s really special for me to be a part of that 1% because it shows all the hard work I’ve dedicated to this wonderful organization on all levels has paid off,” he added.

            Hauser continued, “FFA has been a major part of my life from the first state convention I attended the summer before ninth grade to the American Degree Ceremony this week.”  “I’m so blessed to have been part of FFA because it helped me develop into the person I am today,” he stated.  “It has allowed me to break out of my shy shell I had freshmen year and form public speaking skills and various other skills that I never would’ve had without FFA.  FFA allowed me to meet people from all across the nation and make friendship with those people that will last a lifetime.”

            Burns had a similar feeling about his time within the FFA organization.  “FFA has been important to me,” he began.  “Before I was in high school I couldn’t wait to put on the blue jacket,” Burns admitted.  “Working towards the highest degree in FFA was a lot of work but totally worth it.  I’ve learned so much from ag mechanics to floriculture to raising healthy livestock,” he continued.  “I wanted to prove to myself I could earn the FFA top honor,” which is exactly what he and Hauser did.  For Burns as well, FFA has become a family endeavor, including his cousins and older sister.  “I liked farming traditions that went with it and what it stood for,” Burns concluded.  While in FFA, Burns participated in several tractor restoration projects that became very popular across the country.

            “Seeing two blue jackets with Tucker written across the back walking across the national stage was an amazing experience,” commented current agriculture teacher Heather Clower.  “Though I am new in this position and didn’t have the opportunity to work with these two young men, seeing the pride on my current students’ faces and hearing them yearn for a similar achievement was phenomenal.”

            FFA is open to any individual in grades nine through twelve who enrolls in an agriculture course.  This organization is much more than showing a steer at the Tucker County Fair, it includes community service and assistance, teamwork, public speaking, and so much more.  If you would like to learn more about FFA, you can visit www.ffa.org or call Clower at TCHS.