Thirteen Pleasant Hope high schoolers are having to readjust to warm Missouri weather after visiting Alaska earlier this month.
Members of the Pleasant Hope FFA chapter traveled to Fairbanks, Alaska, from June 1-9 for a leadership conference, where they experienced life in Alaska and learned some valuable skills along the way.
This is the first time Pleasant Hope’s program has traveled to Alaska.
“Every other year we usually go to the Washington Leadership Conference in Washington D.C.,” chapter president Macie Warner said.
She said FFA advisers were ready to try something new, so they applied to the Alaska program.
The program in Alaska was “different than an ordinary FFA convention,” chapter vice president Lillian Durr said.
“Think of your basic summer camp, but then add in leadership trainings and learning about Alaska,” Warner said.
The attendees slept in cabins, complete with bunk beds and very few electrical outlets.
Ninety people from multiple states attended the conference. There were people at the camp from Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, West Virginia and “a lot of Texans,” Durr said.
The Alaska program limits the amount of people from each state that can attend, Warner said.
“We were lucky because we were the only ones (to go) from Missouri, so we got to take 15 people,” Durr added.
Adviser Joey Stokes said the week strengthened relationships within the group.
“Everyone had a great time and participated in all of the activities,” he said. “I didn't hear one complaint all week.”
After finding out they had been accepted to the program in November, Pleasant Hope’s FFA chapter started planning out the trip and fundraising.
“The hardest thing was finding flights. We had to find which flights were the cheapest and which ones you can get 15 tickets for,” Warner said.
To raise funds for the trip, the club sold Culver’s frozen custard and McAlister’s sweet tea at sporting events.
“We sold custard for a solid three months at basketball games,” Durr said.
The custard and sweet tea sales helped fund the trip for all members going.
Once they made it to Fairbanks, they began learning about Alaska, agriculture and leadership.
Warner said “learning how to use a compass” was a big skill she picked up at the camp.
Durr saw the trip as a way for her to branch out in a new setting.
“Nobody there knew who I was, so they didn’t have an expectation of who I needed to be. I was a lot more outspoken there than I usually am,” she said.
Stokes agreed that the trip was filled with new experiences and learning opportunities.
“They experienced native Alaskan culture, had leadership workshops, heard from four-time Ididarod Champion Lance Mackey and got to see Alaskan Agriculture,” he said.
When the FFAers weren’t learning about compasses or life in Alaska, they were doing team-building activities.
They had a kickball tournament, played a bunch of games and even went white water rafting, which Warner said was her favorite part of the trip.
Warner and Durr are the chapter’s two lead officials, and they have been involved in FFA since middle school.
“My freshman year, I wasn’t involved in the first semester. I was just kind of there,” Warner said. “Then, we had our first contest season, and I competed in dairy cattle evaluation, and I loved it. I competed with my best friend, Wyatt, and that was just the topper on the cake, doing it with my best friend.
“I just have a passion for it. I like trying something new, and there’s always something I can do within (FFA),” she added.
Durr had a similar experience her first year in the chapter.
“My freshman year we did a dairy cattle unit, and I was like, ‘This isn’t exactly my scene,’” she said. “Then, me and two of my friends got talked into doing the entomology contest, and we loved it.”
Durr and Warner both agreed that one of the reasons they enjoy FFA so much is because of their adviser, Joey Stokes. The trip to Alaska was one of Stokes’ last with the chapter, as he prepares to move to Buffalo for the upcoming school year.
Members of the chapter viewed the trip as a sort of last hurrah for Stokes at Pleasant Hope.
“It was a good goodbye,” Durr said. “That’s all I can say about that.”