AMBOY – Seven Amboy High School freshmen known as the Conduct of Chapter Meetings Team won the FFA state championship on May 5 at Illinois Community College in East Peoria to advance to nationals at the National FFA Convention in October at Indianapolis.
“It’s really exciting. We didn’t expect to be going all the way to nationals, but we have a great team. I love them all,” said Kenley Wilson, a Clipper freshman on the state championship team. “It’s really fun to be able to do this with them. We have a lot of different personalities on our team. If I were able to hand pick my friend group, I never would have picked these people and put them together. But we work really well together. The personalities make our team special.”
Wilson is part of the team with Brysen Full, Grace Royer, Quinn Leffelman, Tyler Huggins, Natalie Pratt, and Alainie Wittenauer.
With Amboy not having a junior high FFA program, this was a first time for all of them.
“I didn’t even know what this was at the beginning of the school year. I didn’t know too much about FFA and I had no idea what Conduct of Chapters was,” Wittenauer said. “I decided to join it. I think we all, as freshman got closer because of this. I think we formed a really good bond.
“Our debates bounce off of each other and we give each other good ideas. With the mix of personalities, I think we can all think of different reasons as to why we’re for or against the motions that they give us.
“We all have different ideas and it pulls the whole competition together when we get the random motions.”
The Conduct of Chapter Meetings Team is led by Joseph Heavner.
The second-year agriculture teacher at AHS, who taught agriculture at Eureka High School for three years, is proud of his team and how they took the initiative to practice at 7 a.m. before school or get together for debates during lunch.
“They’re supposed to demonstrate how to run a business meeting using parliamentary procedure. It’s a 13-minute presentation,” said Heavner, who lives in Dixon with his wife Susie. “They start with the FFA’s opening ceremonies. They’re given a random topic that they have to debate and settle while giving different motions in parliamentary procedure or demonstrate how to do those motions. Going into it, they do not know what motions they’ll be assigned or what the topic is. It’s all random.
“Basically, they get one minute to look at a card that has that information on it. Then they start a 13-minute topic and they’re off. They get scored on the debates they give and how they present their motions. There is a part of the contest where they take a written test. There is also a part of the test where they answer oral questions from the judges afterwards.”
During the state competition, the topic Amboy was given to debate was a recycling program.
The team had to give reasons of why they were in favor or opposed of the program at the high school. The members also had to demonstrate motions like how to give an amendment, how to call for a vote, and how to postpone something.
The competition administration doesn’t allow spectators and Heavner wasn’t allowed to see the card that is presented to the team with all of the random topic’s information.
Instead, he was in the other room watching his team’s cell phones and Apple watches, so they didn’t go off during the state competition.
“I was excited. These kids have been working hard for it,” said Heavner, who also led the Parliamentary Procedure Team of Kelton Schwamberger, Dana Merriman, Emma Dinges, Andruw Jones, Lauren Althaus, and Mason Ely to a third-place state finish. “Amboy is a relatively small school and our team of freshmen is made up of kids who also play baseball, basketball, softball and track and field. We had kids that were in the musical.
“Usually freshmen are a shy group and to see them grow throughout this and learn how to stand up and give a debate was amazing. I think the best thing about the event is that the kids learn to stand up, state their opinion, and be able to back it up. Saying what you think in front of a group of people and defending their reason is a valuable skill to have.”
The state competition was the third win for the Clippers.
They started by winning the Section II contest where teams from Lee County, Ogle County, Whiteside County, and Carroll County compete.
Next, Amboy won the District contest, which includes two teams from each of Illinois’ five Districts. Once the Clippers won the 10-team competition, they were off to state.
“Mr. Heavner was the one who taught us everything. It started off as just a small section in our class where we would learn a little about what the contest actually was,” Wittenauer said. “Mr. Heavner was extremely knowledgeable on everything. We decided we would join the contest.
“We got to watch his videos from when he was on the team as a freshman. Being able to see that made us a better team because we got to see how much he knew and how much he was teaching us. We were much more excited to learn what he knew.
“Personally, I’m super excited just with the fact that we’re going to nationals. I don’t know if we’re going to win, but just having the opportunity to go is amazing. Being able to represent Illinois is just awesome.”
Heavner said he is going to give his team a break over the summer, but practice will be back in session come August when school starts, and nationals will only be two months away.
The refreshing of the general knowledge and rules of parliamentary procedure such as knowing if motions are debatable or if they require someone to second the motion will be on table.
But first, the group of freshmen on the Conduct of Chapter Meetings Team want to show what they’ve learned this year.
“As far as expectations go, it would be really amazing to be able to call ourselves national champions, but every other team that is going to be there has had to go through the same things we have,” Wilson said. “We know there is going to be some amazing teams at nationals, so we’re just going to try our best and do what we’re doing.
“I used to go to school in Mendota. When I transferred, I quickly realized this school was so much smaller. It was different. I also realized, FFA and agriculture is what Amboy is based on and everyone here is good at ag. We have quite a few ag classes.
“It’s pretty amazing that such a small town can do such an amazing big thing and be state champions.”