Andrews expresses gratitude at recent Brantley High School FFA Banquet

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

The Brantley High School annual FFA banquet was held Thursday, May 5, in the school cafeteria. The yearly reception is a time to reflect, celebrate accomplishments and give out awards. Mark Andrews, FFA advisor and ag teacher at Brantley, also used the time of fellowship to thank everyone that has helped the FFA organization along the way. The banquet began at 6 p.m. with a chicken finger dinner that included green beans, macaroni and cheese, and a yeast roll. Peach cobbler, cake, and ice cream was served for dessert. There were 95 people in attendance. 

The FFA officers opened the ceremony with a welcome given by Nolleigh Reaves and invocation read by Jhalan Wiley. Mark Andrews used the time of fellowship to thank everyone that has helped the organization along the way. Andrews shared memories about the 2021/2022 school year as it relates to FFA. He also reminisced about previous FFA accomplishments, and his involuntary absence from much of school last year due to a major heart attack.

Andrews was in his classroom on Dec. 11, 2020, when he had a heart attack. He was not able to return to work full time until June of last year. 

“I feel so blessed that I am healthy enough to continue working with students. I feel it is what the good Lord wanted me to do, and I am privileged to work with these kids,” Andrews said. “As I left rehab in Montgomery on Feb 10 of 2021, I told my son that we were going to Brantley High School before we went home. When we pulled up, tons of people came out to greet us and I just could not wait to get back to school. In early June I was able to work full-time again and that year the conduct team won state.”

After thanking the crowd and those that made the banquet possible, Andrews recognized all past Brantley FFA members and then spoke on the yearly themes, set by the National FFA Organization. 

“Every year we have a theme. Recent themes included “transform” and “inspire” with “forge” being this year’s theme. Now back in August 2016 Jonathan Chance, Dylan Dennis, Dawson Hall and Matthew Everett Powell were in the new group of shy seventh graders who came in and quickly began to transform. These 4 boys stuck with ag and FFA and have been very involved in various FFA activities.”

“2017-same thing, bashful seventh graders. Some of these kids transformed into this amazing little group that are now juniors. I told them that year, that they would eventually win the state conduct contest.”

On the fourth run at state, the FFA students that began as quiet and shy seventh graders, won state in 2021. Due to COVID and the disadvantage of teams not being able to practice in person, the federal FFA Organization authorized an additional state contest after the teams were able to gather together and practice, resulting in the additional chance at state that allowed the team to bring home a state trophy. 

“We were then off to nationals in OCT. It was amazing and so fun watching these young people and their excitement with all they got to do in Indianapolis. Even more incredible was to see how they had transformed since seventh grade. Fast forward to the first day of school this year. Another new group of bashful seventh graders and again in a matter of a few weeks, I could see the transformation that was taking place.”

“One group began working on quiz bowl and another group learned conduct. The conduct group placed third in the district and the team moved on to state. The land judging team, which included seventh graders, won the 2021 district competition, and also forged onward to the state competition.”

A couple of weeks ago, Andrews received a call from former Brantley FFA officer, Katelyn Mount Holstun (Katie). Holstrum told Andrews, her former FFA instructor, about a project she had completed for her master’s degree. Holstrum stated that based on the success of the completed project, her professor encouraged her to start on her doctorate right away as he stated Holstrum has what it takes for a doctorate. Andrews said that Holstum’s opportunities have been afforded to her partially thanks to her involvement in FFA. 

“My phone rang, and it was Katie Mount. I had worked with her so long that I could tell from the tone of her voice that she had something good to tell me. Katie was a lot like this year’s seventh graders. She was shy to begin with and would barely even look me in the face when we were talking, but she transformed. She started doing creed and became an amazing public speaker. She was in state competitions three or four years in a row. You all have great opportunities coming your way and I hope you take advantage of them.”

Before Andrew’s closing comments, he read the FFA mission statement which is: FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education. 

“That is why I am here, and why I do what I do. You have already started to transform. I hope Katie and others inspire you and you can inspire those that come after you. With each new generation of FFA students we are passing the torch. Just keep forging ahead.”