Crenshaw County FFA sets the bar high

By Haley Mitchell-Godwin

In a record-making achievement, the Crenshaw County FFA chapter made history at the 96th National FFA Conference and Expo held in Indianapolis by being the first team to represent Alabama in the National Marketing Plan competition. 

Brantley senior Kendal Nichols, Highland Home junior Anna Kate Foster, and Luverne senior Sawyer Flynn formed the pioneering team and entered the first round competing against 35 teams in this November event. 

Navigating uncharted waters, the Crenshaw County team confronted the challenge with grit, determination and a touch of lightheartedness, as noted by their adviser, Ashley Oglesby Catrett.

“There’s so much to say about this amazing group’s incredible week in Indianapolis,” Catrett said. “Although the road to Top 4 ended in the semifinals, we are so proud of these students. Congratulations to this inaugural, nationally competing Marketing Plan team from Crenshaw County for bringing home the county and state’s first Silver Emblem Marketing Plan Team medal.”

Only 50% of national teams advanced from the preliminary to the semifinal round, making the journey challenging. Undeterred, the Crenshaw County team impressed the judges and secured a spot among the top 18 teams in the semifinals. While their journey ended after the semifinals, they left an indelible mark by bringing home the county and state’s first Silver Emblem Marketing Plan Team medal.

Sawyer Flynn’s mother, Nola Walton Flynn, highlighted the impact of FFA advisor Ashley Oglesby Catrett on her son’s journey.

“It’s no secret that Sawyer does not love school,” Flynn said. “However, about five years ago, Ashley Oglesby Catrett encouraged him, a seventh grader, to join the livestock judging team. Since then, she has believed in him, pushed him and taken him to more places than I could. Thank you, Mrs. Catrett, for believing in him, loving him, and giving him so many fun memories.”

Reflecting on the students’ journey, Kendal Nichols expressed gratitude for the opportunity to represent Alabama and the immense pride in their semi-finalist status. 

“I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to represent the state of Alabama at the National FFA Convention,” Nichols said. “I couldn’t be more proud of my team for the work we put into this competition and it certainly paid off. It was such a great experience. A big thank you goes to Ashley Oglesby Catrett and Cody Nichols for being our biggest supporters through this whole process. We couldn’t have done it without our biggest fans.”

Adding to the accolades, Brantley FFA adviser Mark Andrews received the Honorary American FFA Degree, the highest honor bestowed by the National FFA Organization, recognizing individuals who have made outstanding personal commitments to advancing agricultural education. 

According to Catrett, without the efforts of highly dedicated individuals like Andrews, thousands of young people would not be able to achieve the success that, in turn, contributes directly to the overall well-being of the nation. 

“As one of the longest tenured ag educators in Alabama, Mr. Andrews is more than worthy of the recognition,” Catrett said. “His impact on the past, present and future of agricultural literacy in our community and state is immeasurable.”

Upon receiving the prestigious award, Andrews humbly attributed his achievements to the remarkable students he has had the privilege to guide and educate throughout his tenure. 

“I feel so blessed to have been the Agriscience teacher at Brantley High School since 1982.  

 I’m thankful to be healthy enough to continue working with students,” Andrews said. “I feel it is what the good Lord wanted me to do. I am privileged to work with these kids and it is because of them I was chosen for this award, because of all the things FFA students at Brantley have accomplished.  I wish each of you could have been on that stage to receive the award along with me. I could never have dreamed my career would have been so incredible, working with so many amazing young people.  Thanks to all who have supported and worked as members of Brantley FFA.”

The narrative of the Crenshaw County FFA’s groundbreaking journey at the National FFA Conference and Expo is not just about accolades; it’s a testament to the enduring dedication of educators like Andrews and the unwavering spirit of students eager to carve their path in the world of agriculture. Their story resonates as an inspiration for aspiring young minds and a testament to the transformative power of mentorship and perseverance within the FFA community.