Mount Pulaski students shine at the National FFA Convention

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[February 06, 2015]  MOUNT PULASKI - Last fall Mount Pulaski students Hannah Riedle and Samantha McCarty participated in the 2014 National Future Farmers of America Agriscience Fair. The 87th National FFA Convention & Expo was held in Louisville, Kentucky. Recently the girls learned their project placed eleventh in the nation.

Ralph Allen, who heads up the Agriculture Department at Mount Pulaski High School, and who is the sponsor of the local FFA chapter, was very proud of his students and offered this about the girls’ project, “Their project was looking at different cover crops and their ability to stop and prevent soil erosion. They set up an experiment with two different grass seeds that were set up in a flat and rained on it with simulated rainfall. Then they caught and measured the amount of soil that eroded and compared it." He noted how the girls did the experiment in the shop room at the high school using soil that was actually collected from the field behind Riedle's house. Allen went on to say, "We tried to set it up like a field situation without having a field."

After many hours spent doing calculations, the two completed their project and were able to compete at both the state and national level.

In fact, this was the second year in a row that both Riedle and McCarty competed at the national level with a project. Riedle noted, "In 2013 we conducted an experiment testing the abilities of rye and alfalfa, a grass and legume respectively, in the prevention of soil erosion. We found that the rye did a better job at preventing soil erosion. We place second at the state level and thirteenth at the national level."

In 2014 the two continued their experiment together. According to Riedle, "In 2014 we conducted an experiment as a continuation of our project. In this experiment, we tested rye and fescue, both grasses, in their ability to prevent soil erosion. Again, we found that rye did a better job in preventing soil erosion." This time the two earned first place at the state level and eleventh at the national level.

Riedle continued to elaborate, "Both Sam and I had been struggling to find something to keep a record book over, before beginning this project. Audrey Maske and Rachel Allen had competed with an agri-science project, and the idea of working as a team and conducting an experiment was very appealing to myself as well as Sam." She credited Mr. Allen for helping with the project and noted that many hours were spent after school, including a few late nights in the Ag room, to complete this project.

Calling the experience at nationals "humbling," Riedle also offered this, "It was an amazing opportunity to be able to represent our school and our state at the national level." McCarty agreed. "It was a lot of fun. It was a really great experience. We got to be around the national officers and we got to listen to some really cool keynote speakers. We were also recognized at a luncheon we went to and we sat there with people from all the other states. We actually got to sit at a table with some people from Texas, so that was pretty fun."

In addition to the FFA activities, the two also managed to squeeze in some sight-seeing around Louisville. McCarty enjoyed those experiences as well. "One of the cool things we got to do was, we went to the Louisville Slugger Museum while we were down there. Mr. Allen took us there, and he took us to the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, and that was a blast and a half."

McCarty, one of the most outgoing and friendliest young women you will ever meet, is currently the secretary of the Mount Pulaski FFA chapter. Even though she has been a four-year member of FFA throughout high school, she says she does not plan to pursue a career in agriculture. Instead she is taking a different path.

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However, McCarty credits FFA for that influence in her career choice. "I am actually going into advertising and communication and I probably would not have chosen that if I had not been in FFA. So it kind of coincides," she says, flashing a smile.

About her Ag partner, Hannah Riedle, McCarty offered this, "She is going into crop science at the U of I, hopefully, and they told her that they would help her continue the project. They are really interested in what we did and they want her to further it on a bigger field."

Quite impressive, and getting back to Riedle, who is indeed an intelligent young woman; she credited the project for helping her to choose her career path. "This project has helped me in choosing what I want to major in, as well as minor in. This being crops sciences and communications, respectively. I want to attend the University of Illinois, but I won't find out if I'm accepted until February 13th."

Riedle, also a four-year member of FFA, appreciates the importance of Ralph Allen to the Mount Pulaski High School FFA chapter and its students and is very grateful for his guidance. "I want to thank Mr. Allen for seeing the potential in all of his students. He leads with a motivational and positive attitude, and that is something I strive to do. Mr. Allen has pushed me to always do my best in everything that I do, and I am very thankful for that."

Ralph Allen, a 1986 graduate of Delavan High School and a standout wrestler back in the day, has been a teacher for 24 years and he has spent all but three of those years in Mount Pulaski. Mount Pulaski High School is indeed very fortunate to have such a dedicated agricultural leader who is such a positive role model to all.

Congratulations to Hannah, Samantha and Mr. Allen for this national recognition.

[Teena Lowery]

And the rest of the story…
Of interesting note:

When Ralph mentioned his wrestling days at Delavan High School, he noted that his older brothers were rivals on the mat with a bunch from Mount Pulaski, namely the Maske boys. Interestingly, Ralph's brother, Earl, went on to wrestle and room with Steve Maske at college. The two were also in the same fraternity and they would become good friends.

Steve even stood up in Earl's wedding. Here we are years later and Ralph is teaching at the same school as Mr. Robert Maske, the father of all those wrestlers. Incidentally, six of Ralph's years at Mount Pulaski included time spent teaching Industrial Arts classes in the same infamous shop room as the elder Maske himself. These days the Maske's have a granddaughter, Alison, who is the History Teacher and Musical Director at Delavan High School. This could go on and on...I'll just end it by saying what you're probably's a small world.

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