Talawanda FFA Parliamentary Procedure team ranks high at state contest

The Talawanda/Butler Tech FFA Parliamentary Procedure team is shown after their fourth-place finish in the state contest. They are, from left, Chapter Advisor Carley Snider, junior Ryland Beckner, sophomore Abbey Garland, junior Kaydence Morris, team secretary sophomore Emma Puckett, junior Anna Abbitt and team chair senior Rachel Dsuban. CONTRIBUTED

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The Talawanda/Butler Tech FFA Parliamentary Procedure team is shown after their fourth-place finish in the state contest. They are, from left, Chapter Advisor Carley Snider, junior Ryland Beckner, sophomore Abbey Garland, junior Kaydence Morris, team secretary sophomore Emma Puckett, junior Anna Abbitt and team chair senior Rachel Dsuban. CONTRIBUTED

Blue and gold banners line the walls of the classrooms and hallway where Talawanda/Butler Tech FFA members show off their many accomplishments. Those banners mark success in a host of FFA competitions over the years but only one celebrates a top five finish in the grueling state Parliamentary Procedure contest.

That will change as soon as their second banner arrives for the fourth-place showing of this year’s team in the December contest.

This is the first year Talawanda FFA has had a team earn a Top 5 placing since 1985. The banner will arrive later this school year. Team members’ names will be stitched onto the banner and it will be hung among the many banners already in place.

“Growing up, playing in sports, there is an adrenalin rush. This is somewhat similar. You get an adrenalin rush when you go back into the room as part of a team,” junior Anna Abbitt said. “There is definitely a learning curve to that. The banners are like trophies. I sit in the classroom and see some names so many times. They are like heroes. Fifteen years from now, I would like for them to see Anna Abbitt on a lot of banners.”

Parliamentary Procedure teaches students to conduct meetings according to the procedures using “Robert’s Rules of Order” and the competition requires they be familiar with those procedures not only in conducting a mock 10-minute meeting for the judges, but also familiar enough with the book to locate a direct quote from it within minutes.

Talawanda FFA Advisor Carley Snider was serving as Parliamentary Procedure coach for the first time and said she was learning right along with her students in conducting practices and preparing for the contest.

There are three levels to the state competition.

“At the sub-district contest, there were two teams and we placed second, advancing to the district. At the district contest, there were six teams and we placed first, advancing to state,” Snider said. “At the state semi-finals there were 20 teams divided into five heats. We placed first in our heat, advancing to the finals. At the finals, there were five teams and we placed fourth overall.”

The team won its semifinal round by 28 points and in the finals, they earned the highest team debate score and had the second placing team demonstration out of the five teams. They had the fifth-place knowledge test and fifth-place reference test score.

The competition includes 24 “abilities” which members must be familiar with and the demonstration meeting must include ten of them. They have two minutes to prepare and are given five abilities to include in their demo and must include five others of their choosing, all within that two-minute preparation time.

Later, they must review their effort, including telling the judges which abilities they had included and talk about them.

Training for the competition includes studying test packets of 1,700 questions. At the competition they are tested on 30 of those questions, at random, for both the sub-district and district and 25 of them at state.

Abbitt explained for the reference test, participants are given a specific quote from Roberts Rules of Order and must find that quote in the book within just minutes. Each member of the team takes part in this and earns two points for a correct reference. That goes toward the team score.

Sophomore Abbey Garland said she watched members training for the contest last year and decided she wanted to be a part of it.

“Everybody in FFA calls Parli Pro the Super Bowl of FFA,” she said. “I got in and learned how a business meeting runs and it’s a lot of fun.”

Sophomore Emma Puckett echoed that.

“Getting information is only part of it. It feels satisfying. It was one of the first contests I did for FFA as a freshman. It was fun. It is good to work together,” she said.

Snider praised the team’s focus and their hard work, which included times she could not be in school and they practiced on their own. Practices included holding the demonstration meetings but also working on that packet of questions and thinking about how to include some of the abilities into their demo.

“I was learning right along with them,” Snider said. “My copy of Robert’s Rules of Order was always right here on my desk.”

Puckett said practices allowed each of them to define their abilities and practice them.

“We had some debate-offs to make us think on our feet,” she said.

Abbitt explained they had some practice help from the previous state champion which had gone on to national competition.

“The Battle of the Gavel was a virtual practice competition hosted by the winner from the previous year,” she said. That team just decided they had already put in a lot of time and effort and decided to step aside from competition but decided to help other teams. “They helped us prepare. Eventually, all five (participating) teams headed to state.”

Junior Ryland Beckner said the challenge of Parliamentary Procedure is the combination of parts they can put together after a lot of practice mixed into the last-minute part they are given.

“In the contest and demo the abilities are scripted. The rest is on the fly. It keeps you in your feet, thinking about everything. Debate (in the meeting demo) can be on any topic,” he said. The final demonstration of the state finals had an added layer of pressure. “For the state final round, there is a crowd. Everybody was in the seats from teams who did not get that far. After the demo, each member was asked questions about the abilities they did. They were asked clarifying questions. It was a little bit challenging.”

Other members of the team were junior Kaydence Morris and senior team chair Rachel Dsuban. An alternate, sophomore Kayla Lightfield, practiced with the team and was prepared to step in if a team member was unable to compete.

Snider noted all of the team members except Dsuban can return next year as part of the team.

“The program is strong on critical growth to help put their thoughts into critical statements in seconds,” Snider said, summing up the program adding, “It’s crazy. It’s intense.”

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