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Indiana FFA elects officers, hands out awards and honors
By Michele F. Mihaljevich
Indiana Correspondent

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Hundreds of Indiana FFA members walked away from the 95th state convention with awards and honors. State officers for 2024-2025 were also elected during the June 17-20 event.
The new officers are Ethan Wolheter, Prairie Heights FFA, president; Christina Caldwell, Connersville FFA, secretary; Stephanie Berenda, South Newton FFA, northern region VP; Cale Williams, Terre Haute South FFA, southern region VP; Kyatalin Baker, Switzerland County FFA, treasurer; Sienna Alexander, Monrovia FFA, reporter; and Garrett Bolin, Indian Creek FFA, sentinel.
The organization announced 412 members received Hoosier Degrees, the highest honor the state can bestow. The members were honored for their dedication to their supervised agricultural experience (SAE) programs and FFA, according to a release. Winners were also recognized in 45 proficiency award categories.
Ron Noll, an agricultural teacher at Prairie Heights High School, was named 2023-2024 Ag Educator of the Year. Noll was recognized as the Golden Owl Award grand prize winner for his positive impact in the classroom and communities he serves. Nationwide will make a $3,000 donation to further agricultural education efforts at the high school.
FFA named Lisa Chaudion its VIP Award recipient. Chaudion, Indiana FFA Foundation director, was honored for her dedication to agriculture education and FFA. She was the first female Indiana FFA state president in 1985. She previously worked for the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, where she spent time as the state agricultural education specialist.
The Distinguished Service Award went to Blair Orme. Orme recently retired after 35 years as an agricultural teacher at Rushville Consolidated High School. He has also served as the District IX adviser. He has mentored many district officers, and made sure the district contest ran smoothly for advisers and members.
The latest State Stars were also named at the convention. The recipients were honored for their dedication to their SAEs.:
- Star in agricultural placement – Josie Kelsay, Whiteland FFA chapter, for her “Moo Choo” corn maze;
- Star in agriscience – Blaine Wagner, North Decatur FFA chapter, for research into COVID-19’s effect on agility dog fitness and quality of training. He also studied how landowners can capitalize on making an income from carbon credits;
- Star in agribusiness – Grant Lake, Central Noble FFA chapter, who owns and operates Lake’s Lube and Tune. He provides maintenance and repair on outdoor power equipment;
- Star farmer – Owen Knight, North Miami FFA chapter, for his work raising dairy feeder steers.
The State Stars each received a $250 scholarship sponsored by the Jeff Lehman Family.
Four people were recognized as Honorary Degree recipients. The degree honors those who have made outstanding contributions to Indiana agriculture, agricultural education and/or Indiana FFA:
- Karen Nelson Heavin, who served as Indiana FFA state president in 1991-1992. She was chair of the Indiana FFA Foundation board in 2013-2014. Heavin volunteered time to coordinate the state officer program review process last year. She owns Heavin College and Career Readiness Services, a consulting agency.
- Amanda Line, an agriculture instructor at South Putnam High School. She is wrapping up her role as secretary on the Indiana FFA board of trustees. Line introduced dual credit classes to the high school’s curriculum. She has served on the National FFA’s agri-science committee to develop guidelines and awareness for the program.
- John Nagle, a farm training specialist with Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance. He was Indiana FFA state reporter in 1990-1991, and foundation board secretary from 2013-2020. He helped the Indiana FFA Leadership Center develop an emergency safety plan for the facilities.
- Cassie Wallpe, agriculture instructor at Batesville High School. She is finishing up her time as District XII representative to the Indiana FFA board of trustees. Wallpe began teaching at Batesville in 2009, and has helped the students to grow their SAE programs and involvement in career and leadership development events.