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'We just keep winning and winning with this project:' Etna FFA members take national honor

Bill Choy
Mount Shasta Herald
AbbyGail Duerr and Mark Letsos.

Two members of the Etna FFA took national honors last week at the FFA Virtual National FFA Convention & Expo.

Abbygail Duerr and Mark Letsos were National Bronze Agriscience winners in the Food Systems Division 6. This was the 93rd annual National Convention, done online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Etna FFA advisor Kellie Hargett said each year the FFA usually hosts the event in Indianapolis, Indiana. Historically, the club in Etna goes every other year. 

She said the event "is all about growing the next generation of leaders." Normally the event hosts more than 67,000 attendees from across the country. It was held virtually from Oct 27-29. 

“It’s nice to be rewarded after (our) hard work,”  Duerr said, “and it’s nice to have something to look back on ending high school with a big achievement. We just keep winning and winning with this project."  

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Letos concurred. “I feel like it was a fun science research project with a good partner and I'm glad it went that far ... I like little Scott Valley is having big wins or something like that.” 

The National FFA Agriscience Fair recognizes students who gain real-world, hands-on experiences in agricultural enterprises. Students use scientific principles and emerging technologies to solve complex problems related to agriculture, food, and natural resources. The Agriscience Fair is for middle and high school students. Students compete in one of six categories in the Agriscience Fair and under one of the six divisions - either individually or in a team. 

To make it to nationals, the pair won their division at state.

“I am very proud of Abby and Mark for receiving a Bronze National Honor,” Hargett said. ”Students usually are overwhelmed with their Agriscience project due to the three components of a research paper, research poster, and data lab book.” She said that they have now started students in this process as ninth graders to be prepared for the rigors of this program. Hargett said that they learn to plan, research, collect data, and report/conclude information. 

"It is great to see them excel and succeed through a difficult process," she said. "The growth is tremendous. I'm proud of all my students for pushing through and succeeding.  I am also happy to see them receive honors through an educational based competition.  I want them to know that they can be successful in many types of competition in their lives."    

The division Duerr and Letsos competed in involves food products and processing systems. It is the study of product development, quality assurance, food safety, production, regulation and compliance, and food service within the food science industry. 

For their project, Duerr and Letsos compared gluten free flour with regular flour. They tested gluten cookies versus non gluten flour so they could find a satisfactory alternative for someone with the allergy.  They studied in their paper the science behind the gluten allergy as well. 

The National FFA Organization is a school-based national youth leadership development organization of more than 760,000 student members as part of 8,700 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.   

Duerr was the Etna FFA Secretary and had an AgriScience & Hog SAE project.  This year at the Siskiyou livestock grading she was a supreme showman with her hog.  

Mark was a committee chair for Etna FFA annual dinner auction. Ge was active in the FFA by attending our monthly meetings.  He was also involved with his AgriScience and his ranching hand SAE.   

Mark and Abbygail's project.

The Etna High Schools Etna FFA program also had four State AgriScience Qualifiers. 

They are:  

9th and 10th Grade Team Division  

  • Grace Hubbard/Lily Finley-ETNA FFA 
  • Mark Jenner/Colton Downey-ETNA FFA 

11th and 12th Grade Team Divison  

  • Sierra Hudson/ Cleo Smith-ETNA FFA 
  • Abby Duerr/Mark Letsos-ETNA FFA and also Bronze National Winner