BY KAREN CAMPBELL
Weakley County Schools Communications Director
MARTIN (April 19) – At the first in-person Weakley County Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Banquet since 2019, officers representing the Dresden FFA were surprised with the 2022 Youth Achievement Award, the First Community Bank Youth Leadership Class and Leadership Weakley County graduated, and community leaders were recognized.
In accordance with the Chamber banquet tradition, the 2019 Youth Achievement honoree Anna Johnson read from a list of the ag organization’s achievements in a virtual announcement recorded at Rhodes College where she now attends. Among the chapter’s achievements she underscored were: 2022 TAAE Outstanding Middle/Secondary Program for West TN and for State; five State Degree Recipients; officer and member Annika Jolley chosen for Governor’s School; Tennessee Wildlife Federation Hunters for the Hungry state hunger challenge winner; officer and member Sam Laws chosen for state officer nominating committee; placing in district competitions including Land Evaluation, horse evaluation, Extemporaneous Speaking, Employment Skills, and Creed Speaking; State Superior Chapter Award; and the Platinum PLOW Award.
In attendance with Dresden FFA Advisors Jessica Browning, Jonathan Holden and Jason Kemp were FFA Chapter Officers Sam Laws, president; Amanda Perry, reporter; Adrianne Todd, vice president; Miller Moore, Sentinel; and Annika Jolley, Treasurer.
Dresden’s Amy Lewellen acknowledged that she nominated her hometown FFA because of their management of the state’s only school multi-species farm.
“I’m from a farming family and very proud of them,” she said.
Standing before the crowded ballroom at the University of Tennessee at Martin and surrounded by his fellow officers, Laws acknowledged that, due to the award coming as a surprise, he was reading from a prepared speech he was given immediately before arriving at the podium.
“We, the officers of Dresden FFA, represent more than 200 FFA members at Dresden High School,” he read. “Receiving this award is an indicator that as we live out the words of our FFA mission statement: ‘To promote premiere leadership, personal growth, and career success’ people are watching and cheering us on.
He then added, “Thank you to the Weakley County Chamber of Commerce and to our community of Dresden who support us by buying our pork and beef, sharing your expertise with crops, and taking part in everything from fruit sales to plant sales – which by the way is this Saturday, April 23!”
Other awards recipients for the evening were Courtney Echols, 2022 Emerging Leader; Dynamix, Business of the Year; and Faron Collins, Weakley Countian of the Year.
Ashlee Mallon, a sophomore at Dresden, spoke as the elected project chair for the Youth Leadership Class. She chronicled the months of activities in which the 12 tenth graders learned more about education, agriculture, health, business, and government in the area.
“Youth Leadership is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to benefit the high schooler in every single way possible,” she concluded. “We are taught valuable life skills and how to adapt once the doors of our high school career close for the very last time. Thank you.”
Her fellow Youth Leadership graduates include Ginny Archie, Audrey Arnold, Kyzer Crochet, Emily Kelley, Brooklyn McDowell, MaKayla Morrow, Chloe Peevyhouse, Kate Stroh, Tanner Thomas, Grant Turner, and Anastyn Vujicic.
Weakley County Schools saw two staff members among the Leadership Weakley County Class of 2022 – Keith Douglas and Kelly McGuire. Joining them in graduating were Patricia Barnett, Ben Bradberry, Cannon Brawley, Alex Cantrell, Keven Decker, Julie Jones, Courtney McMinn, Erik Nordberg, Brandy Orr, Sydney Parimore, Emily Payne, Paige Simpson, Eric Smith, and Emily Vickers.
The event, as well as the leadership programs, were organized by Chamber Executive Director Barbara Virgin with Administrative Assistant Marguriet Frazier. UTM Chancellor Keith Carver served as the Master of Ceremonies.