Two members of Thomson High School's Future Farmers of America recently placed in competitions. Senior Amber Overton placed second in the subregion for Prepared Public Speaking, and junior Cullen Wallace placed first in the region in the Lawnmower Operation Competition.
"I am proud of them; they did a really good job," FFA teacher Rick Dubose said.
Amber said she never really thought much about public speaking until she recently campaigned to be an area officer for the FFA and became one.
"And it made me want to work on my speaking skills," she said. "I would like to run for state officer next year."
Since she didn't know exactly what skills she needed to hone, Amber said Mr. Dubose helped her do research on the internet about public speaking and FFA requirements.
"The hardest part was making the speech long enough," she said. "And it's a lot harder to speak in front of judges than it is a group of people."
The speech had to last six to eight minutes and be about a current agricultural subject. Judges score points that are based on the written speech content, speech delivery and answers to judges' questions.
Amber wanted to speak about how the recession affects water culture and small appliance stores. But because Dearing has the Hillcrest Dairy Farm and she knew the Rodgers family that owns it, Amber changed her topic to "recession's effect on the dairy industry."
"At the competition, she quoted all these people, and I was like 'wow, where did all that come from?' She blew me away," Mr. Dubose said.
Amber used to play softball, but quit two years ago to join the FFA.
"I want to be an Ag teacher, so this helps me gain experience for my career," she said. "I like how involved the Ag teacher gets to be with their students and I want to be able to spend more time with students."
Cullen didn't have to worry about speaking during his competition. In fact, if he was speaking, no one could have heard him over the roar of the lawnmower. Mr. Dubose said there are three parts to the Lawnmower Operation Competition -- a driving course test, a written test and a problem-solving test.
The driving course counts the most towards the final score. It begins with the lawn mower on a trailer, which the operator has to drive off, and then he has to center the lawn mower back on the trailer at the end of the course.
"And you can't hit or touch any of the stakes set up around the course, and there are angles you have to go through and you are timed, so it's kind of difficult," Cullen said.
But there's no time to breathe easy after it's over, because, Cullen said, the written portion was even more difficult.
"It's a bunch of grab-bag information that you wouldn't know unless you've been in the profession for years," he said.
The problem-solving created the fewest problems for Cullen. The student is presented dilemmas and they have to find the solution in an owners' manual of the lawn mower. Because he works with his grandfather at Wallace and Sons Lawnmower Service Dealer, this proved to be Cullen's comfort zone. He earned first place in the region and will go on to compete at the state level.
When he isn't avoiding obstacles with a mower, Cullen runs on the THS varsity cross-country team, plays soccer, is a member of the Beta Club, president of the Key Club, is on the Bulldog Bark and yearbook staff and is active at Bethel Baptist Church.
As for his future, lawn mowers really aren't a part of it. Although he will probably use the skills he's learned on the driving course. Cullen said he plans to get a degree in criminal justice and work with the Georgia State Patrol.