Middle schooler tops at FFA speaking event

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  • Photo submitted Hannah Coker and Abby Trotter were pumped up ahead of their public speaking CDE’s at Madison County High School. Hannah competes in Creed Speaking and Abby competed in Prepared Public Speaking.
    Photo submitted Hannah Coker and Abby Trotter were pumped up ahead of their public speaking CDE’s at Madison County High School. Hannah competes in Creed Speaking and Abby competed in Prepared Public Speaking.
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Hannah Coker readily admits, she has a competitive spirit. The sixth-grader at Hart County Middle School runs track, she’s a cheerleader, she takes part in her family’s beekeeping business. Now she can add being a Future Farmers of America competition winner to her resumé. 

On Jan. 27, the 12 year-old took center stage in front of a panel of three judges to compete in the junior FFA Creed Speaking Leadership Development Event in Danielsville, competing among 54 sixth-to-ninth-graders from her FFA region, which is Area 2. For the event, she had to go before the judges and recite the five-paragraph FFA creed and answer three select questions from the judges. 

Hannah is now the only middle school winner in the event from Hart County Middle School FFA advisor Nathan Heaton has ever seen. She also competed with fellow middle schooler Abby Trotter, who spoke in the Prepared Public Speaking event.

According to the Georgia FFA website, the prepared Creed public speaking LDE is designed to develop agricultural leadership. It aims to provide the opportunity for personal growth and premier leadership by enhancing the speaking skills of participants. The event is also intended to encourage civic participation and cultivate a better knowledge of agriculture among participants.

Prior to the event, Hannah spent two weeks rehearsing her answers, based on a rubric with some 40 possible questions the judges might ask. Of course, she said, they picked the three she was least prepared to answer. 

“I spent all my free time studying the creed and studying the possible questions,” she said. “At the end before the event, I spent four days reviewing everything, studying this more than I think I have studied for anything. I think I have a photographic memory, so that helped, but still. I was so nervous. Getting up there was very nerve-wracking.”

But she couldn’t have been that shaken, as she and one other Area 2 candidate were selected to move on to the next round of Public Speaking, which will be held in March. If she wins again there, she will move on to the state competition in April. Landing a win there will take her to her ultimate goal — heading to nationals. 

“I want to have those bragging rights to say I went to nationals,” she said. “Not just for a prize, but to prove to myself that I did it.”

Heaton said Hannah exemplifies the principles taught in FFA.

“Hannah is very intelligent, and she is very well-spoken,” he said. “She is driven and she is a perfectionist. I’m so proud to see her achieve this in her first year.”

To his credit, Hannah noted Heaton was a huge help in her perparation. 

“I consider him a great teacher and a real mentor,” she said. 

FFA is often thought of as only focusing on agriculture and contests centered on showing livestock. While the organization does do all of that, it is events like the public speaking that help round out the FFA education and offer additional avenues Heaton said. 

Having students such as Hannah excel so early on in the organization, at such a young age,
provides a great deal of encouragement for other students, Heaton said. 

“It really inspires students to rise to the top and be all they can be,” he said. “I feel we are lucky here in Hart County because not only do students have ways to be involved in their schools, we have a community of parents who really support their children. That gives them a leg up and that extra nudge to do their best and try new things. We have a lot to be proud of here.”