Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

November 13, 2013

Shaniel Smith makes history

By Michael Schaffer Daily Iowegian
The Daily Iowegian

---- — Shaniel Smith, of Exline, received the FFA American Degree in Louisville, Ky. Saturday, Nov. 2 making her the first female Centerville FFA member to earn that degree.

“A lot of kids after they gradate high school they just kind of give up on the whole FFA thing,” Shaniel Smith said Friday during a telephone interview when asked about her place in local FFA history. “We may have had more that qualified but a lot of them may not have taken the time to fill out the application.”

The American Degree is the highest FFA award any member can earn. Getting to the American Degree requires an FFA member to first earn the Greenhand Degree, Chapter Degree and State Degree, in that order, Smith said.

Smith said after climbing the degree ladder, the FFA member must meet five requirements to earn the American Degree: Graduate from high school; work a certain amount of hours; invest a certain amount of money; perform a certain number of community service hours; and enroll in college in an agricultural field.

An FFA member who meets all of the requirements must then voluntarily submit an application for the American Degree, Smith said.

“It’s not an automatic thing,” Smith said. “There’s a certain list of qualifications. And if you meet those then you can fill out an application and submit your record book and all of your records from all of your projects. And then after you submit your application, then if they do declare that you qualify, then you will receive your American Degree.”

Smith said the American Degree is the capstone to her FFA career.

“I’ve always been very involved in FFA and I’ve always just strived to get that next thing,” Smith said about earning the American Degree. “So throughout my entire state career, I just strived to get the next thing. I was a district officer as well as a state officer. So, FFA was such a big part of my life that I wanted to get every opportunity there was available so that was just kind of my drive to get the highest degree because that is just kind of who I am. I’m just trying to get as much as I can.”

Smith will end her FFA career in October 2014. She said an FFA member’s tenure ends after their fourth National Convention following high school graduation.

Smith said her parents were always pushing her to be the best and exceed her own expectations.

“My mom always expected more out of me then I thought was possible,” Smith said. “As well as my dad. So, that is kind of my driving factor.”

Smith, 20, is a junior at Iowa State University studying animal science. She plans to graduate in December 2014.

Smith said she plans to return to Appanoose County after college graduation and own a cow/calf operation and find an agriculture-related job, at least in the beginning, due to high start-up costs.

“I plan on being in production for the rest of my life,” Smith said. “I plan on coming home to Appanoose County and starting a job there.”

Smith said agriculture offers her an opportunity to address the world’s growing need for food, fiber and fuel. She said the world’s population is expected to be 9 billion by 2050 and caloric intake is expected to double for most.

“Basically, agriculture, they feed the world, they clothe the world,” Smith said. “Everything has to do with agriculture. And I feel as if that’s a tremendous opportunity young people can be a part of that because we have such a huge job on our hands because of the increasing numbers throughout the world.”

Smith was part of the Exline Ramblers 4-H Club until she graduated from high school.

Smith’s mother is Shawn Tait, an Exline Ramblers 4-H Club leader. Her father is Daniel Smith. She has two sisters and three brothers.