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‘Just phenomenal’: Denmark’s fledgling FFA program clinches state title
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Students of the Denmark High School Future Farmers of America teams pose for a photo outside of the school's veterinary science building. - photo by Ben Hendren

In just the first year of the school’s infancy, students of Denmark High School's Veterinary Science and Future Farmers of America program are already starting to turn heads and wag tails in the agricultural community. 

According to Denmark Veterinary Science Teacher and FFA advisor Shelly Williams, two groups of Denmark students recently faced off against more than 30 other established Georgia high school FFA teams, and came out the other side carrying accolades and a state title.

"I knew I had some very bright kids, I knew I had some dedicated kids, I knew they had put in the time ... But honestly never expected for them to come home with a title," Williams said after an FFA meeting on Thursday, Feb. 21.

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Denmark Veterinary Science Teacher Shelly Williams speaks to a group of students gathered at a Denmark Future Farmers of America meeting on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. - photo by Ben Hendren

According to Williams, her Junior FFA Team clinched the state title at the FFA state competition, while her senior team placed eighth in the state.

She said that as a fledgling program with young students, that kind of outcome just isn’t normal.

"The state director called me and said, 'You know this doesn't usually happen right?'" she said. "We were blown away; we had no expectation for that."

And the experts agree. According to Randy Esbeck, a local veterinarian, longtime active member of the FFA and recent mentor of the Denmark FFA, it’s uncommon to say the very least.

"For a brand new program to jump in and do that is just phenomenal," Esbeck said. "There are chapters that have been in the process 30 years who haven't done what they accomplished." 

At their Feb. 21 meeting, Esbeck helped the young FFA members go through the organization's elaborate meeting rituals, discussing their funds, voting on future events and giving themselves a well-deserved pat on the back for their achievements.

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A Birdseye view shows the Denmark High School Veterinary Science complex where students can learn firsthand from the schools stable of animals. - photo by Ben Hendren
Esbeck said that with the veterinary facility and leadership that Denmark has put into place, they are just scratching the surface of how high they could rise, something he see’s changing in the near future.

“Most of these kids have no idea yet how far this is going to take them,” he said. “What they could do.”   

After the team returned from the completion, Denmark freshmen and junior FFA member, Aryani Duppada said that she and her teammates were excited and surprised at the win, stating that they had no idea it was coming.

"I am thrilled that we won and the fact that we won against really good schools too, I'm shocked at the same time,” Duppada said. “I think we showed those schools that they have to compete against us."

Another FFA team member and Denmark sophomore, Ashton Nicholls said they really expected the competition to be tougher but fully expected the junior team to excel.

"We were so excited, we saw how much they worked for it and the junior team fully deserved it," Nicholls said. "They worked every single day, it was crazy." 

Both Nicholls and Duppada said that these wins have solidified their interest in the vet program at Denmark.  Like her students, Williams agreed that seeing her students so energized, has grown her confidence in the program and what the future holds.

For the immediate future, she said that they expect their around 120 students to double, as Denmark welcomes 600 new freshmen for the 2019-20 school year.

“It's been a whirlwind, but it is so exciting, the enthusiasm, the support of the community, the parents, I have not wanted for a single thing," she said.