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What’s Your Role?

Thousands upon thousands of miles away from home, Jamar Roman cultivates his passion for agriculture in fellow FFA members.


As a national FFA vice president, the Puerto Rico native spent time in Missouri last month helping members celebrate National FFA Week. Even though agriculture is different in his home country compared to Missouri and other states he has visited, he says as all have the same ultimate goal. “(We’re working to) educate a new generation of students,” Roman explains. “What is agriculture, what can we learn about agriculture and what is so important about it? It’s a different way of learning, but it’s not different in the way we apply it because we all help for the best and for the good of society.”


Having grown up on a hog operation, Roman also raised fruits and vegetables as part of his Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) project. He says an SAE is about an experience whether regardless of whether it’s inside or outside the classroom.


“It’s about understanding all the roles of the work you do,” he says. “Agriculture doesn’t just start with a seed or start with a fruit in the grocery store. Agriculture is not only cows, pigs and strawberries. That mechanic in the diesel industry is also part of agriculture. The owner of a grocery store is part of agriculture, everything. SAE’s show a student what agriculture is and how they can be involved in the industry.”


As part of his year-long service, Roman will travel to 14 different states sharing with members how FFA can make a difference in their lives and help them discover their passion.


“FFA creates kids with values and good skills and techniques as a worker,” Roman says. “FFA is grading a student with the skills of leadership, respect, love, hard work and dedication and among all things, passion for agriculture.”


—By Joann Pipkin

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Explore Agriculture

The agricultural career landscape is ever changing, and students have more career options to choose from now than ever before. Whether interested in welding, writing, mechanics or sales, the National FFA Organization has a tool to help students navigate the possibilities and get on the right track: AgExplorer.


Through a partnership between National FFA and Discovery Education, a tool to help FFA members navigate careers in agriculture was developed. The following career focus areas have been narrowed down for students to explore: Agribusiness Systems, Agricultural Education, Animal Systems, Biotechnology Systems, Environmental Service Systems, Food Products and Processing Systems, Natural Resources Systems, Plant Systems and Power, Structural and Technical Systems.


Students can either learn more about each area and its careers on their own or utilize the Career Finder quiz to be matched with options that may be a good fit for their skills and interests.  This resource takes the pairing a step further to suggest Supervised Agricultural Experience ideas related to their specific results.


Agricultural education teachers can even bring these tools into their classroom through educator resources provided by National FFA, including lesson plans, virtual field trips and classroom activities to further career exploration in agriculture.


More information on AgExplorer and Career Finder can be found at

—By Brandelyn Martin Twellman

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Get An Early Start

Industry professionals share their tips for students exploring agricultural careers.

From animal and plant science to sales and communication courses, agriculture students get a taste of diversity in the industry throughout their high school years. No matter which classes spark their interest and fuel their passion for agriculture, students can be confident in the opportunities available.


“If you have an interest in agriculture, the industry has a place for you,” says Jessica Kueffer, recruitment and employee development manager for MFA, Inc. “Whether you find expertise on the farm or in an office, it takes all kinds to make our industry thrive.”


Kueffer says this presents the opportunity for students to find a niche in the industry.


“As a student, you’re exposed to so much, so take a step back and ask yourself, ‘What do I enjoy seeing, doing or learning about most?’ ” she explains. “Then, look to higher education, whether it’s a technical school, community college or university, to build on the experience you’ve had thus far. If you enjoy what you’re learning about and working on, you’ll be building a career and not just working a job.”


Now more than ever, quick learners are in high demand.


“Our industry is quickly becoming more technology-driven, and there is a demand for students who have the skills to quickly learn these advances,” says Colton Spencer, who is a senior at the University of Missouri-Columbia and served as a student worker for MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) Career Services the past two years.


In addition to soft skills such as public speaking and time management, skill requirements vary by profession.


“Specific skill development is highly dependent on the sector of the industry you choose,” Kueffer says. “Certifications, on top of higher education, can really set applicants apart. In today’s top talent we see certifications achieved in every realm of business, whether it’s in agronomy, precision technology, business, finance, human resources or sales.”


Kueffer notes that desired skills often go beyond what can be taught.


“Top skills are often related to the company’s values,” she says. “They are personal abilities that are not taught but lived out every day. At MFA, we believe that we can teach you the technical knowledge you need to succeed, but we can’t teach you honesty, accountability or communication. No matter where you go within the industry, you’ll need these three traits.”


While FFA is a good starting point for career exploration and personal growth, it doesn’t stop there.


“As a professional in employee development, I’m a firm believer in the idea of continuous learning,” she says. “Companies will hire you for who you are and how you fit with the company culture. You’ll excel in the role because of the gifts of knowledge you offer in the position. When you continuously focus on building your skills and performing a job better than the day before, you’ll find success.”


Students must be intentional about this continuous process.


“The advice I’d offer here: go to the class, attend the training, ask the questions and challenge yourself to grow every single day,” Kueffer adds.


This intentionality can start with seeking out opportunities in FFA. Spencer said involvement in the organization can help students explore agricultural careers and better prepare them for the workforce.


“I would say general advice is to become involved in every possible event through FFA, which will help students search for careers without even realizing it,” he said. “Career Development Events and other trainings are essential components of FFA that allow students to find their passions within the industry.”


Matt Arri, director of MU CAFNR Career Services, says taking advantage of professional development opportunities in high school could have a lasting impact.


“While the job market is very robust, the competition for the best positions is still very strong,” he says. “The more well-rounded an FFA member is, the higher the likelihood of them obtaining an internship while an undergraduate or landing their dream job after graduation.”


FFA can also be used to build connections with industry professionals.


“First, build your network,” Kueffer says. “Never be shy to talk to someone within the industry about their experience, their education or their journey.  Then, build your resume and practice talking about your own experience, education and journey. Learning to tell your story will become easy.”


With many diverse opportunities in agriculture, students are encouraged to use their FFA background, network of connections and hands-on experience to explore multiple careers in the industry.


“We encourage students to obtain as many internships as possible to help them determine which industry and type of position they may want to have before they graduate,” Arri says. “We encourage everyone from freshmen to seniors to network with industry professionals at career fairs and through other means to learn more about career opportunities available to them.”


“My take-home message for students is to be active early,” Spencer adds. “Don’t wait to take advantage of opportunities. Act now and work to improve your skill set each and every day.”

—By Brandelyn Martin Twellman

—Photos courtesy of MFA, Inc.

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Beyond High School

FFA members often cite a culture of close-knit family as a favorite part of their years in the organization. They develop feelings of trust and friendships that last with those who share in their FFA experiences. The agriculture program at State Fair Community College (SFCC) in Sedalia, Missouri, has capitalized on that same culture.


“There are a number of reasons that students enjoy the program,” says Brad Driskill, agriculture program coordinator at SFCC. “Most agriculture students like the close-knit bonds that are formed in their high school agriculture programs and participation in FFA.  We provide an environment conducive to that culture.”


Driskill says their agriculture program offers courses and degrees with a dual purpose: to support students seeking careers in agriculture and to support the agricultural industry seeking a trained workforce. This is accomplished by offering four Associate of Applied Science degrees, two professional certificates and an Associate of Arts degree for students wishing to transfer to a university to continue their education.


At SFCC, students can pursue associate degrees in arts or in agriculture with an emphasis in agribusiness, agronomy, animal science or horticulture. They also have the option of obtaining a professional certificate in agribusiness or agronomy.


The location of the college helps attract students interested in the offered programs.


“From our location, south we get many students who have an animal science focus, but from Sedalia, north we get students who tend to have an agronomy focus,” Driskill says.


This diversity in student interest allows the agriculture program to integrate both areas into effective educational opportunities. Each degree and certificate area of the program focuses on both specific skills needed to help students in their future careers and soft skills needed across the board.


“SFCC Agriculture focuses on work-based skills in the specific degree area,” Driskill says. “Students are trained in technical knowledge that will help Associate of Applied Science degree seekers enter the workforce and help Associate of Arts degree seekers prepare for transfer to a university.  In addition to technical skills, we focus on leadership, citizenship and essential skills need for employability.”


From calculating yield estimates in local fields to growing mums and greenhouse plants for student-operated sales, every student passing through the SFCC agriculture program becomes familiar with hands-on learning. All Associate of Applied Science degree-seeking students are even required to obtain an internship position for further hands-on experience.


SFCC Agriculture students also receive personal growth and career exploration opportunities as they move through the program. One of these opportunities comes from participation in the Professional Agriculture Students (PAS) organization, a nationwide collegiate group that continues the leadership opportunities FFA provides. Driskill says students always enjoy the organization, as PAS offers skill set development and network opportunities in addition to its national collegiate-level competition-style learning model.


Students also receive career guidance from required classes in the SFCC agriculture program.


“The ag program engages each student that comes through the program to help them determine career goals,” Driskill says. “We have a sequence of classes that focus on employment, goal setting and personal skill identification. This helps us guide each student into a career path that best suits them.”


From hands-on learning to personal skill growth and career exploration, SFCC Agriculture students are ready to tackle the workforce or pursue additional education in the agricultural industry upon graduation from the program.  More information on the SFCC ag program can be found at

—By Brandelyn Martin Twellman

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Where It All Begins

Over 4,500 first year FFA members from more than 320 Missouri High Schools had the opportunity to learn about being positive role models, learning to get involved, making sound choices, becoming active team members and making a positive difference in their lives, school and community Jan. 6-10 across the state during the annual Greenhand Motivational Conferences.  The conferences were presented by the Missouri State FFA Officers and were sponsored by MFA, Inc.


Through interactive workshops and skits, the state FFA officers encouraged first year FFA members to explore their talents and reach outside their comfort zones for the opportunities provided through FFA membership. Officers helped the new agriculture students set goals for their education, careers and FFA experience.


Eighteen conferences were held at 13 different locations throughout the state: Missouri State Fairgrounds, Sedalia; Bowling Green High School, Bowling Green; Truman State University, Kirksville; Sullivan High School, Sullivan; Three Rivers Community College, Poplar Bluff; Missouri State University, West Plains; Lincoln University, Jefferson City;  Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau; Waynesville High School, Waynesville; Missouri State University, Springfield; Missouri Western State College, St. Joseph; University of Missouri, Columbia; and North Central Missouri College, Trenton.

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Build YOUR Confidence

Walking into the National Agriscience Fair, Dylan Sparks looked at the rows upon rows of project presentations and didn’t know how he would measure up. He and his partner, Bella Kidwell, are members of the Troy FFA Chapter. They agreed the National Agriscience Fair was something they will never forget.


Matt McCrory, an advisor of the Troy FFA Chapter, said the fair is broken into different segments.


“Students discover a problem, research it, develop a hypothesis and conduct the scientific experiment to test the hypothesis,” he said. “They write a research paper displaying their research, data and results.  Students then make a display board portraying their research project and take part in a 10-minute interview with judges explaining their concepts, steps and analysis.”


The Agriscience Fair allows students to further explore topics in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.


“They get to choose from a variety of category areas based upon their interests, including Environmental Services/Natural Resource Systems; Food Products and Processing Systems; Plant Systems; Power, Structural and Technical Systems; and Social Science,” McCrory explained.


Sparks and Kidwell decided to explore the Animal Systems area.


“Dylan and I did a project about artificial insemination in swine,” Kidwell said. “We looked at what type of rod would be the best to use. It was between a traditional spirette rod and an intrauterine rod. We tested on a litter of gilts and sows.”


In addition to learning about swine, Sparks said he also developed leadership skills throughout his project.


“It helped build my confidence while speaking in front of people,” he explained. “It helped build my writing skills as well.”


Kidwell and Sparks won at the state level and went on to win the national competition in 2018. Sparks is moving onto nationals again this year. He attributes his chapter’s consistent success to teamwork and collaboration.


Sparks said he remembers an older member reaching out to help them with their project.


“He read over our essay, listened to our speech and gave us tips,” Sparks said. “We all just work together to refine everything. It’s not just your project–it’s almost the whole chapter’s project.”


Similarly, Gabriel Simmons and Allison Harris, members of the Tuscumbia FFA Chapter, believe their chapter’s successes are due to the encouragement of others involved.


“I am blessed enough to be in a chapter filled with people who are both passionate about what they do and encouraging to those around them,” Harris said. “The members in my chapter strive not to be perfect but instead to be the best they can be. This certainly makes an impact on every individual member of the chapter, school and community by pushing them to be the same way.”


While the students attribute most of their success to those around them, Tuscumbia Advisor Nick Parks said his students are self-motivated as well.


“What makes our chapter successful is the time our students put into the project outside of school,” he explained. “They put in countless hours both inside and outside of the classroom.”


Invasive species was Simmons’s topic of choice this year.


“I was investigating how well the public understood invasive species,” he said. “I created a survey. Section 1 consisted of questions where subjects had to identify invasive flora and fauna, and non-invasive flora and fauna. They also had to classify these species as either invasive or non-invasive. In section 2, they had to answer questions related to the problems associated with invasive species.”


Harris chose to do her project on preventing corrosion of mild steel.


“Acid media, which is used heavily in dairy industries, can cause severe damage of goods and structures,” she explained. “I used beet root, grape seed, green tea, and Moringa oleifera extracts. These extracts were added to an acid solution, and each was tested at three different concentrations. The change in mass was calculated at the end of the experiment, and I found that each of the treatment groups was 100% effective at preventing corrosion.”


Both members competed at the National Agriscience Fair this year. While they are excited about their successes thus far, they are also appreciative of the skills they have gained.


Parks said that while the main purpose of the fair is to encourage students to search for solutions to common issues in agriculture, it also allows for many personal growth opportunities.


“While learning about the uses of acid media, I learned how much of an impact it makes in various industries, the environment and the economy,” Harris said. “However, I also learned to be persistent and work hard to accomplish my goals, no matter how difficult it may become.”


Each student agreed that the Agriscience Fair has presented them with lessons and opportunities they didn’t foresee. Whether it changed their future career path, helped them with interview skills or allowed them to explore a new area of agriculture, each student has taken away more than an award from the experience.

—By Brandelyn Martin

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Dared To Be Diversified

Diversifying her livestock enterprise sounded like a good plan. Yet, it was the greatest challenge Bucklin FFA member Amelia Liebhart faced with her supervised agricultural experience project.


“Raising and exhibiting Salers cattle along with my sisters and fellow family members was a given, but expanding into swine and goats was not,” she explains.

Initially met with resistance, Liebhart says her family couldn’t understand the interest she had in other species, especially given the success they had received in the cattle industry.

However, with a little help from her grandpa, Liebhart was able to persuade her parents into the expansion. The decision was one that helped the FFA member become a national winner in the diversified livestock proficiency award area last month at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana.

“Experiencing the success and satisfaction of my own SAE in diversified livestock production made me realize the value of the entire SAE process to the agricultural education program and the value of the experience to agriculture students,” Liebhart says.

Liebhart’s SAE includes raising registered Salers beef cattle, crossbred swine, Boer goats and working on her family’s farm. Income she earns on the farm is used to purchase needed hay, feed, veterinary care, pasture and bull rent. She also invested in the production of seven acres of corn to help provide feed for her livestock project.

“Raising livestock and growing up in a farm environment has shaped me as an individual and exemplifies the FFA motto through my experiences,” Liebhart says. “Learning the value of hard work, dedication, money management, goal-setting, planning, decision-making and even dealing with failure and loss (have been critical to my success). Through practical experience, I have built up a lifelong enterprise while learning life skills.”

In the future, Liebhart hopes to become an agricultural education instructor and share her own experiences with her students, helping them learn essential skills and gain opportunities for success through their own SAE programs. She says her first-hand experiences will undoubtedly assist her in teaching future students while allowing her to continue serving others.

“Everything of value requires hard work and dedication, and this can come with some difficult decisions and lessons,” she says. “Overall, my involvement in raising livestock has been positive and rewarding, and I plan to continue it throughout my life and with my own family.”

—By Joann Pipkin

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Passing on the Passion

With more than 200,000 students and their families in Missouri, Agriculture Education on the Move (AEOTM) continues to grow, helping bridge the gap between farming and the non-farming public. The program aims to increase an understanding of agriculture in third-grade classrooms across the state.


“AEOTM is a 10-week, interactive ag education program that focuses on bringing passionate educators into the classroom to share that important story of modern agriculture,” said Luella Gregory, AEOTM program director.


The interactive program is backed by Missouri Farmers Care (MFC), a joint effort by Missouri’s agricultural community to support Missouri agriculture. AEOTM teaches students about agricultural topics, such as crops, livestock, soil and water conservation, nutrition and agricultural careers throughout its lessons. It has grown to reach more than 100 schools in the state.


And one of the key components behind its growth is a partnership with Missouri FFA members.


“FFA is a very important component of the program, and we are proud to partner with Missouri FFA students across the state to bring programs into their local classrooms,” Gregory said. “We have regional field educators who serve our urban areas, but it is absolutely crucial in our rural communities to have our FFA chapters to help support and bring that message.”


The partnership requires a level of responsibility on the members’ part, she added.


“FFA members take on the role a regional educator would and learn the material and bring those lessons to their own peers.”


Sending FFA members into their local classrooms has benefited both the program and the students it serves.


“The benefit of having local FFA students pouring back into elementary classrooms in their area is a network that those students themselves are building,” said Ashley McCarty, MFC executive director. “Elementary students get to hear about beef production, for instance. But they also get to hear about that from someone who is producing beef in their county. It’s not an abstract idea anymore; it’s very much in context.”


FFA members are also benefitting from this partnership.


“Getting to serve as an educator with AEOTM really allows an FFA student to put into practice all of the leadership skills they learn through FFA and is an opportunity for practical application of agricultural literacy that students have learned throughout their agricultural education programs,” McCarty said.


In addition to personal growth benefits, acting as an AEOTM educator allows members the chance to give back to others in their community.


“In our eyes, it gives an FFA student the opportunity to serve but also the opportunity to pass on their passion for agriculture that has drawn them to be an FFA member in the first place,” McCarty said. “Probably the aspect of AEOTM that I love the most is that it puts our FFA leaders in a position of being mentors for elementary students.”


Connecting with older students is a valuable aspect that can brighten a third- grader’s day and makes their experience with AEOTM even more memorable, McCarty explained.


While classroom time is the largest portion of AEOTM, other ways to participate are also available.


“Outside of the classroom setting, we do a lot of professional events,” Gregory said. “If there’s ever an activity or event that an FFA chapter is doing or a student is really passionate about, we love to try to help make that happen.”


“MFC and the agricultural groups that make up MFC are exceptionally appreciative of all the partnerships we have with Missouri FFA,” McCarty added. “Getting to tap into the passion, power and energy of FFA students in AEOTM and in all the other ways we work together is such a beneficial partnership throughout all of our industry that I think only makes each segment stronger.”


Missouri FFA members can get involved with AEOTM by visiting its website,, or MFC’s website,

—By Brandelyn Martin

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Nov 11 2019

Missouri Team Takes Top Honors in 2019 Agricultural Technology and Mechanical Systems Competition

Courtesy of the National FFA Organization

Winners of the National FFA Agricultural Technology and Mechanical Systems Career Development Event (CDE) were announced Friday at the annual awards banquet. The event was held in conjunction with the 92nd National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis. Dr. Mark Zidon from the University of Wisconsin -Platteville served as superintendent of the event.


The top ten individuals and the national winning team members received cash awards to recognize their success in the event. This CDE, and all the cash awards, are sponsored by Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Caterpillar Inc., Darling Ingredients and Firestone Agricultural Solutions.


The National FFA Agricultural Technology and Mechanical Systems CDE is a competitive event that allows students to apply classroom knowledge to real-life situations. Activities included in the event are a written exam, a team event, demonstration of problem-solving skills, and hands-on performance activities. Areas of emphasis include environmental and natural resource systems, machinery and equipment systems, structural systems, energy systems and electrical systems. Each team in the event has competed with other chapters in their state for the privilege of participating in the national event.


The event, held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, is one of many educational activities at the National FFA Convention & Expo in which FFA members practice the lessons taught in agricultural education classes.

Top Placing Teams

1st Place– Missouri  Grant Coe, Youssef Fransis, Kirby Latimer, and Mason Uhlmeyer, all of North Shelby FFA

2nd Place– Illinois  Austin Friedman, Ty Zimmerman, Chase Leman, and Evan Young, all of Prairie

Central FFA

3rd Place– California  Devan Gomes, Landon Rocha, Trenton Soares, and Tyler Pimentel, all of Hilmar FFA

4th Place– Texas Trey Ivey, Wyatt Lykins, Samuel Packer, and Rylan Cates, all of Bangs FFA

5th Place– North Carolina  Kevin Melton, Alton Warren, Lane Warren, and Parker Edwards, all of Enka FFA

6th Place– North Dakota  Levi Schwab, Jacob Bear, Brady Carlson, and Gavin Reinke, all of Lisbon FFA

7th Place– Iowa  Gabe Knobloch, Blake Meyer, Lucas Moser, and Tyren Ulmer, all of West Lyon FFA

8th Place– Washington  Chad Nunamaker, Gus Roelof, Jose Malave, and Hailey Gallatin, all of Meridian FFA

9th Place– Ohio  JUSTIN PUTHOFF, Blake Holthaus, James Keller, and Austin Bollheimer, all of Fort Loramie- UVCC FFA

10th Place– Nevada  John Cashell, Cody M Fowers, Evan D Carlon, and Kaden T Syme, all of Silver Sage FFA

Top Placing Individuals

 1st Place– Youssef Fransis of North Shelby FFA , MO

2nd Place– Kirby Latimer of North Shelby FFA , MO

3rd Place– Mason Uhlmeyer of North Shelby FFA , MO

4th Place– Grant Coe of North Shelby FFA , MO

5th Place– Levi Schwab of Lisbon FFA , ND

6th Place– Tyler Pimentel of Hilmar FFA , CA

7th Place– Sam Droesch of Crater FFA , OR

8th Place– Ty Zimmerman of Prairie Central FFA , IL

9th Place– Garrett Morgan of White County FFA , GA

10th Place– Evan Young of Prairie Central FFA , IL

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Nov 11 2019

Troy FFA Named 2019 National Premier Chapter – Building Communities Winner

Courtesy of the National FFA Organization

 INDIANAPOLIS (Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019/National FFA Organization) — Troy FFA of Missouri has been named the 2019 National Premier Chapter: Building Communities winner at the 92nd National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis. 


The National Chapter Award program recognizes outstanding FFA chapters that actively implement the mission and strategies of the organization. These chapters improve chapter operations using the National Quality FFA Chapter Standards and a Program of Activities that emphasizes growing leaders, building communities, and strengthening agriculture. Chapters are rewarded for providing educational experiences for the entire membership. 


Troy FFA chose the #SIGNONESAVEMANY campaign to promote organ donor registration to its members and supporters, ultimately improving the welfare and physical well-being of the town’s citizens and beyond. Members used social media, videos and presentations to encourage enrollment in the program while educating on the importance of organ donations. The chapter signed up more than 1,000 people to the registry, potentially benefiting more than 100,000 people in the long term. 


Chapters eligible to compete for the National Premier Chapter: Building Communities award demonstrate competency in doing innovative things or taking traditional concepts and applying a creative twist in the building communities division of the chapter’s Program of Activities. Ten three-star chapters competed in a presentation and interview process for the top honor during this year’s national convention. Troy FFA received a plaque in an onstage ceremony during the convention’s second general session on Thursday, Oct. 31. 


John Deere sponsors the National Chapter Award program. 


The National FFA Organization provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education to more than 700,000 student members who belong to one of the more than 8,600 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The organization is also supported by more than 8 million alumni and supporters throughout the U.S. 

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