Deb Malewski
Contributing Writer

FFA, formerly known as Future Farmers of America, is a youth organization that is based in agricultural education that teaches students leadership, social, and career skills to prepare them for the future. Olivet FFA is proving to be a highly successful chapter of this organization.
The main focus of FFA is to develop leadership and learn about farming. But it’s not just for future farmers. The members work on improving their leadership and social skills and learn how to interact with both adults and kids. They learn telephone skills and learn how to plan activities.
Doug Pennington, the FFA advisor in Olivet for students in grades 9 through 12, teaches Agri-Science in Olivet High School, which consists of botany, biology, large animal vet science, and ag leadership. He has taught 29 years, with 27 of those years in Olivet. FFA is something he was involved in himself as a young man and realized the benefits of the program.
“I got the same experience when I was in High School,” Pennington said. “FFA gave me the confidence needed to be successful in any career. It builds a lot of different career skills. It teaches leadership, social and career skills and how to prepare for the future.”
Pennington is passionate about passing on the benefits of the program to his students and pushes the value of the program to everyone. “The earlier the kids join, the better,” Pennington said.
There are usually 65 to 75 kids enrolled in the program, Pennington said, but it’s down a bit this year due to the COVID situation.
Four Olivet FFA teens made it to the state finals, with two members elected to the State FFA Board. Patricia Hebenstreit became Region VI State Vice President and Savannah Mauk is the Region IV State Vice President. The two young women were also recognized as ceremonial state officers.
“We were super excited,” Pennington said. “This is the 6th set of state officers we’ve had in the last six years.” State officers are kept busy with FFA duties, including visiting chapters around the state; they will usually visit 20-25 chapters each fall. They also interact with business leaders and legislators. They help run the state convention and two leadership conferences. They interact with their peers on social media, providing mentoring and other assistance.
The Parliamentary Procedure team took 11th place in the State Contest. Many other members of the group were recognized for their efforts at the state level, including Brandon Van De Mortel who took 2nd Gold in the State Extemporaneous Public Speaking Contest.
An Olivet parent wrote on Facebook: “Mr. Pennington goes above and beyond for the students at Olivet. Our community is blessed to have him.”
For more information about Olivet FFA, visit their Facebook page #Olivet-FFA-191802454285408 or visit their website at