Malheur County freshmen make FFA history – en Español

An Ontario High School freshman was part of history last month at the Oregon FFA convention.

Sofia Corona, a first-year FFA student, and seven other participants – including Gabby Sandoval, a freshman at Vale High School – competed in the first-ever state Spanish Creed Speaking Invitational held in Redmond at the Deschutes County Fair and Expo Center.

The FFA creed outlines the organization’s values and beliefs regarding agriculture, FFA membership, citizenship and patriotism, according to the FFA national website. In the competition, students recite the five-paragraph creed from memory. It was written in 1928 by E.M. Tiffany, an agriculture education teacher and adopted in 1930, according to the National FFA website.

Corona said she practiced memorizing and presenting the creed for a month ahead of the event. She practiced the creed in front of veterans at the Ontario Elks Lodge when the Ontario FFA volunteered at a benefit auction.

She said the response from the veterans helped her realize the importance of memorizing and presenting the creed. The founding principles, which have only been revised twice since 1930, underscore FFA’s strong belief in the agricultural industry and the organization’s spirit of its values surrounding citizenship and patriotism.

“I knew it was important,” she said. “But I never knew how important it was.”

Her FFA adviser, Bud Sebasto, said eastern Oregon was “well represented” at the state convention.

Sebasto said that having the Spanish competition was “an awesome thing happening in our state.”

He said students always have the option to present in a different language. However, Sebasto said it becomes difficult at the contest level because they have to have separate judges to verify accuracy. Not all the judges speak Spanish.

“We run into some roadblocks there,” he said.

Sebasto said allowing students to present the creed in Spanish allows them to showcase their natural talents and abilities without encountering any roadblocks.

Corona said she was nervous to get up and speak in public but also excited that she had the chance to participate in the event, especially given that it was her first year in FFA.

As for making history as the first student from Ontario to present the creed in Spanish, Corona said it was an “honor.”

“I got to do something really important that not many people get to do,” Corona said.

Lee Letsch, executive secretary of Oregon FFA, said Carona took fourth overall.

Sebasto said Corona spoke in front of about 2,400 people at the event.

“She did very well,” Sebasto said. “I’m very proud of her.”

According to the National FFA website, several state associations across have established Spanish creed contests over the years.

Sebasto said Maddie Hines, the FFA advisor at Riverside High School in Boardman had made the push for the Spanish Creed Speaking Invitational at the state convention. According to Sebasto, the area, like Ontario, has a large Spanish speaking population.

Sebasto said he had been discussing having students present the creed in Spanish at the district level in Ontario.

He said he hopes the state convention will have a Spanish Creed Speaking Invitational every year. It’s important, Sebasto said, that Hispanic students have the creed in their language.

The creed is the first public speaking opportunity for freshman in FFA. Even in English, every FFA student participates in the creed.

Sofia’s mother, Mirella Corona, said she was proud of her daughter. She said she would have never imagined her daughter making history like she did at the FFA state convention.

When it comes to making history, Corona said while it’s “cool” and “a little scary.” to be part of history, especially given that she had never given a public speech before.

“It was really scary for me,” she said.

She said practice, prayer and taking deep breaths helped her get through the fear.

“It took me a while to remember it,” she said, “but I got it.”

Corona said she joined FFA for the opportunities provided students. From public speaking to farm business management, the organization allows students the opportunity to learn about the agricultural industry.

While she has not decided on a career, Corona, 14, said she is interested in veterinary science and has always loved animals.

Her advice for others is to put themselves out there and “try new things.”

“If you have an opportunity, you never know what could happen,” she said. “For example, I got into a place where I made history, so anything’s possible.”

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