ASU-Beebe student to represent state at national FFA competition

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published October 17, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated October 16, 2013 at 3:48 p.m.
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Mason Strayhorn, a freshman at Arkansas State University-Beebe, will compete in the extemporaneous speaking competition at the National FFA Convention and Expo in Louisville, Ky., on Oct. 30. He won first place on the state level in June.

BEEBE — Mason Strayhorn has been a member of the National FFA Organization since he was a freshman in high school and is now headed to compete at the national level to put Beebe on the map.

“I’ve been in FFA my entire high-school career, starting in the ninth grade,” Strayhorn said.

Throughout high school, he held the positions of parliamentarian, vice president and president. He is now a freshman at Arkansas State University-Beebe and serves as the state vice president of the Arkansas FFA Association’s Eastern District.

This summer, however, proved to be one of the most exciting in his life, he said.

In June, he competed in the Arkansas FFA Association contest in extemporaneous public speaking, which is a career-development event.

He won first place out of all of the competitors in the state.

“The contestants in [extemporaneous public speaking] have 30 minutes to write a four- to six-minute speech about an agricultural topic,” Strayhorn said.

“There are 12 cards, and you get to choose three of them. Of those three, you have to select a topic you have to talk about.”

Strayhorn explained that the topic he spoke about in June was where agriculture will be in 20 years.

“It’s not nerve-racking. You get into that room, and your adrenaline is running,” he said. “You can also bring resources [with you to the competition].”

Strayhorn said the most difficult part of the contest was making sure his speech didn’t exceed six minutes.

“They do deduct points if you don’t get into that envelope of time,” he said.

It wasn’t Strayhorn’s first time to place in the state competition, however.

“I got second my sophomore year,” he said.

He said placing second inspired him to work extra hard until he competed again his senior year.

“It helped me a lot, not winning as a sophomore,” Strayhorn said. “I realized that if I had confidence and gave the best speech I could, there was nothing else I could do.”

His confidence in his second state competition proved to be enough for him to win first place and move on to compete at the national level.

“Getting first was amazing,” Strayhorn said. “I worked really hard for the past three years.”

On Oct. 30, in Louisville, Ky., Strayhorn will compete against 49 other FFA members in the extemporaneous speaking competition at the National FFA Convention and Expo.

“There’s one representative from each state,” he said.

He has attended the national FFA convention before but has never competed in it, so Strayhorn looks forward to showing off his skills in front of a nationwide crowd.

He said he’s been working with his agriculture teacher at ASU-Beebe to get comfortable with giving his speech in Louisville. Strayhorn is concentrating on developing his speaking-ability and presentation skills in order to succeed at the national competition.

“I’m ready to go and compete,” Strayhorn said. “I’m tickled to be able to go and give my speech.”

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online Reporter Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-378-3887 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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