Michala Kuhlman, a senior at Northeast Bradford High School who lives in Rome, was recently awarded the FFA State Star award in Agricultural Production at the FFA Mid-Winter Convention in Harrisburg.

The star award is the most prestigious award given out each year by the FFA, as only one member receives an award in each of the four categories; Agricultural Business, Agricultural Placement, Agricultural Production, and Agricultural Science.

Kuhlman is the first student of the Northeast Bradford FFA Chapter to receive a state star award. As rare as the award may be, Kuhlman says her mother won a state star in Vermont, "a really long time ago."

The FFA's highest member degree at the state level, the Keystone Degree, is necessary to apply for any star awards, whether at the regional, state, or national level. Kuhlman explained that she had put over 400 hours into meeting the requirements for the degree since the ninth grade.

Over 300 other FFA members across the state also received their Keystone Degree at the convention in Harrisburg, with Northeast Bradford Senior Lu-Anne Antisdel joining Kuhlman in receiving the honor.

Two other Northeast Bradford Freshman were honored by receiving FFA Jackets from the Pennsylvania FFA Alumni Association. In order to obtain the jackets, Hailee Weissman and Tristan Carrington were required to submit at essay about what the FFA Jacket means to them.

Looking back to Kuhlman, it is no surprise to see such an important award given to her at the convention. Kuhlman was the 2011-2012 Bradford County Dairy Princess, the 2010-2011 Pennsylvania Miss Brown Swiss, and the 2009-2010 Pennsylvania Alternate Miss Brown Swiss, and held countless other positions in the local agriculture community.

"Michala is a great kid and she is a hard worker. Her passion for agriculture is undeniable and I want to help her in every way I can so she can achieve," Brian Pifer, Northeast Bradford High School teacher and FFA school adviser, said.

Michala spoke from the heart saying, "Without Mr. Pifer's help through the last three with my projects, I wouldn't have achieved near the amount of things I did. Each time I put in an application for an award, I would get nervous thinking it wasn't good enough. He always told me, 'Don't sell yourself short,' and he would help my confidence."

It turned out Mr. Pifer was right.

"All of the projects and community involvement she is doing now will give her a huge advantage going into college," Pifer said.

Currently Kuhlman is the President of Bradford County FFA, which allows her to help coordinate FFA events between the three other participating school chapters in the county. Antisdel is the Vice President at the county level, making it the first time that both president and vice president positions were filled by students from the same school in the county.

Looking towards the future, Kuhlman has two plans laid out for after her graduation this spring.

Her first move will be to run for FFA state office, much like her sister who holds office in Pennsylvania. If she is successful, she will postpone college for one year as she focuses on teaching about the importance of agriculture and the FFA to local businesses, communities, and students.

If she is unsuccessful, Kuhlman has already been accepted to Penn State Altoona for a major in Agricultural Business and a minor in Communications.

"If I am able to make it to the state level, I will not fall behind in my education even though I will be taking off a year from school because I already have 15 credits towards college," Kuhlman explained.

"I just really want to thank my family for helping me with all of the projects I have done. When I was being introduced on stage for the state star award, even though there were so many people cheering, I could hear my mom and my sister over everyone else. They really supported me," Kuhlman said.

The passion and dedication towards agriculture from Kuhlman is undeniable, but she wants to voice her thoughts on how the public perceives the FFA organization.

"Too many people think that the FFA is only about farming, and they never look into it because they aren't interested in the industry. … The FFA is much more than that, it can help people learn about interviewing, public speaking, and many other non-farming related skills," Kuhlman stressed.

Tim Zyla can be reached by phone at (570) 265-1634 or through email at tzyla@thedailyreview.com.