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3 Hollister FFA members receive highest honor

Taryn Wright, Colby Robinson and Clay Hubbell will be recognized for their achievements at a ceremony in October.
The golden American Degree key is awarded to American FFA Degree recipients to be worn with the blue corduroy FFA jacket. Photo by Jenna Fields.
2022 American Degree Recipient Colby Robinson. Photo courtesy of Colby Robinson.
Colby Robinson at the San Benito County Fair with her FFA Reserve Champion Market Hog. Photo courtesy of Colby Robinson.
2022 American Degree Recipient Taryn Wright. Photo courtesy of Taryn Wright.
Taryn Wright with her various accolades from jackpots and county fairs. Photo courtesy of Taryn Wright.
2022 American Degree Recipient Clay Hubbell. Photo courtesy of Clay Hubbell.

Members of the Hollister chapter of the National FFA Organization have access to countless opportunities for hands-on learning, leadership growth, and personal achievement. This year, Hollister High School alumni Taryn Wright, Colby Robinson and Clay Hubbell attained the highest honor the National FFA Organization can award its members, the American FFA Degree. The degree ceremony will be held at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Oct. 29. 

The American FFA Degree is the last in a series of degrees that FFA members can achieve throughout their years in the organization and only a small percentage of students ever receive it. Qualifications for this award are based on the applicant’s scholastic record, community service involvement and investment in their Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) project. The SAE project can be entrepreneurial, experiential or research-based and feature any facet of the agriculture industry, from raising livestock to working at a local plant nursery. Requirements regarding a student’s SAE project are measured in hours productively invested, funds invested, and revenue generated. Recipients of this degree must also be high school graduates.

Taryn Wright

Before graduating from Hollister High School in 2021, Taryn Wright was extensively involved in all levels of FFA leadership, serving as an officer on multiple occasions but most notably as Hollister FFA Chapter President and South Coast FFA Region Vice President. She represented California FFA at the national level while serving as a delegate at the National FFA Convention and took part in guiding the progress of the state association while serving as a Sub-Committee Chair at the California FFA State Leadership Conference. 

She also competed in various events including Impromptu Public Speaking, Prepared Public Speaking and Job Interview. Wright advanced to the regional level on multiple occasions. 

“I am so grateful for the opportunities and experiences I was given during my time in FFA. They have all contributed to the person I am today,” said Wright. “More specifically, it has helped me prepare for the real world by giving me interviewing, public speaking, and networking skills that have allowed me to excel as a student and as a person in society.”

Wright’s SAE project was based in showing various livestock species but largely focused on an entrepreneurship-based enterprise classified as Beef Production Entrepreneurship and consisted of thorough record keeping and management of all affairs associated with her stock. This included calving, vet bills and medical needs, breeding practices, nutrition and feeding, halter breaking, and any sale or financial gain. Wright not only raised and exhibited her own cattle at fairs, but also sold cattle to local 4-H and FFA members to show as well. This endeavor earned her multiple sectional proficiency awards. 

“It is extremely rewarding to show something you have raised since it was a baby, no matter if you win or lose,” Wright said. “I was fortunate enough to have been extremely successful with the cattle I raised, showing or selling numerous Grand and Reserve Champions.” 

Having been involved with agriculture from an early age through family ties and 4-H involvement prior to FFA, Wright appreciates the growth that FFA has afforded her on her journey to receiving the American Degree. 

“It is extremely rewarding knowing that all those years of hard work are being recognized at the highest degree. My dad, who was heavily involved in FFA as well in high school, always told me he regretted not getting his American Degree so seeing how proud he is of me makes all the blood, sweat, and tears throughout the years worth it,” said Wright. 

Wright is currently attending Texas A&M University, majoring in ag communications and journalism with a minor in crop science. She also runs Taryn Wright Photography while working as a contract photographer for livestock shows across the country. 

Colby Robinson

Colby Robinson’s time in Hollister FFA was characterized by her effort to be involved in many facets of the organization and the growth she achieved through her dedication to both her project and the chapter. As a freshman, she was a member of multiple chapter committees, eventually serving as the Greenhand Committee Chair in her sophomore year, then the Hollister FFA Chapter Reporter in her junior year. Robinson attended multiple leadership conferences, including both the California State FFA Leadership Conference and the National FFA Convention. She was an avid participant in speaking competitions and helped at various FFA fundraisers.   

“FFA has, without a doubt, shaped me into the person I am today,” said Robinson. 

“Before FFA, I hardly had the confidence to talk in front of a few people, and now I have confidently given multiple speeches in front of well over hundreds of people. FFA has taught me public speaking skills, responsibility, time management, planning and so many other necessary life skills.” 

Robinson’s SAE project was classified as entrepreneurship and consisted of raising and showing hogs, lambs and goats, with her main focus being the swine industry. Projects like these require extensive record keeping skills and thorough responsibility for the well-being and health of the livestock as well as the finances associated with investing in the success of each enterprise. 

Robinson’s ties to the agriculture industry also stem from her youth and involvement in 4-H, as she showed livestock for six years before joining FFA in high school. 

“Along with that,” Robinson said, “I’m born and raised in Hollister and if you know anything about this community, you know that it has such deep ties in agriculture, which has given me multiple opportunities to be involved in agriculture.”  

For those who achieve it, the American FFA Degree can possess a deep emotional significance. For Robinson, it’s a bittersweet moment. 

“It’s the end. It’s the last time I’ll have to put on official dress, the last thing I have to put in my record book, and the last time I’ll be at an event representing Hollister FFA,” she said. “At the same time, it also represents all of the hard work, time, commitment and money I’ve put into receiving this degree.” 

Robinson is currently attending Gavilan Community College with a health science major and working full time in the radiology department at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital.

Clay Hubbell 

For Clay Hubbell, involvement in Hollister’s FFA chapter was a continuation of his family’s work in agriculture. For three years, Hubbell served as a committee chair for Hollister FFA, competing in both Job Interview and Project Competition public speaking events. He was also a member of the Welding Career Development Event team before COVID-19 prematurely ended the season. Career Development Events are competitions centered around certain agricultural industries or industry skills such as welding, livestock judging, and veterinary science. 

“I learned a lot of leadership skills and communication skills,” said Hubbell. “I’ve learned to work with others a lot better. It opened my mind more to what agricultural education, FFA and 4-H had to offer. There was way more than I could have ever imagined. 

Hubbell’s SAE project consisted of raising cattle for Hubbell Cattle Company, undertaking the management of nutrition, breeding practices, showing and selling of his stock. He was able to take multiple calves that he raised to various county fairs such as King City, Monterey and San Benito, as well as numerous jackpot shows. In addition to his beef production SAE, Hubbell also raised a few market lambs to exhibit at local fairs. 

With multi-generational family roots in local agriculture both in the beef and crop industries, Hubbell was guided first into 4-H, then into FFA by years of family involvement and dedication. 

“We were all big supporters of FFA and we will always be supporters of FFA,” said Hubbell. 

Hubbell credits his parents with being major motivators throughout his FFA experience, frequently helping him during early mornings and late nights that are required for the success of a livestock project. 

He is currently attending Merced College to study welding and working part-time for a custom harvesting company. 

 

 

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Jenna Fields

Jenna is a graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in Agriculture Communications. During her time at Cal Poly, she became heavily involved in the Young Cattlemen's Association, Beef Unit, and Bull Test, both managing and handling marketing for the Bull Test for two years. Coming from six generations of cattle ranching, her interest and passion lies heavily within the agriculture industry and rural communities. In addition to writing, Jenna is a portrait and livestock photographer, avid reader, and runs commercial cattle with her family.