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Comments at Foundation Banquet: SCC Learn To Dream & FFA Farm Project

[Speech from Norris Foundation & Alumni annual banquet held @ Yankee Hill Country Club in Lincoln the evening of Friday, November 19th, 2010]

Good evening, I have a special announcement to begin with tonight, that is that I want to point out one of our very special guests here - I noticed retired Middle School principal Barry Stark is here tonight.  Bar-Meister, where are you?  Yeah, there he is...hey, Barry, Mary Jo Rupert, current Middle School Principal could not be here tonight. That's because she's supervising the 7th and 8th grade dance - I am sure she would love some supervision assistance if you want to just rush right over there afterward, I know she'd appreciate it!

[Barry - interjected: "Johnny, I can't rush anywhere anymore!"]

Well, I am here tonight as your Superintendent and I have the opportunity to follow Lenny Vermaas, who pointed out that Teammates is a way to give back that costs nothing. Now you know, as soon as you see a Superintendent, I'm going to be asking for more than that!  Some of you are thinking the instant you see a superintendent, "Tax and spend, what's he gonna ask for now!?" So I'll tell you that what I'd like to ask for:  I'm going to ask for each of you individually to consider donating $1,200 to the Foundation to send a Norris kid to college for a year, because that's what it takes to send a student to the SCC Learn To Dream program and we have a great model before us tonight in the FFA Farm Project of a group that's doing that.  That's what I want to talk with you about.

The Norris FFA Boosters farm project is a partnership agreement between the FFA Boosters composed of FFA parents and Norris FFA Alum and the Norris School District. The students of the Norris district are the direct beneficiaries of this partnership.

Through this unique partnership agreement, the land to the west is farmed by the FFA boosters as a lease agreement that pays the whopping sum of $1 to the district. That’s really all we want- because for the district to receive more, that rent just comes in as an accountable receipt and our state aid is adjusted downward that much more. So the revenue cannot directly assist the district. Instead, what happens – and this is the first year we’ve done this and the harvest was successful, the FFA Boosters farm committee commits a portion of proceeds totaling $110 per acre back to the Norris Foundation. Folks, that is an amazing annual commitment of $11,100 to the Foundation to support the SCC Learn To Dream program.

The SCC Learn to Dream program functions through the Foundation. Through Learn To Dream, we will be able to send students to college who otherwise could not afford the tuition. For students graduating from Norris who are free/reduced lunch eligible, and that's the federal marker for poverty status... SCC waives half their tuition and the Foundation –through the contribution of the FFA Farm project – will pay for the other half.   That's amazing. These are students who otherwise would not be able to afford college or would have to take out a bunch of loans to do it.

Each student per year requires a Foundation commitment of about $1,200.  We need your commitment to make that commitment back to needy Norris grads even bigger. Think about sponsoring a Learn To Dream scholar and the impact you could have.

I see the FFA Farm project and its work with the Foundation as a model for other districts across the state and as a positive example for all of us here tonight and everyone in the Norris District of giving back to the school and community through servant leadership. The plan was created through the ingenuity of people like Roy Baker, my predecessor and one of tonight’s honorees, and the innovative thinking and planning of the FFA folks and of course lawyers and accountants.

I want to recognize the members of the FFA Boosters Farm Committee who are here tonight and thank them, if each of you could stand up as I introduce you and remain standing, the audience here tonight needs to give you a huge round of applause:

They are: Merlyn Docter and his wife Julie.  Clayton Doeschot and his wife Stephanie.  Dan Rice and his wife Brenda.  Ed Woeppel and his wife Lisa. 

Thank them for their hard work,bountiful harvest, and example of giving for all of us to emulate!  Way to go!

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