PROUD FAMILY: (l to r) Howard and Janice Blankenship, Eli Blankenship – American FFA Degree recipient, and Sheila and Danny Blankenship.

by Karen Sherrell
The American FFA Degree is awarded to less than one percent of FFA members, and is one of the organization’s highest honors.
In 2016, the degree was awarded to Izard County Consolidated graduate, Eli Blankenship of Bandmill.
The 2016 American FFA Degree Ceremony was held in Indianapolis, IN on October 22, during the Eighth General Session of the 89th National FFA Convention Expo. Blankenship joined 34 other degree recipients from Arkansas, and 3,790 from throughout the United States, chosen from a national roll of 629,367 FFA members.
The degree is earned by members who have demonstrated the highest level of commitment to FFA and have made significant accomplishments in their agricultural experiences. All of which describe Eli, through years of hard work and commitment.
This degree has also earned him the title of being the first FFA member at Izard County Consolidated Schools to receive the American FFA Degree since Wayne Neal has been the Agri Teacher and FFA Advisor for the past 14 years. “I have had three other FFA members receive national recognition by earning a National FFA Scholarship,” said Neal, adding, “Eli has not only earned this National Degree, but also the pride, respect and honor of his peers, friends and family, as well as the leaders and mentors before him that inspired him to earn this degree.”
And proud his family is. Accompanying Eli to the ceremony in October were his parents, Danny and Sheila Blankenship, and grandparents, Howard and Janice Blankenship.
Highschool graduates may apply for the American FFA Degree one year after their graduation. Eli graduated in 2014, and is currently in his second year at Arkansas Tech in Russellville.
During his first year in highschool, Eli earned his FFA Greenhand Degree, followed by the Chapter degree the next year, and then his State degree. “Eli raised cattle, chickens, and goats and rabbits,” said his mother Sheila. “He also had a community project he had to do.” Eli’s primary agricultural project was cattle, he was on the ICC Show Team, and he served as an FFA Chapter officer.
FFA members utilize the Agricultural Experience Tracker, AET, which is an online record keeping system for agriculture students to record their time worked or money earned with their projects or Supervised Agricultural Experiences, SAE’s. “They also keep records of their FFA activities, officer work, and time in community service, along with other accomplishments and awards,” said Neal. “Utilizing this system is vital for FFA members to earn the degrees, scholarships and awards that they deserve.”
FFA members must apply for the American FFA Degree one year after they graduate, and Eli’s older brother Isaac, a recent graduate of Arkansas Tech in Russellville, encouraged him to apply. “He had all the steps to do it,” said Sheila, “And he worked hard to earn state recognition.”
To earn the American FFA Degree, members must have received the State FFA Degree, and have been an active member for the past three years, with a record of satisfactory participation in activities on the Chapter and State levels. They must have completed the equivalent of at least three years of systematic secondary school instruction in an agricultural education program, and have one full year of enrollment in a postsecondary agricultural program. They must have maintained an operation and records to substantiate an outstanding supervised agricultural experience program, through which they have exhibited comprehensive planning, managerial and financial expertise. They must have earned at least $10,000 and productively invested $7,500, or earned and invested $2,000 and worked 2,250 hours in excess of scheduled class time. In addition to having a record of outstanding leadership abilities and community involvement, they must have achieved a scholastic record of a C or better, and participated in at least 50 hours of community service within at least three different activities.
No easy feat, and that’s why only one percent of the National FFA membership receive the American FFA Degree. Recipients are also awarded the gold American FFA Degree Key, a symbol of the highest achievement of the National FFA organization, and earned by one hard-working young man, Eli Blankenship.

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by Bobby Stapleton
ICC’s multi-talented player, Kennedy Cooper, signed to further her college education and basketball career last week, heading just down the road to Searcy, home of Harding University.
Cooper, a nightmare of opposing coaches, will take her career to the next level. With more than 20 offers of places to land, from smaller colleges all the way up to the D1 level, Cooper chose Harding after considering many other places.
She averaged 24 points and 12 rebounds per game last year, including a school setting record of 50 points in one game.
Harding, which was the first school to offer up a scholarship, will enjoy Cooper’s intensity with their up tempo style of play.
Cooper’s Coach at ICC, Tim Massey says, “She has been very enjoyable to coach and I will miss her very much. She is very team oriented and cares about her teammates.” Congratulations Kennedy.

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Look for our “Back To School” edition this week in Pacesetting Times! Area schools featured include Izard County Consolidated, Melbourne, Calico Rock and Salem Public Schools. See pages 4 through 9.

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Melbourne School District
Melbourne Elementary Open House will be Thursday, August 11 from 4 to 6 p.m. Melbourne High School Open House will be Thursday, August 11 beginning at 6:30 p.m. Seventh grade and new student orientation will begin at 6:30 p.m. with the ninth grade orientation starting at 7 p.m. Everyone is welcome.
Salem School District
Salem School District will be hosting an Open House for students and parents on Thursday, August 11. The Open House will be on both the Elementary and High School campuses from 6 to 7 p.m.
Izard County Consolidated School District
Izard County Consolidated School District will host their Open House for students and parents on Thursday, August 11 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

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DISTRICT CHAMPS: The Izard County Junior Cougars won the District Championship against Calico Rock on Saturday night, 35-28. They were also Izard County Invitational Tournament Champs, 1A 2 North Conference Champs and Hillcrest Screamin’ Eagles Invitational Tournament Runner-ups this season. For additional District Tournament action, see page 7 of this week’s Pacesetting Times! Photo/Donell Russell

by Willetta Everett
USDA funds were used to purchase livestock under a direct operating loan for a rural youth. This enabled Seth Adam McCurley, a member of the Izard County Consolidated School FFA, to purchase livestock for his FFA project.
Seth, as a member of the ICC Show Team, has been outstanding in showing his livestock since he first obtained a FSA youth loan in 2010. He has registered Brangus and Ultra-Black cattle along with a few Boer goats. He has won awards at every competition he has entered from the local county, district and state. He is a very dedicated young man and takes pride in his livestock. In a recent interview Seth said he has gained many good friends while showing his livestock as well as learned the value of responsibility and helping others.
He also said that caring for livestock is hard work, but rewarding. One thing he said he learned quickly was that a long-sleeved shirt coupled with a show-ring and livestock gets really hot!
In 2012, Seth went to Louisiana and participated in the Jr. National Brangus Show. His Brangus bull won second place in the yearling bull class.
This was a good opportunity for Seth to meet kids from across the U.S. who were also active in showing livestock. His Brangus bull then went on to win Supreme Bull in the 2012 Izard County Fair. 
Also in 2012, his Ultra Black heifer won Grand Champion AOB-American Heifer at the Arkansas State Fair, and was inducted into the Arkansas Purple Circle Club. He has won the following belt buckles: 2008 Izard County Fair-Supreme Market Goat, 2009 Izard County Fair-Supreme Market Goat, 2010 NAYLS(North Arkansas Youth Livestock Shows)-Cattle Herdsman, 2011 NAYLS-Goat Herdsman, 2012 Izard County Fair-Supreme Bull, 2013 North Central Arkansas District Fair-Jr. Goat Showmanship, and 2014 Izard County Fair-Goat Herdsman.
Congratulations Seth on your accomplishments!

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THAT’S AND OUT: Salem Lady Greyhound Brooke York takes care of a fly ball against the Calico Rock Lady Pirates last week. See additional pictures in the March 25th issue of Pacesetting Times! Photo/B.Stapleton

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GOING FOR THE BUNT: Lady Cougar Kristen Caraway prepares to bunt during last Monday’s action against the Lady Bobcats of Flippin. See story and additional photos in this week’s paper! vPhoto/K.Sherrell

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STAYING WITH IT: Calico Rock’s Kelsey Fry keeps her concentration as she takes care of a line drive off the bat of a Lady Greyhound. Photo/B.Stapleton

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GIFTED AND TALENTED HISTORY DAY: Izard County Consolidated Middle School fifth and sixth grade Gifted and Talented held their own History Day. The winners were: first place, Katelynn Johnson (Civil War); second place, Caleb Faulkner (Woodrow Wilson); third place, Landon McBride (Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire); fourth place, Coby Everett (Sam Walton).

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AERIAL COMBAT: Calico Rock’s Logan Sherrill goes in for the lay up after the steal as Cougar Michael Gleghorn fights to defend the shot. See full story and additional pictures in the February 4th edition of Pacesetting Times. Photo/B.Stapleton

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While the weather is turning cold and nasty outside, the basketball season it starting up. Last Friday night, October 10, ICC held its annual Black and Grey games to showcase this year’s talent to the fans. ICC will be hosting the Bad Boy Mowers Classic next week and will be in action on Monday night, October 20, when the Sr. Girls take on Marmaduke at 6:10 p.m. and the Sr. Boys will follow with a 7:30 p.m. game, also against Marmaduke. Photo/Travis Stapleton

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Additional sex related charges have been filed against Robert J. Norton of Sage, who was previously charged in June of this year and is being held at the Fulton County Jail in Salem, on a $240,000 bond. According to Izard County Sheriff Tate Lawrence, the latest charges against Norton, filed October 1, 2014, involve conduct with three female students in his fourth grade class, which he taught last school year at Izard County Consolidated Elementary in Violet Hill. Norton’s bond has been increased by $100,000 for a total bond of $340,000. See Pacesetting Times for full story and recap of previous charges.