All-woman team achieves Gold rankings and top-10 finish among 42 teams

Last spring the Portal FFA Nursery/Landscape Team walked away from Athens with a state title, and now they’ve proven their skills in Indianapolis, by placing seventh in the nation at the FFA Nursery-Landscape Career Development Event (CDE). They were among 42 competing state-champion teams in the CDE from across the United States and Puerto Rico.

“To place in the top ten nationally is phenomenal, and I am very proud of them,” said Dr. Tom Marshall, PMHS’s agricultural education teacher and FFA advisor.

Amonica Kirkland, Cayla Morris, Caree McGahee, and Heidi Sawyer make up the all-woman team who capped off their winning streak October 24-25 at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis.  The run to the national contest began in Swainsboro last February when they won the Area IV contest.  After placing as the state runner-up in 2017, they showcased their talents and teamwork by winning the Georgia FFA contest in March of this year; qualifying them to represent Georgia in national competition.  All students and teams in national FFA contests are ranked bronze, silver or gold.  Each member as well as the team overall received a gold ranking at the competition in October.

Morris and Kirkland are 2018 graduates of PMHS. McGahee is currently a senior and Sawyer is in her junior year at Portal.  Morris was Portal’s 2018 Salutatorian and is a freshman at UGA majoring in Animal Science and Pre-Veterinary medicine. Kirkland was Valedictorian of the 2018 senior class and a REACH scholar for the school district. She attends Wesleyan College and is a Pre-Dentistry and Spanish major.

“It has been a privilege to work with these girls for the last year and a half as they mastered the skills and knowledge necessary for success in this FFA career event,” said Dr. Marshall.  “They are among the hardest working and motivated students I have ever worked with as a teacher.”

The National Nursery-Landscape CDE was held during the National FFA Organization Conference and is sponsored by Stihl and Kubota. At the local, regional, state and national levels this CDE allows students to demonstrate their knowledge in plant materials, plant disorders, cultural practices, design and construction, supplies and equipment, safety, interpersonal relations, marketing and records and reports.


The National FFA Organization is part of PMHS’s agricultural education programs and is one of three career technical student organizations available to Portal students within the school’s career pathways.  Portal’s Career Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) program offers two agricultural-related career pathways for students to pursue within Georgia’s Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Career Cluster: Plant & Landscape Systems; and Agriculture Mechanics.

FFA is a national organization of over 600,000 members preparing for leadership and careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture.  FFA is an integral part of the agricultural education program in public schools.  The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.


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