PENDLETON, S.C. – The Pendleton High School FFA Wildlife Habitat Education Program (WHEP) Team took first place honors in the national competition held August 1, 2023 in Milford, Iowa on the shores of Lake Okoboji. Team members include Evan Lewis, Cierra Stone, Bailee Kay and Thomas Marshall. The Pendleton 4-H Team made up of Kendal Turmon, Aemeliania Whorl, Grayson Decker and Thatcher McPhail placed third in the national finals.
Each team had taken top honors in the state WHEP competition sponsored by Clemson University prior to participating in the national event. Both teams are enrolled in the Agricultural Education Program at Pendleton High School and were coached by Blake Berry, Agri-Science and Technology teacher and FFA advisor.
“WHEP is a hands-on environmental education program for high school-age students across the nation,” Mr. Berry said. “The primary goal of the competition is to prepare students in wildlife management practices, habitat development, species preservation and educate them about careers in wildlife biology and conservation of natural resources.”
The competition requires students to get out in the field, identify plants and animals, assess a tract of forest or wetland for habitat improvement and create their own wildlife management plan.
For the students from Pendleton, the national competition in Iowa was especially challenging since the focus was on the tallgrass prairie ecoregion. That ecoregion consists of few trees, four main grass species, ground-nesting prairie chickens and roaming herds of cattle or bison.
Mr. Berry was unable to attend the national competition because of the birth of his daughter but Katie Gilson, co-teacher and FFA advisor at Pendleton and Riverside Middle School, made the trip along with Mary Ellen Mullikin, Pendleton FFA Alumni member, who served as a chaperone.
FFA Team members (left to right): Evan Lewis, 4th place in National Finals; Cierra Stone, 2nd place; Bailee Kay, 3rd place; Thomas Marshall, 1st place; Blake Berry, Agri-Science and Technology Teacher and FFA advisor at Pendleton High School.