The Youth Educational Challenges competition at the Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition gives students opportunities to put their skills to the test. The challenges allow students 6th- 12th grade to engage in six competitive categories where they can compete in junior and senior level competitions. These competitions include floral design, identification contests for agricultural mechanics, horticulture, forestry, wildlife, and animal science.

Typical Career Development Events (CDE) only allow four individuals to compete. However, these challenges allow agriculture teachers to engage as many students as they want. It opens the door for multiple students to compete in a mock CDE situation and hopefully find an FFA competition they enjoy. The educational challenges also allow students competing in upcoming CDEs to practice and show their teacher how they have progressed over the course of their learning.

Students who compete in the challenges are in the running for prize money if they finish in the top three of their categories. Country Financial sponsors these cash prizes. Students also receive a lunch ticket if they compete. It’s a great day for students who compete in the challenges. They get to take a trip to the Expo, a free lunch ticket, and a cash prize if they win.

Students from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and the University of Georgia Tifton Campus volunteer to help with the Youth Educational Challenges. This volunteer work can prepare future agricultural education students for the classroom and give them a taste of what being an ag teacher truly looks like. During time between the challenges, professors and students from both colleges are able to talk with high school students who are interested in agricultural education about their school’s educational programs.

“I like seeing our ag students experience putting on these competitions and watching them step into the role of the ag teacher,”, says Dr. Sallie McHugh, professor of agricultural education at ABAC. “High school students from all over the state of Georgia and beyond are able to have a memory forever about their experience at the Expo, and current agricultural education students are able to get the experience of being an ag teacher.”