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FFA Camp Rising Sun

By: Joann Pipkin
FCS Financial’s scholarship program continues to be one of the ways the cooperative gives back to its members and supports communities. Committed to supporting the agricultural youth of Missouri, in 2003 FCS Financial’s board of directors implemented the program to encourage and support higher education for children or grandchildren of FCS Financial customers.  

Now in its 18th year, FCS Financial’s scholarship program annually distributes up to 35 scholarships of $1,500 each. Funds were first distributed in 2004. To date, 567 applicants have been awarded $671,000 in scholarships.

Applications are available on the FCS Financial website at and are due in our office March 1, 2021.
Here’s an inside look at what some of the 2015 recipients are doing now. 

Molly Bertz — Mayview

Molly BertzA December 2019 graduate of Kansas State University (K-State), Molly graduated with dual degrees — a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Agricultural Communications and Journalism as well as a B.S. in Advertising.

While at K-State, Molly was involved in the College of Agriculture Ambassadors program, Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and Block & Bridle Club. She was an editor of the K-State Agriculturalist student publication for two semesters. While there, the magazine won two back-to-back national Ag Communicators of Tomorrow contests.

Molly Bertz at Capitol

Molly participated in a number of communications internships while at K-State, including Kansas Department of Agriculture, KMZU Radio, Central Valley Ag Cooperative, K-State College of Agriculture and Livestock Marketing Association (LMA). Additionally, she was part of an agriculture business, faculty-led study abroad trip to Ireland after the summer of her freshman year. Her college experience also afforded Molly opportunities to design freelance publications and promotional pieces for agriculture and livestock-related organizations.

"Having first-hand industry experience was critical to developing my skillset in agricultural communications,” Molly explains. “Participating in internships and other employment opportunities allowed me to build my portfolio and prepared me to enter the workforce post-graduation.”

Today, Molly is a graphic and digital coordinator for LMA. She lives in Kansas City and hopes to continue to be actively involved in the livestock and agriculture industries in the future. 

Stephanie Borgman Cook — Slater

Stephanie Borgman CookStephanie graduated in spring 2019 from Northwest Missouri State University (NWMSU) with a B.S. in elementary education. 

“Attending NWMSU allowed me to be in the classroom from almost the very beginning,” Stephanie explains. “Northwest’s lab school, Horace Mann, greatly enhanced my experience by allowing me to work with students throughout my whole college career."

Recognized on the honor roll each semester of her college career, Stephanie graduated with a 4.0 grade point average (GPA). Her collegiate involvement included Kind Individuals Developed to Students (KIDS), Book Cats, Random Acts of Kindness and the Lutheran Campus Center. 

For two summers during college, Stephanie worked at Wonderland Camp in Rocky Mount, Missouri. Devoted to individuals from ages 8 to 80 with disabilities, the camp provides attendees an accessible opportunity. 

Stephanie Borgman Cook

“This experience was priceless and taught me about empathy, equity and about people with different life situations,” she says. 

Stephanie completed her student teaching experience in the Kansas City School District. “Coming from a small town in Missouri, working with students in an urban district opened her eyes to the diversity of our state and how the needs of one community can be very different from the next,” she says.

Currently teaching fifth grade at Corning Elementary in Corning, Iowa, Stephanie lives in nearby Creston with her husband Ryan Cook. She plans to continue teaching in the future and is especially appreciative of FCS Financial’s support of her college education and experience.

Melinda Groves — Barnett

Melinda Groves in ItalyMelinda attended the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) College of Engineering and graduated Summa Cum Laude in December 2019 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, minors in aerospace and mathematics. 

While at MU, Melinda worked as a research assistant in the mechanical engineering department and was active in the Engineering Ambassadors Program working as a director. Melinda was selected as an Engineering Dean’s Scholar and was a member of the engineering honor societies Tau Beta Pi and Pi Tau Sigma.

In addition, Melinda was a queen candidate during Mizzou Engineers’ Week in 2019. She co-founded the Mizzou chapter of Women of Aeronautics and Astronautics (WOAA), serving as the organization’s president during her senior year. She also participated as a College of Engineering camp counselor.

Melinda was selected to receive the Outstanding Senior Student Award in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. She interned for two summers with the Black and Veatch Corporation in Kansas City. Additionally, she worked as an intern during the 2018 fall semester at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland in their Icing Research group.

While in college, Melinda competed at the 2015 National FFA Convention as a member of the Eldon FFA agricultural sales team and achieved her American FFA Degree in 2016. She also judged the parliamentary procedure event at the Mizzou Collegiate FFA Leadership Development Event Contest. 

“Having been raised on a beef cattle farm, I enjoyed being active in many events and community service activities as a member of the National FFA Organization,” Melinda says. “FFA made a huge positive impact on my personal growth, especially as I continue to learn to be a leader and representative of my agricultural background.”

During her undergraduate studies, Melinda attended two study abroad trips, traveling to Italy and South Africa. 

“Learning about the geography, people and cultures of these countries were highlights of my learning experience, showing me how important it is to work together to conserve Earth’s beautiful natural resources,” she says. 

Currently, Melinda works as a thermal capability engineer for the Boeing Corporation in St. Louis. She is pursuing a Leadership Principles Certificate from Missouri Institute of Technology. 

“I am very thankful to have received an FCS Financial Scholarship and truly appreciate their support in helping me attain my education,” she says. 

Hannah Hall — Maryville

With a B.S. degree in Health Science, Hannah Hall graduated Magna Cum Laude in May 2019 from MU. A recipient of the Service Pillar Award, Hannah was given the honor from the Sigma Alpha-Alpha Chi chapter of MU’s professional agricultural sorority for demonstrating excellence in service during the 2016-17 school year. 

Additionally, Hannah was a soloist and section leader for Hitt S. Harmony, a vocal jazz ensemble through the MU School of Music. 

Hannah Hall

“I auditioned and was selected to sing solos in the repertoire for the spring and fall semesters in 2016, 2017 and 2018 as well as spring 2019,” she explains. She also was chosen by the director to be the soprano section leader during a portion of that time to ensure that all sopranos knew and were comfortable with the music selections. 

Hannah was a four-year participant in Mizzou Alternative Breaks, which was a week-long service trip to help those struggling with homelessness or poverty in the Washington, D.C., area. 

“I found this experience very impactful, so I decided to get more involved by becoming a site leader,” Hannah explains. “I led three week-long service trips, a health-focused trip to Denver over spring break in 2017, a homelessness and poverty trip to Dallas over spring break in 2018 and a disabilities-focused trip to Memphis over winter break in January 2019.”

Through volunteering at Adult Day Connection a few hours for six semesters while at MU, Hannah assisted adults that were older or had disabilities. She led participants in a seated exercise program and helped with other engaging activities. 

In 2017, Hannah was selected to be a summer welcome leader at MU. Through the position she served as a representative of the university by welcoming new students and their families to prepare them for the transition to college. In addition, she was involved in a number of activities through the Mizzou Catholic Student Association where she led bible study, co-chaired events and directed music. 

For her internship, Hannah worked in the summers of 2018 and 2019 at Quality Living Inc. (QLI), a rehabilitation center in Omaha, Nebraska, that serves individuals who have experienced traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke and other neurological conditions. There, she served as a physical therapy/occupational therapy intern, assisting with session set-up and therapy. She also helped residents work on functional strength exercises and adaptive sports activities. 

Hannah says her extracurricular involvement assisted her with time management, communication and leadership skills. “I grew a great appreciation for diversity and teamwork,” she explains. “I began building the foundations of my professionalism through my experiences.”

Today, Hannah is a student in the Doctor of Occupational Therapy Program at Creighton University (CU) in Omaha, Nebraska, where she serves as the president of her class and the vice president of the campus chapter of Pi Theta Epsilon, an occupational therapy honor society. She also is a member of the CU Student Occupational Therapy Association and the Neurological Rehabilitation Organization where she works as an on-call staff member at QLI. 

Hannah expects to graduate from CU in May 2022 and enter the workforce. “I am very excited to help patients accomplish what they need and want to do on a daily basis as an occupational therapist in the future,” she says. 

Austin Stanton — Centralia

A May 2019 graduate of MU, Austin received a B.S. in Agricultural Systems Management, minor in Agriculture Economics. He also received a Precision Agriculture Technology Certificate. 

Austin was a 2016 Missouri Farm Bureau Ambassador and was selected as the 2018 National FFA American Star Farmer. At MU, he was a member of the Agriculture Systems Management (ASM) Club and Collegiate Farm Bureau, serving as treasurer, vice president and co-president. 

In 2018, Austin took part in a study abroad experience to Germany to study the country’s farming practices and culture. 

“I learned what struggles that German and European farmers face will be in America in roughly 20 years,” Austin says. “I also learned that in Germany there is no such thing as private property. People can walk their dogs in your field, destroying crops. As the property owner, you can’t do anything to stop them. I also learned that the structures and roads are designed to last for many generations in Germany.”

Austin currently farms full-time with his brother and parents. He and his brother, who were the featured in this magazine in 2015, own and operate a layer operation selling eggs local in mid-Missouri. They also produce pork to sell at the Columbia Farmers Market, raise row crops, hay, cattle and sheep. His future plans include purchasing a farm of his own to raise a family on and help grow the family operation. 

Olivia Loges — Sweet Springs

Olivia Loges

A May 2019 graduate of Missouri State University (MSU) in Springfield with a B.S. in Agricultural Communications and minor in Agricultural Business, Olivia was active in Sigma Alpha. Through the professional agricultural sorority, she served as vice president and on a number of committees. Additionally, she was president of Block & Bridle Club and took part in Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow and Delta Tau Alpha honor society.

As an undergraduate, Olivia completed two media internships — one with the American Royal in Kansas City and the other at the National Western Stock Show in Denver. Her graduate studies have thus far included internships at Missouri Farm Bureau in legislative affairs and at Concordia Farmers Mutual Insurance Company as a farm inspector. 

Olivia Loges“Being able to work and learn in many different environments gave me the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone,” Olivia says. “When I started college, I had an idea of what kind of career I wanted, but the more I learned and grew, the more I was open to other opportunities. Even though I am not as interested in what I thought I wanted to do, I have learned that it is okay to change paths or do something different than the original plan I had as a college freshman.” 

Currently in her second year of graduate school at MSU, Olivia is a graduate assistant in the DARR College of Agriculture studying general agriculture with an emphasis in agricultural business. After completing her degree in May 2021, she hopes to start a career closer to her hometown. 

Brandelyn Martin Twellman — Silex

Brandelyn Martin TwellmanAfter completing her undergraduate and graduate studies at MU in 2018 and 2019, respectively, Brandelyn operates her own communications business and farms in Silex with husband Jeffrey Twellman. The couple raise row crops and beef cattle, and Brandelyn also owns a décor rental business called Rustic Rental Co. In her role as a communications contractor, she specializes in writing and social media management in the agricultural industry. 

Brandelyn earned a B.S. in Science and Agricultural Journalism and an M.S. in Agricultural Leadership, Communications and Education. At MU, she was a member of Sigma Alpha Professional Agricultural Sorority, Ag Communicators and Leaders of Tomorrow and CAFNR (College of Agriculture Food and Natural Resources) Ambassadors.  She completed internships with Missouri Pork Association, ARC Media and Missouri Soybean Association in addition to working as Missouri FFA Camp Leadership Director. 

Brandelyn Martin Twellman

“While I learned a lot of the hard communications skills I needed for my career in classes, my internships helped me expand upon them in the real world,” Brandelyn says. “I learned how to think quickly on my feet and push good content out the door.”

Looking to the future, Brandelyn plans to continue her communications business while also helping to grow the family farm.

Christopher Paullus — Neosho

Christopher attended MSU and majored in Science Education. He graduated in 2019 after earning a B.S.-Ed. in Biology Education. 

In college, Christopher worked as an assistant football coach at Republic High School. He was a Bright Flight Scholar and eight-time Deans’ List Honoree. His educational experiences took him to Glendale and Central High Schools and Greenwood Lab Schools, all located in Springfield, Missouri.

Currently a high school chemistry teacher at Neosho High School, Christopher teaches courses ranging from entry-level through AP chemistry. He is also the Neosho Honors Academy sponsor and an assistant football coach.

In the future, Christopher hopes to earn a graduate degree in educational leadership and become a principal or central office official for the Neosho School District.

He is married to Bailey Paullus.

Jera Pipkin — Republic

Jera Pipkin

Jera graduated Summa Cum Laude in December 2018 from Oklahoma State University (OSU) after earning dual B.S. degrees in Agricultural Communications and Animal Science as well as a minor in Agribusiness.


While in college, Jera served as the 2016 Miss American Angus and was on the National Junior Angus Association Board of Directors from 2017 through 2019; she was the group’s membership director in 2018-19. In 2017, Jera was one of four finalists for the National FFA Beef Production Entrepreneurship Proficiency Award, and she received her American FFA Degree in 2018. 

At OSU, Jera was a member of the 2017 OSU Meat Judging Team which was named national champion in lamb judging and reserve national champion in reasons. Jera served as an editor of Cowboy Journal magazine in 2018, was an OSU President’s Distinguished Scholar and a McKnight Scholar.

Jera Pipkin in Ireland

Jera says the experience helped her gain insight on the broad horizons of the agricultural industry and embrace its intricacies. 

As a marketing intern for Merck Animal Health in the summer of 2017, Jera prepared internal and external communication pieces. She created technical sales sheets and verbiage for sales staff and customers and also assisted with the launch of the first extended-release implant for beef and dairy heifers.

In the summer of 2018, Jera was a marketing and communications intern for American Meat Science Association where she assisted in the planning and execution of the organization’s conference. She also developed a marketing and branding plan for an international event and designed promotional materials.

As the producer communications intern for Certified Angus Beef (CAB) in the fall of 2018, Jera shared the stories of Angus producers through written feature articles and blogs. She also produced social media content and generated technical news releases for CAB.

Jera Pipkin Meats Judging Team“My collegiate, internship and leadership experiences truly broadened my horizons in agriculture and gave me the opportunity to become a more well-rounded advocate for our industry,” Jera says. “Growing up on a registered Angus operation and continuing work in the Angus breed today, I have a vast understanding of the cattle industry. However, through my experiences I was able to learn about other aspects of our industry that are equally as vital. These opportunities aided in providing me a direct path for my future career and continually spark my passion for agriculture and communications.”

Currently the education coordinator for the American Angus Association, Jera is charged with leading a pilot project called Angus University. An educational resource for youth, young adults and Angus members, Angus University features webinars, events and seminars that provide cutting-edge information and technology to beef cattle producers across the country. She is also pursuing a master’s degree in Strategic Communication and Innovation at Texas Tech University.

Although she resides in St. Joseph, Missouri, Jera’s future plans include obtaining her graduate degree, beginning her own marketing and communications business and continuing to expand the Angus University platform to have a broader reach. She also plans to continue raising Angus cattle along with her family in southwest Missouri.

Sassie Matzen-Wilson — Brookfield

After attending NWMSU, Sassie graduated with a B.S. in Art Education in December 2018 and a M.S. in Health and Physical Education in May 2020. Today, she is an elementary art teacher in Bellevue, Nebraska, where she teaches some 700 students at three different schools.

In college, Sassie was on the cross country and track and field team where her main event was the 800-meter run. She was on the Academic Honor Roll for fall and spring semesters from 2015-2017. She was also received the MIAA Conference Academic Honor Roll Student Athlete Award in 2016 and 2017. 

“My favorite award was earning MIAA All-Conference Athlete by placing and medaling in the 800-meter run in a very competitive conference in 2018, indoor and outdoor,” Sassie explains. 

Sassie Matzen-WilsonFollowing her athletic eligibility, Sassie served as the graduate assistant for both the men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams. In addition to her athletic involvement, Sassie worked for the NWMSU admissions department where she led campus tours. 

“I was able to meet so many new people and co-workers that I typically would not have come in contact with during my time at Northwest,” she says. “Being an ambassador, I not only gave campus tours for two years, but I also stepped up into a graduate assistant role for two semesters where I was giving tours as well as admissions overviews where we discuss scholarships and have a more detailed conversation about college life at NWMSU.”

Sassie married her husband Clayton Wilson in July of this year, and they currently reside in Bellevue, Nebraska. Her future plans include returning to a small, rural community to teach and start a farm and family. 

Jordann Wheatley —Rich Hill

Jordann WheatleyA May 2019 graduate of MSU, Jordann earned a B.F.A. in Graphic Design, minor in Marketing, Advertising and Promotion.

During college, Jordann was involved with Sigma Kappa sorority and was a member of Students in Design. She also took part in AIGA, a professional organization for designers. Jordann is a recipient of the Multicultural Recognition Scholarship, and she designed the logo for Missouri State Public Affairs Conference two years in a row.

The summer before her junior year of college, Jordann studied abroad in Florence, Italy, for a month. There, she took classes in Drawing III and Film Photography. She also worked and interned during college at the MSU Plaster Student Union (PSU) as a graphic design manager. 

“During my study abroad experience, I was able to gain an in-depth understanding of cultural variations and learned from those different perspectives,” Jordann explains. “While working at the PSU Design Center, I was able to design for internal and external clients. This allowed me to develop a wide variety of experience. I designed flyers, posters, publications, logos, digital signage and promotional materials for clients.”

Currently the marketing coordinator and graphic designer for BRP Architects in Springfield, Missouri, Jordann is charged with developing and executing marketing plans and strategies for the firm. She plans to continue to grow as a young professional and learn something new every day.

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