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Simpson Receives Helping Hand Award for Commitment to Community

(LINCOLN) – The Nebraska FFA Foundation has awarded Mr. Phillip Simpson, Burwell FFA advisor, with the 2020 Gary Scharf Helping Hand Award.


Simpson, FFA advisor for the Burwell FFA chapter, was nominated for the award with support by colleagues and community members. Melissa Konicek, a colleague of Simpson shared, “Mr. Simpson has a heart of gold and would do anything to help his students. He puts in numerous hours outside the classroom helping his students and FFA members be the very best that they can be. He is very patient with students, especially when things are stressful or difficult. He also teaches them about what it means to be a good person, as well a good reflection of our school and community. He teaches them life lessons, which is so much more than what you learn in a classroom.” 


Current Nebraska FFA State Vice President and former student of Simpson, Weston Svoboda, reflected on his FFA advisor’s impact outside of the classroom. “Mr. Simpson’s community involvement as a youth baseball and basketball coach, Nebraska’s Big Rodeo board member, and church role model are just a few examples of the outstanding role model he is for students in and out of the Ag classroom.” He added, “To put it in the simplest terms possible, Phillip Simpson is a blessing. He plays a huge role in the development of our town and the people in it. Our students, ag program, and community as a whole would not be what they are without the impact of Mr. Simpson. His continual investment in projects, leadership, and individuals are unmatched. From coaching, to board leadership roles, to simply being a great role model, Mr. Simpson really is the full package.”


The Gary Scharf Helping Hand Award recognizes a Nebraska agriculture teacher or FFA advisor for what he or she has done in helping others, specifically in the school and community outside of agriculture education and FFA. As recipient of the award, Simpson receives a plaque and $500 cash award from the Nebraska FFA Foundation.


“The Foundation Board is honored to present this award to Mr. Simpson. He exemplifies many qualities that defined Gary Scharf’s life – commitment, self-sacrifice and genuine kindness,” says Stacey Agnew, Executive Director, Nebraska FFA Foundation.


The annual award is named for Gary Scharf, who was a victim of an Omaha mall shooting in December 2007. Scharf grew up on a family farm outside of Curtis, Nebraska and worked in the agricultural chemical industry. He made a significant contribution to Nebraska’s agricultural and FFA community through his years of service on the Nebraska FFA Foundation Board, including a year as Board President in 2002-2003.



About the Nebraska FFA Foundation

The Nebraska FFA Foundation invests in agricultural education and FFA for over 9,000 FFA members and their advisors in Nebraska by growing leaders, building communities and strengthening agriculture. For more information, visit