As some of you may know, the last full week in February is FFA week. Which is this week. In my chapter, and in many others across the nation, we coordinate different activities each day that will help to highlight the importance of agricultural education. This is the first year I have not participated in these activities, as I am in college. However, I can still celebrate the ways in which FFA has touched my life. So, as a tribute to this organization, I thought I would share with you my FFA journey.
My FFA story started long before I put on the corduroy jacket. My grandfather was a member of the Cassville FFA Chapter from about 1960 to 1962. He was a member of the meat judging team and his group went to nationals in the meats contest. He can quote all of the opening and closing ceremonies still today, as well as the FFA Creed.
Later, my parents were both members of the FFA, as well as most of my aunts and uncles, and many of my cousins. My older sister joined the Cassville FFA in 2001, my brother in 2005, and I joined in 2008.
When I became a Greenhand in 2008, I was a shy, quiet high school freshman. I was terrified to speak in front of a group of my peers, and I had absolutely no plans of ever making a habit of it. However, I was chosen to be the Creed speaker for my chapter, and I soon found myself standing alone at the front of a room before two judges, with my hands shaking so badly I probably couldn’t have held a thing. I only made alternate to districts in Creed Speaking, but I learned something incredibly important about myself: I have the power to become better. At the end of that year, I interviewed in front of 5 people (including my older brother!) for a chapter office and became the historian.
Sophomore year brought many more incredible experiences. I went to National Convention in Indianapolis for the first time, attended Washington Leadership Conference, and began exploring my leadership potential. I competed on the floriculture contest and found an odd love for all things plant-like. At the end of that year, I interviewed for office again. At that chapter banquet, I was installed as the 2010-2011 Cassville FFA President.
I loved my junior year. As president, I got to see every aspect of being part of the FFA. I remembered being the freshman terrified of my peers, so I could coordinate activities around that, and I had an active voice in the chapter’s activities. That year I sang with the State FFA Chorus for the last time (I had done this the previous two years) and again competed on the floriculture team. At the end of that year I became chapter vice president.
Senior year was pretty emotional right from the start. I had grown so much in my three years as an FFA member, but I still had some growing to do. I had to learn to say goodbye and be thankful for the memories I had made. I went to National Convention a final time, had a blast with friends, and expanded my SAE. I had the first place area proficiency award in goat production, and I received my state FFA degree. All of this built up to the final evening that I knew would change my life.
At the end of my senior year came the annual chapter banquet. This was when we handed out awards earned throughout the year and installed new officers. This one was different though: it was my last one. I have sat through so many chapter FFA banquets. I went to my sister’s, brother’s, and finally my own. I knew that this one would have the same ceremonies and the same customs, but I wanted to remember everything that happened. The opening ceremonies were performed, and I said the vice president part for the last time. After the meal was the slideshow, then we started handing out awards. All the time I can remember thinking “This is it. This is my last FFA banquet.” Finally, all the awards were handed out and the president handed the microphone over to me. It is tradition for senior FFA members to officially retire their FFA jacket and present it to someone who had influenced them in their FFA journey. I had written a ceremony, complete with a few jokes about my advisers and other members, and I delivered it pretty well. However, when I said “Fellow FFA seniors, please join me in retiring your jackets,” I started to cry. Hard. I was not at all prepared to leave this part of my life behind, nor was I ready to say goodbye to the only organization in which I had literally engulfed myself in. As I read those last words, I left the front of the banquet hall, walked up to my big sister, and handed her my jacket.
At this point, I was bawling my eyes out, and I wasn’t feeling like the capable leader I knew that I was. At the end of the banquet, after the new officers had been installed, closing ceremonies had been spoken, and we had saluted the American flag, I took pictures with my friends and gave my advisers the gifts I had gotten them. The entire time, all I could think about was that I was done; there is no more. It took me a few months to realize that all was not lost and that I had exerted an influence in my world that others had felt. My experience in the Cassville FFA chapter has influenced my in so many ways, including my future career as an Ag Ed instructor and FFA adviser. There truly is nothing to equal all that I discovered about myself in the FFA.
My experience in the FFA took me farther than I could have ever imagined. I walked the streets of our nation’s capitol, where I helped to make an impression on the world about the importance of agriculture. I have volunteered countless hours in community service, giving my time and effort to help improve the lives of others. I developed a valuable set of leadership and communication skills, and built a profitable SAE from the bottom up. I learned that I have infinite potential, and that I hold the key to unlocking that potential. I gained friends from all over the nation and I am a part of an international network. But most of all, I made a difference. Not a huge difference, like Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King, Jr., but a difference nonetheless. I inspired others to follow in my footsteps and discover the leader within, and I gave them a person to look up to. I grew myself, while helping others to step out of their comfort zones and announce their potential to the world. I am still the same freshman I was four years ago, but I am no longer afraid to share my potential with the world, and all the credit goes to FFA.
My mom likes to joke that she was in the FFA for eleven years. In that time, our calendar was always full and we were always staying after school or going early for an FFA event. These days, the calendar is strangely empty and I don’t have to be at school hours early or late. However, the aftershocks of my time in the FFA still affect me today. I constantly find myself referring to my FFA years, and my public speaking class is literally a breeze (don’t tell my professor that!). I will forever cherish the memories I made in the Cassville FFA chapter, and I will never forget how much I learned about myself. I wore the blue, and I made a difference. Thank you, FFA.