Growing up in rural Wisconsin, I didn’t have a lot of stuff to do on a daily basis. I mean, the closest Wal-Mart was 30 minutes away. Looking back on my high school days, the most influential thing I did was join the National FFA Organization. Now I know you are thinking it is pretty cliche, but I can honestly say FFA laid the groundwork to my success today. It is FFA Week this week and I wanted to share my thoughts on this amazing organization and how it is giving students the foundation for doing great things in the world.
First I bring you the FFA mission:
FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success.
My senior year in high school I was the vice president of my chapter (Blair-Taylor, look us up, we are a pretty cool bunch). One of the main goals of our officer team that year was to get our chapter mentioned at the Wisconsin FFA Convention more than ever before. With this, I was tasked to get us on stage to win a National Chapter Award. If you don’t know what this is, you have to fill out a Program of Activities which is essentially a big application that takes a long time to fill out. I learned a lot from that experience, mainly that it isn’t always fun being a leader. Sometimes, you have to pull up your bootstraps and get some work done. I guess that is what FFA and leadership is all about. You can’t just sit back and expect to be regarded as a leader, you have to be willing to get your hands dirty with the rest of them and just get the job done. After all was said and done and my brain was tired of thinking, we ended up getting a silver. A much better accomplishment than I thought our chapter would receive. In the end it was well worth it, our chapter got mentioned at least six times that year, a remarkable increase from the year before, once.
I think all FFA chapters have a rival school in FFA, you know, the one that just happens to win everything. My sectional FFA rival is Cochrane-Fountain City. One of the best experiences I had while in FFA was the Washington Leadership Conference (WLC for short). My chapter had three representatives, myself, my cousin and a close friend. We went with the rest of the state of Wisconsin on two buses and didn’t know what to expect. This entire experience was full of life-changing leadership experiences, but I wouldn’t say that was the most remarkable thing my friends and I got out of the event. We actually made some friends from our “rival,” Cochrane-Fountain City. The three of us played cards together and talked about our FFA chapters. We learned a lot about each other and how both of our chapters could grow. I think our chapter learned that it is important to use the connections you have around you to grow and become successful. You can’t always be upset with your “rival,” especially if they have some great things to teach you. I think both groups brought back ideas that made our chapters better.
I think one of the biggest misconceptions about FFA is that it is just for farmers. Well guess what folks, it has evolved over the last few decades. FFA supports people in whatever field they choose and teaches students how to get a job in nearly any field. Agriculture supports 16 million jobs in this country, ranging from business to actual farmers. After all, agriculture is basically an applied form of science. FFA gave me the opportunity to build my professional career skills. My chapter forces its members to participate in interviews if you want to be an officer. I had to sit in front of a panel of four interviewers, in my official dress (OD). Man was I sweating. I learned a lot from that experience and you could say it helped me get my current position at UW-Madison. At the interview for my current position, I knew that I should come to the interview ready to go with my portfolio, resume and professional clothes. I was ready for everything they threw at me, just like how I wasn’t prepared at my FFA interview. I learned from my mistakes the first time and I knew the right things to do this time.
You could say I am biased towards the National FFA Organization and you are probably right. I know that the many experiences I had in FFA, and continue to have with Collegiate FFA, have laid the groundwork to help me succeed and become a leader in my field. I owe a lot to the National FFA Organization, something I will probably never be able to repay.
If you had a similar experience to me, please share it in the comments section below and on your social media platforms (#FFAproud) this week. It is time the public knew the great things the National FFA Organization is teaching its members.