Tag Archives: FFA

Nearly 70,000 young people recently attended the National FFA convention in Indianapolis. I could write a book about all of the awesome things that happen at this event and how it changes lives.

One of the main purposes for the convention is to host the national competitive events for the organization. Students compete to be national champions in public speaking, agronomy, meat evaluation, entrepreneurship, the agriscience fair and several hundred other contest areas.

In recent years, these competitions have become a source of pride and excitement for me as I have watched two of my nieces vie for national championships. Last week my niece, Madi, and her teammates, Zach and Brooklyn, earned first place in the marketing plan competition, which challenges each team to write a marketing plan to increase sales for a real ag-related business. The students present and defend their plan to panels of industry and academic experts from across the country.

This competition, like all of the national competitive events, requires months (or years) of preparation, skill development, sacrifices of time, energy and so much more to be ready to compete. These students have more preparation and experience than many industry professionals do by the time they are done.

One of the judges made an interesting observation. She said in her experience people at this level are so driven that completion colors their interactions and makes them aggressive toward each other. However, she said in FFA members have a culture of cooperation even among competitors. They acted courteous and helpful even to their competitors. She wanted to know how that was possible.

The judge was right, as odd as it seems, it is common to see FFA members in the same competition share words of encouragement or lend a needed piece of equipment to another team who forgot something or had a breakdown.

The reason for this behavior is simple. FFA has a culture that emphasizes the importance of values like honesty, hard work and courtesy to others.

Helping another person in need is a simple and expected courtesy. Sure, it may give you an advantage if your competition is injured, but that is not an honest or fulfilling way to win. We teach our students to win because they earn it and to respect the effort and skills of their competitors. Another person competing at their best makes you work even harder to be your best.

In a world so full of experiences and activities, it can be easy to forget about the importance of values. Out of all the investments we can make, instilling these values is the activity that rises to the top. Young people, who understand what values are expected, develop solid character and often grow to become trusted community contributors and leaders.

How are young people in your community being raised? Do you have programs like FFA, 4-H, Boy and Girl Scouts that emphasize values? Are expectations being modeled in their schools and sports programs? Is someone teaching why values are important?

These investments in the next generation are crucial. If we teach young people important values and have high expectations of their character, I am confident that no matter their goal, they will rise to the top.

The Living to Serve Chapter Challenge — a nationwide initiative to complete 930,000 collective service hours before the 93rd National FFA Convention & Expo in 2020 — kicked off at the 2019 National FFA Convention & Expo with an Are You Ready? workshop.

To start, four teams of two people played “Dizzy Mummy.” With blue and yellow rolls of streamers, the FFA member pairs had to wrap one person with the streamer like a mummy; whoever finished the roll fastest earned a small prize. This activity encouraged initiative and volunteerism, a catalyzing force for any service project.

FFA members then engaged in interactive games that promoted the challenge’s three steps: See It, Solve It and Share It. For See It, they played “Heads Up,” in which a member held up a card in front of their forehead and, with hints from teammates, had to guess the community issue on the front. The goal was to build awareness for community needs.

Next, groups raced to assemble a puzzle together for Solve It. The puzzles represented the different elements of a service project — community partners, funding, event planning, staffing and distribution — and how it takes a team to bring everything together.

For Share It, FFA members could share what they learned about the Living to Serve Chapter Challenge on social media to earn a T-shirt. And to wrap up, members brainstormed service projects for their chapters by tracing their hands and coming up with one idea for each finger. They shared service activities their chapters had previously done and what they could do over the next year for the challenge.

Mikaela Miller of the Pine Grove FFA Chapter in Ripley, Miss., said she attended the workshop because her chapter is interested in reaching out to its local community. Through the hand-tracing brainstorming session, Miller found an idea for its service project.

“I came up with what our chapter personally needed, and we decided it was food security,” Miller said. “There are a lot of low-income families in our community.”

Chapters looking for help coming up with their own service projects can find resources online. Some ideas: host a blood drive or coat drive, collect food for local pantries or host a 5K race to benefit a local charity.

“We also have grants that we give out … if money is a barrier,” says Stefonie Sebastian, an FFA education specialist. “[The grants] can help [chapters] facilitate these projects in their communities.”

Any active chapter can report volunteer hours and service project impacts from November 2019 until September 2020 to contribute to the nationwide goal of 930,000 hours of service.