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OPINION

The end of a journey of a lifetime

Amelia Hayden
2018-19 State Officer Team President Amelia Hayden addresses the crowd during the sixth session of the 90th annual Wisconsin FFA Convention in Madison.

Growing up, I always wanted to have a job that allowed me to travel. There are many jobs that fit that bill to give you the opportunity to put miles on your vehicle — you, know the ones that reimburse you by the mile you drive for them? Of all the jobs I pictured growing up, though, I never pictured “State FFA Officer” as one.

I have been fortunate to serve Wisconsin FFA as their 2017-18 State Vice President and 2018-19 State President. Over the past two years, I have put over 45,000 miles on my car. There have been many early mornings and late nights; roads that were once unfamiliar and on the other side of the state I now know like the back of my hand. Looking back, the journey was pretty incredible.

As part of her travels, Amelia worked with many FFA members - including these students from the Dodgeville FFA.

As a state FFA officer, one of my primary responsibilities was to work with members through a variety of conferences, chapter visits, and speaking events. Our state officer team also had the opportunity to tour a variety of agricultural companies, work with FFA Alumni and Supporters groups, provide keynote speeches at FFA chapter banquets, and plan our annual State FFA Convention. With over 250 FFA chapters across the state, traveling to a variety of events certainly racks up the mileage.                

While my travels as State Vice President centered in Wisconsin FFA’s Section 10, the region of southeastern Wisconsin I was elected to represent, as State President I traveled to every area multiple times throughout the year. Whether I was coming to present a workshop, attend a chapter event, or to work with members preparing for a contest, chapters and their communities always welcomed me like one of their own. In every gas station, small town restaurant, and school I walked into wearing the blue corduroy jacket, I was greeted with smiles and a common “How is the FFA doing?”

Wisconsin Future Farmers of America 2018-19 President Amelia Hayden works with FFA members at a workshop. Throughout the year, state officers facilitate workshops and conferences for thousands of FFA members. These provide opportunities for students to learn more about leadership development and prepare for career success.

So, how is the FFA doing? After visiting many chapters these past two years, I can confidently say the future of agriculture is bright. Members have the agricultural knowledge and the communication skills to be successful in their careers with the leadership abilities to tie it all together. They truly believe in growing themselves as leaders, building up their communities, and strengthening the agriculture industry, and will continue to do so for generations to come.

I have learned that state officers certainly do a lot of driving, that I will always be treated like a friend throughout Wisconsin, and that members will consistently surpass every expectation I might have. But most of all, I’ve learned to enjoy the journey. In a dream job where reaching my destination meant the end of my year of service, I never wanted to get to the end. I wanted to be always enjoying the journey from one chapter to another, from one side of the state to the other.

Amelia Hayden's role as State FFA President concluded on June 13. Collin Weltzien of Arcadia, WI will take over State President responsibilities for the coming year.

This past Thursday, though, I reached the destination for this year. I retired my FFA jacket as State President and passed on the responsibilities to a new State President, Collin Weltzien from Arcadia, WI. It has been a whirlwind two years; but I certainly have enjoyed it.

While I never listed “State FFA Officer” in my list of dream jobs growing up, it sure has turned out to be just that. There are no words that accurately describe how honored I am to have served Wisconsin FFA as an officer. As I reflect on this dream job that allowed me to travel and reflect on incredible experiences, I see that I have been blessed with the journey of a lifetime. Now at the end of two years, I see that rather than being paid by the mile, I was paid by the memory. Thank you to every FFA chapter and community that welcomed me in these past two years — you all have paid me in so many memories and for that, I am forever grateful.