COLUMNISTS

Wisconsin FFA adapts for the future

Ben Styer
Denmark FFA is one of many chapters to partner with Culver's restaurants to support FFA chapters. Culver's nights, FFA assemblies,  Ag Olympics, dress-up days, donkey basketball, and social media challenges are a few ways FFA chapters will be celebrating National FFA Week all across the state.

In a year where so many traditional experiences have been halted or altered, FFA members continue to seek and seize opportunities to serve others and develop life skills as they celebrate National FFA Week, February 19-26, 2022.

FFA is an agricultural-based leadership organization that focuses on developing students’ potential through premier leadership, personal growth, and career success. Made up of 253 chapters with 19,908 FFA members, the Wisconsin Association of FFA has continued to offer opportunities to develop these qualities, now as much as ever before.

Throughout all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, FFA members can enroll in the intra-curricular organization through agricultural education. In fact, the National FFA Organization is home to 735,038 members. Many students in agricultural education classes realize the endless opportunities available within the organization and become involved outside of the classroom as well. FFA members continue to strive for excellence as they each hold a very important part of the world’s largest student led organization – the National FFA Organization. National FFA Week is a unique time of year dedicated to celebrating every member within the organization.

While FFA membership grows, active involvement continues to be a top priority. From participating in Leadership Development Events that enhance public speaking skills to attending leadership conferences, FFA members are continuously growing, learning, and adapting.

As we continue to transition to more in-person events, FFA members never cease to amaze with their excitement for the blue and gold. One of the most rewarding parts of serving as a State FFA Officer is seeing students throughout the year at multiple events and building connections with them.

Between Fall Leadership Workshops, Mission and Impact Conferences, Half-Time Conference, chapter visits, Leadership Development Events, and other events, there have been many opportunities to build connections, and students are thrilled to be in-person. Not only does this enthusiasm create a difference in school environments, but it also is making a difference in communities across the state and nation.

Part of our FFA motto is “Living to Serve,” so it’s no secret FFA chapters plan and implement countless community service projects to address needs in their communities. Between meat and dairy product giveaways, food drives, yard sign fundraisers, and highway clean ups, the list of service projects goes on and on.

Throughout 2020 and 2021, there were plenty of needs, and we can take pride knowing that FFA members adapted to serve others. As part of an “Unstoppable Service” campaign leading up to our 2021 Wisconsin FFA Convention, FFA members logged a combined total of over 3,500 hours of community service. Students wearing blue and gold are some of the most selfless, driven, and genuine young people I know, and that is certainly illustrated by their ability to find and address needs.

Hundreds of students have been able to attend a number of conferences and workshops throughout the year so far. Hundreds of blue jackets together is an incredible sight!

Student involvement in FFA goes beyond extracurricular involvement and exposes students to career readiness skills through their individual Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) programs. Supervised Agricultural Experiences are unique student-led, work-based experiences that allow students to discover agricultural career pathways through employment, research, entrepreneurship, service learning, and school-based enterprises. Through this unique component of agricultural education, students not only expand their knowledge, but they also develop soft skills in high demand by employers.

Some SAEs could include working at a butcher shop, breeding and raising a flock of sheep, or conducting an agriscience experiment about mastitis. The possibilities are endless! Students invest hundreds of hours in their SAEs. At the national level this year, an impressive 51 Wisconsin FFA members earned $1,000 grants each to be put towards their SAE projects. Between workplace learning experiences and community service opportunities, FFA begins to prepare students for any career, including 235 unique careers within the agricultural community.

The future is bright because of hardworking FFA members serving their communities and developing their leadership skills. The FFA members I have met over the past year certainly make the most of opportunities, and there isn’t a doubt in my mind that FFA members are the next generation of leaders who will change the world. All throughout the nation and here in our hometown, FFA is changing the world. Visit www.WisconsinFFA.org to learn more about the next generation of leaders, creators, and seekers.

Ben Styer

Styer is the president of the Wisconsin FFA Officer team