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Agriculture education and involvement in FFA doesn’t limit itself to four years of high school. Members often take lessons and experiences into their adult lives and careers.
The National FFA Organization has some famous names among its alumni. Matthew Fox of television’s “Lost,” Garfield creator Jim Davis, rocker Don Henley, athlete Bo Jackson, former President Jimmy Carter and country music stars Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift are among the noted names of former FFA members.
Kristin Hall, FFA advisor at North Hardin High School, said agriculture is much more than farming. Students learn career and life skills that they'll carry with them not matter where life leads, she said.
“As teachers, we don’t just focus on teaching them agriculture but preparing the whole student for whatever they want to do after high school,” she said. “It gives them a well-rounded experience."
John Martin, FFA advisor at NHHS, said he’s not even sure students are conscious of what they are learning until they apply those skills in a career and life.
“Sometimes I don’t even thing they realize what they are getting from FFA until after they graduate,” Martin said.
NHHS sophomore George Herbig said FFA is preparing him for his future. He’s had a few job interviews and felt more prepared thanks to FFA.
“It’s been well worth it because it’s taught me more than I thought it would teach me,” he said.
Gwen Lucas was involved in FFA when she was a student at North Hardin. After teaching agriculture education, she is now a principal in Grayson County.
“I credit all of my success in this job to my training in the FFA and agricultural education,” she said. “I believe that there is no other organization that prepares young people with the leadership skills and public speaking like FFA.”
In FFA, she participated in speaking contests, served on the parliamentary procedure team, was an officer and participated on many teams. Through these opportunities students are able to develop many skills and personal characteristics including their confidence, she said.
“Prior to my involvement, I was a very quiet, shy student who really wasn’t willing to go out and talk to people and definitely very uncomfortable speaking to a crowd,” she said.
Through FFA competitions and conventions, she gained the confidence to speak in front of a crowd, talk to people she’d never met and work with others on a team or project.
“All of those are skills that I use each day in my job as a principal,” she said adding today’s students have even more opportunities.
She’s also seen many students become outstanding leaders themselves.
“That is such an awesome reward for a teacher,” she said.
For Central Hardin High School junior Kyle Mobley, FFA is a family tradition and he knows it is something he’ll take with him when he graduates. His father and grandfather were both active in FFA.
“I don’t know where I’d be without it,” he said. “It helps tremendously.”
CHHS junior Moriah Peters said she is pushed to become a better leader and involvement gives her confidence.
“It really makes you stronger and a well rounded person in the community and with whatever you do in life,” Peters said.
Peters didn’t grow up with an agriculture background but through FFA decided she wanted to be an agricultural biotechnologist. It's something she wouldn’t have known about without FFA.
“It’s shaped my life in that way,” she said.
Rebecca Mackey, a sophomore at CHHS, said networking through FFA will benefit her long after high school. She calls the network “one unified corduroy jacket.”
CHHS FFA advisor Derek Smith said when he hears back from graduates they tell him their experience in FFA taught them how to start, manage and operate their own businesses.
“It’s an organization that’s helped shape their lives and I hope it will stay with them when they get out of high school,” he said
Sen. Dennis Parrett has been able to use his FFA experience at West Hardin High School in the 1970s in life, business and politics.
He didn't live on a farm in until 1974 and FFA instilled "a passion for agriculture and rural life," Parrett said.
"Today, being in the agriculture supply business and farming probably would not have taken place without my experience in FFA," he said.
His three daughters also were active in FFA during their high school careers. Devan was a state president, Dayna was a Lincoln Trail Regional officer and Kristen is currently a committee chair.
He's proud of FFA's image throughout the community.
"It is a wonderful sight and is great to hear comments from business leaders, educators and others that are very complimentary of the conduct of 'those young people in the blue jackets,'" Parrett said.
John Hardin High School junior Vasiliki Wilk aspires to be a veterinarian and when she joined FFA she thought it would only be about farming. She was hooked when she saw herself becoming a better leader. She’s also broadened her community service opportunities through FFA.
“It makes a difference in someone else’s life as well as your own,” she said.
JHHS sophomore Ebonie Hampton said FFA helped her to step further into her academic career and apply to colleges.
“FFA has given me the push I needed to be the leader I needed to be,” she said.
FFA transcends beyond the classroom and is a diverse organization, said Jeremy Hall, advisor at JHHS.
“I’m 35 years old and FFA does something for me every day,” he said.
Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or firstname.lastname@example.org.