COLUMBUS — The Ohio FFA convention is well-known for its concert-like atmosphere and this year’s event had as much noise and rock n’ roll as any.
Members crossed hands to form human tunnels, while an excited group of state officers ran beneath them and onto the stage. The stage curtains were lit bright blue and gold — FFA colors — while strobe lights shined into the faces of the crowd.
More than 5,000 members and guests attended both days, May 2-3, filling most of the seating inside the Celeste Center at the Ohio State Fairgrounds.
On opening day, motivational speaker Rhett Laubach challenged students to be strong leaders and good representatives of the FFA.
“The FFA is built on the principal there are certain things in life you absolutely have to have your eyes open to,” he said.
Four of those principals are what Laubach called the Impact Rules. They include making a positive influence on others, responding to challenges with the right spirit, following the rules and building trust with others, and learning to sacrifice today for a better tomorrow.
He told members to hold true to their beliefs, forgive those who have wronged them and to “have a conviction” for FFA and all that it stands for.
He served as the Oklahoma FFA State Vice President from 1991-1992, and was his state’s president the following year.
Several FFA members shared their own talent on stage. Melanie Sorter of the Southeast FFA sang Wagon Wheel by Old Crow Medicine Show, and another FFA member sang Blue by LeAnn Rimes.
Midday, companies who help sponsor Ohio FFA, including Farm and Dairy, met with some of the award winners for a special luncheon.
About 750 people attended the event and asked career-based questions as they interacted with representatives from each sponsoring company.
Ohio Agriculture Director David Daniels spoke over lunch, recalling his own time in FFA and what it meant to the future of Ohio’s agriculture.
“It still kind of brings a lump to my throat when the president bangs the gavel” for the opening session, he said.
After meeting with several of the award winners, he said he is confident Ohio’s No. 1 industry — agriculture — will continue to be No. 1 for “many, many years to come.”
ODA presented the FFA with a check for $38,000. The organization that sponsored the luncheon — Evolution Ag — donated $7,700.
During the final convention session of the day, Keynote Speaker Josh Shipp got students excited with his witty humor and rapid-fire stage smarts.
The 31-year-old told dozens of jokes, including several about his name “Shipp.” But he got serious when he talked about challenge young people sometimes face and how they can overcome them if they’re determined.
For Shipp, it meant overcoming the challenges of being an orphan who never met his parents and had multiple foster parents. He was a small boy for his age and insulted and called names by other children. When he was eight years old, he and some other boys were raped by a 21-year-old male.
Shipp became angry at the world, but he didn’t let it last.
He challenged students to not identify themselves by what others say about them; instead, by the values they know they possess.
“Do not make someone’s words a priority to you when all you are to them is an option,” Shipp said.
He said no one’s life is perfect, but that should not stop them from trying to improve and change.
“You do not have to be ‘perfect’ to make a difference,” he said. “You have to be ‘willing’ to make a difference.”
His speeches typically focus on helping adults to better understand teens, and helping teens to better understand themselves. He is featured on the Lifetime TV Series Teen Trouble, is the author of The Teen’s Guide to World Domination and was named to INC. Magazine’s 30 under 30 list and a CNN Young Person Who Rocks.
The FFA Convention continued Friday, May 3, with more proficiency award winners and presentation of State FFA Degrees. We will print more about the award winners as that information becomes available.