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COLUMBUS — It was a day of celebration, recognition and character building when members of the Ohio FFA gathered May 3 at the Expo Center in Columbus for the 84th state FFA convention.
The officer team was introduced amidst a flash mob dance and music and bass so loud it was difficult to speak and be heard — unless you shouted.
But after the dancing had settled, things got serious as FFA staff and guests took to the stage. Ohio FFA Adviser Ike Kershaw reminded everyone of the many successful FFA members over the years — President Jimmy Carter, Tim McGraw, the president of Kroger foods and many, many more.
“(They) can point to their years as an FFA member and indicate that that’s what helped them get to where they need to be,” he said. “I guarantee you that you’ve set the stage and you (as members) will be better prepared for when you leave school and whatever the future has to present to you.”
The theme for this year was “I believe” and Kershaw assured students that the Ohio FFA Association believes in them, as do their parents and their communities.
Kershaw gave an update on renovations at the FFA Center, a 25-year-old facility on the state fairgrounds that is being updated to better suit today’s needs.
Half of the building currently is dedicated to historical exhibits and can be difficult to walk through. But once it’s finished, he said it will have a “more casual feel” and some of the wooden exhibits removed.
They will be replaced with color photos and wall descriptions “that highlight the eight decades — the 84 years that (Ohio) FFA has been in business,” he said.
The added space will provide members and guests a place to “come hang out, meet learn, talk, chat — whatever you want to do.”
Another big change will be in curriculum. Kershaw said the current ag 1-4 sequence is being replaced with new courses and about 40 different options to better prepare students for today’s jobs.
He also gave an update on creating the first ag science high schools in the state — which are intended to serve multiple counties where ag programs are not currently present. Of the 600 school districts in Ohio, he figured only half have an agricultural program.
FFA members and businesses once again pulled through for the charities they support, donating nearly $35,000 to Children’s Hospitals Miracle Network, and nearly $8,700 to CROP/Church World Service.
Tim Robinson, interim president of Nationwide Children’s Hospitals, commended members for “understanding the importance of giving back to your communities. You are making the choice to put others first.”
Opening day speakers included motivational messages by Brooks Gibbs and Jon Petz.
Gibbs told members “love is greater than hate” and challenged them to love and care for their enemies.
“Treat everyone like a friend, especially your enemy, and you will completely turn them around,” he said.
He also challenged members to stay away from drugs, sexual immorality and to set the standard for their peers.
“You have the ability to completely establish the culture on your (school’s) campus,” he said. “You ag leaders can communicate that message.”
Nearly 5,000 people attended the evening session, where Petz, who also performs magic tricks, encouraged members to reach their individual potential.
Never say you’re “just–a” farmer or anything else, he said. “Everyone is more than ‘just–a.’”
He shared personal stories about how his own career in speaking and magic has touched the lives of people living and dying, and reminded FFA members that what they do matters — in ways they may never have imagined.
“Baby it’s showtime and life is absolutely not a dress rehearsal!” he said.
(Reporter Chris Kick can be reached at 330-403-9477, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)