COLUMBUS — Spending over 300 days on the road, traveling to almost 30 states means that plenty of life-changing experiences are had and lessons are learned. This is how I spent November 2015 through October 2016 as I served as a National FFA Officer.
During my year, I spent quality time with students, teachers, parents, sponsors, alumni and all-around supporters of the National FFA Organization.
It would be an understatement to say I experienced countless moments that taught me valuable lessons.
As we turn a new page and begin a new year, I’d like to share a few of those lessons, along with a challenge that could make 2017 your best year yet.
I was fortunate enough to spend a week in the Last Frontier state, Alaska, for its state FFA convention. There were a little over 100 people present for the convention and so it was easy to get to know folks on a first-name basis.
One thing that made this convention unique was a “happy-gram” wall that sat right outside their session hall. Students, parents and teachers could leave notes for others in attendance to show their gratitude.
It was heart warming to see a student open up a note that read “Hey, it was great to meet you today! So glad you’re here.” Or to see a teacher read a note full of appreciation from a student.
Taking a moment to say thank you or shine some encouragement onto someone goes a long way. This was very evident during my week in Alaska.
Challenge: Take time to show your appreciation for those around you through a note of encouragement or gratitude.
In July, I attended a camp session at the Kentucky Leadership Training Center. While there, I joined 10 brave campers to participate in the high ropes course.
I’ve never been a fan of heights, so I knew it would be challenging. Nonetheless, I was excited to stretch my limits. Together, we cheered our fellow campers as they zip-lined, climbed tall elements, and walked across tightropes.
On the final day, we climbed a telephone pole and jumped off to try and catch a bar a few feet away. I went last and ,to be honest, I was terrified! But, the FFA members there counted me down and cheered my name as I jumped.
It felt great to have that support team there as I took a huge leap (literally) out of my comfort zone.
Challenge: Do something that makes you step out of your comfort zone and make sure to have a support team by your side!
In August, I traveled to southern Louisiana to help volunteer in areas affected by flooding earlier that month.
While there, I joined some local FFA members to help sort donated items, make meals at a church, and spend time with members who had received a large amount of damage to their homes and school.
It was surreal to see the damage all around, but the amount of help and support that was present was extraordinary. The impacted communities came together to assist one another through re-building and dealing with the destruction.
I was only there for three days, but I knew that any amount of volunteer work was greatly appreciated.
Challenge: Volunteer in your local community or give to a non-profit that supports an issue you’re passionate about.
As a National FFA Officer, I spent a large amount of time with sponsors and supporters. In April, I attended a meeting in northern Arkansas with members of the National FFA’s Sponsor Board.
It was great to interact with business leaders from across the country who believe in the future of agriculture. The support they provide to FFA members allows our organization to grow and thrive.
As I spoke with them, they shared with me keys ways to network within the agriculture industry, ways to engage with organizations I’m passionate about and much more.
As I continue through my schooling and eventual career, I know I will have a great network of supporters and mentors to turn to for advice and support.
Challenge: Seek ways to network with business leaders in your industry and/or community.
Take it in
Traveling across the country allowed me to see countless beautiful sights and monuments. During my time at the South Dakota state FFA convention, I was able to see Mount Rushmore and the Badlands.
It was definitely a bucket list moment to take in the beauty of two famous landmarks. I loved getting to immerse into the culture of any place I traveled to and it made my year that much more fulfilling.
Experiencing what made each state and local area unique gave me the opportunity to discuss the beauty of the state with FFA members I interacted with at each event I attended.
Challenge: If you’re traveling, take time to be immersed into the culture around you. Go see landmarks, local spots or any beautiful sights around.
Best year yet
I could write an entire book on the incredible moments I experienced serving over 600,000 FFA members. It was a year that will impact my actions for the rest of my life.
With that being said, a mentor once shared with me that if your best year lives in the past, then you are not making the most of the present.
As we begin a brand new year, I hope that these five challenges will guide you into making choices that will leave you smiling and saying; “This is my best year yet!”
(Sydney Snider of Moscow, Ohio, was the 2015-16 National FFA Eastern Region Vice President. She is currently resuming her studies at Ohio State University in the College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Studies majoring in agricultural communications.)
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