Working in education, I often hear comments such as, "What’s wrong with kids today?" "Today’s generation has no work ethic," "These kids don’t appreciate anything," and the list goes on. I admit these sayings do seem to have some truth, but, for those people who doubt there is any hope in today’s youth, I would like to share with you some information about this year’s Crop of FFA Leaders.
As you all know, any crop takes nurturing to ever reach its greatest potential. Whether you are spraying peanuts, tying up tomatoes or working with young people, it takes nurturing. As I begin to look at our society as a whole, I often wonder who is nurturing our young people into leaders. Parents, churches and civic groups strive to do their part, but I believe there would be a huge hole left without career and technical student organizations such as the National FFA Organization. CTSOs are the primary avenue for leadership nourishment for today’s youth in our schools.
Many people are well aware agriscience programs and FFA chapters across Alabama teach students agriculture knowledge and skills that could lead to a successful lifelong career in agriculture, Alabama’s largest industry. However, are as many people aware of the importance of the leadership nourishment the FFA provides? Our state and country need strong agricultural leaders in order to compete in the global economy. The FFA organization develops young people through experiences and training to help them become the leaders of tomorrow. So what is the FFA’s "crop plan" for leaders?
FFA has a plan that trickles leadership all the way from the National Organization down to the students in your hometown. The first part of the "crop plan" is for National FFA Officers to be intensively nourished in leadership skills such as public speaking, workshop development, effective communication, problem solving, teamwork, conflict resolution and much more. The National Officers then train each of the teams of State Officers across the country including Alabama. Alabama’s State FFA Officers then train the three teams of District Officers located in the South, Central and North Districts. Each team of District Officers then holds leadership workshops to train each individual chapter. Finally, each chapter officer should return to their local school and, along with their advisor, train these skills to each member.
So how does the leadership manage to trickle? This began shortly after the State FFA Convention when the newly elected State FFA Officers met for training at the National Leadership Conference for State Officers in Raymond, Miss., June 18-22. This event was facilitated by a National FFA Officer and trainer. Alabama participates in NLCSO along with Mississippi and Louisiana. NLCSO helps officer teams identify their strengths and weaknesses as a group, and learn advanced interpersonal communication strategies and presentation delivery techniques. The curriculum for this three-and-a-half-day conference focuses on: developing teams and improving team performance, developing and delivering presentations, and building relationships between local, state and national FFA entities.
The following week, Alabama’s State FFA Officers continued their leadership experience with Blast Off training held in Auburn June 25-28. The conference helps newly elected state officers identify their strengths, develop personal growth plans, master speech writing and delivery, and develop personal management skills.
After multiple weeks of nourishment, Alabama’s State Officers had now "taken root" in leadership and were ready to begin working with each of the District Officer Teams. This year’s District Officer Leadership Conference was held July 12-13 at the 4H Center in Columbiana. The State Officers then nourished the District Officers with training about the opportunities of FFA, service projects, conducting meetings using parliamentary procedure, conducting workshops and being an effective leader. The District Officers then planned how to trickle the leadership skills to the chapter officers in their district.
This year, there were a total of four Chapter Officer Leadership Workshops conducted. There were two in the North District at Albertville High School and Falkville High School. There was one COLW in the Central District at Wetumpka High School. The South District also conducted one COLW at the MacArthur Campus of Lurleen B. Wallace Community College in Opp. In total, more than 400 Chapter Officers were trained and are now busy passing those leadership skills to the more than 14,000 FFA members across Alabama.
If this was not enough "leadership nourishment" for our young people, Josh Williams, State FFA President, and Dawn Turner, State FFA Vice President, were further "fertilized" by attending the State President’s Conference. This is a program where select state officers from around the nation converge on our Capitol in Washington D.C. The conference facilitated scheduling and visiting with representatives from our state’s senators’ and representatives’ offices.
So for anyone who doubts today’s generation, I encourage you to take a look at this year’s "Great Crop of Leaders." The Alabama FFA Association is working hard to ensure Alabama will have plenty of leaders "ready to harvest" to meet the demands of our large industry.
For more information about the Alabama FFA Association, please visit www.alabamaffa.org.
Chris Kennedy is a Central District Specialist with Alabama FFA Association.