July 2018
Youth Matters

FFA Sentinel: When It’s Time to Retire My Blue Jacket


Tallassee FFA members in Indianapolis at the 90th National FFA Convention.

Reflections of Two Senior FFA Officers

Picture in your mind that iconic Western scene of the cowboy riding off into the sunset. It seems like the end, but Roy, Gene, Marshall Dillon or the Duke always came back for another adventure.

As FFA members prepare to retire their FFA jackets and look out to the far horizon, some will be breaking new ground, some will be moving full steam ahead and others may still be searching. Whatever the case, they were a part of something much bigger than themselves.

FFA is an organization that changes lives; it truly builds on those components of premier leadership, personal growth and career success. If you think about that teacher who made the most difference in your life, it may very well have been an agriscience educator – maybe not. The message is the same: "You can do anything you set your mind to do." Secretly, the teacher is thinking, "I am going to push you to do it and see how you respond."

Tallassee FFA Chapter Officer Team.


FFA is not just about agriculture, although it is our premise. It is about student development. No, it is about people development, relationship development, skill development … and so much more.

I hope you enjoy the contributions from two retiring chapter officers of the Tallassee FFA Chapter. I would especially like to thank these members and their advisor, Dr. Daniel Free, for sharing these reflections with me. Occasionally, you read something and it makes you proud. This is one of those times. It is a testament to an organization and a teacher’s positive effect on students. Enjoy!


Some of the Tallassee FFA members during their FFA Farm Day.

Four years ago, I was a 14-year-old who would become physically sick and leave a room in tears when a teacher had me get up in front of a small crowd of peers. However, today I can stand and speak with confidence to a large crowd, teach those around me and serve in ways I would have not thought possible. I give FFA, along with my advisor, the credit for conquering that fear.

Among the numerous skills I have obtained in my FFA career, I have gained strong soft skills such as public speaking, leadership and how to work as an effective team member. All in all, I have become a better, stronger version of myself.

Furthermore, FFA has provided me with the opportunity to find my passion in greenhouse management.

Despite the rapidly approaching FFA banquet, at which I will officially retire my blue corduroy jacket and pass my duties on to the next secretary, I will forever have the memories and the family I have made over the past four years.

Emily Stillwell, retiring Tallassee FFA Chapter Secretary


One of the memories made by FFA members Haydin Mann, Emily Stillwell and Gage Simmons is placing fourth in the Central District Floriculture CDE.


FFA is an organization that has enabled me to grow into the young man I am today. Over the years, it has been a constant source of encouragement and has pushed me in every way to prepare myself for the next stage of life.

My FFA advisor and fellow officers are far more than a group of people with common interests; we are a team and we are friends … but, most important, we are a close family.

It is through FFA that I have gained the mindset to prevail, refusing to give up or give in. My advisor has pushed me through obstacles I previously thought were impossible to overcome.

FFA is not just an organization, it is an extended family with innumerable possibilities for each and every person.

As I retire my blue corduroy jacket, I am fully aware that I am forever in the FFA family.

Gage Simmons, retiring Tallassee FFA Chapter Vice President


As retiring officers graduate and move to the next phase of their life, I hope they place the words of these two FFA members in their hearts, continue to support FFA and share the positive message with all they meet.


Andy Chamness is the executive secretary for the Alabama FFA Association and Dr. Daniel Free is the FFA advisor at Tallassee High School.