By Meredith Oglesby, OCJ FFA reporter
Ohio FFA members are feeling motivated to make a difference in their local communities and chapters since attending the first Energize Ohio FFA Conference. The virtual conference, offered on Jan. 16 and Jan. 17, allowed FFA members from across the state to connect and learn about motivation.
“Energize Ohio FFA offered [a chance for] students to gain powerful insight and key takeaways to improve their chapters at home through the power of motivation,” said Kyra Davidson, Ohio FFA State Vice President at Large.
During the opening session, Mallory Caudill, former Ohio FFA State Sentinel and current Ohio Corn and Wheat Intern, spoke to students on behalf of Ohio Corn and Wheat, the conference sponsor. The Ohio FFA state officer team hosted the remaining four sessions.
“This was not a typical event, and it was not a typical presentation either,” Davidson said. “The Ohio FFA state officers do not normally facilitate all-day conferences such as Energize Ohio FFA, much less virtually!”
Holding this event in a virtual format provided the opportunity to any student across the state and over 100 students participated throughout the two days. Several chapters gathered at their school to attend the conference together. Each individual student, whether with their chapter or participating as an individual, connected through Zoom to meet other FFA members and attend the sessions.
“While we often think of adapting events to a virtual format, Energize Ohio FFA was created solely for a virtual platform, which made its activities work so well,” Davidson said.
The virtual format allowed for students to have a more personal conference experience as state officers used break out rooms for discussion, sharing and activities.
“The state officers in my breakout session, Joe Helterbrand and Kyra Davidson, did an amazing job making sure everyone was comfortable and felt included even though we weren’t face to face,” said Alexis Peters, freshman Cardington FFA member.
Students identified their own personal motivators, discussed ways they can motivate their peers and created a tangible plan of action to energize their chapter and community.
“Through these difficult and uncertain times, motivation is needed more than ever,” Davidson said. “This curriculum was developed at the perfect time when this message was so needed.”
Students connected virtually through interactive online activities, which Davidson noted resonated with the students as they discussed ways to stay motivated. During the first session, the conference members created a wordle, a visual created based on words the students inputted from their devices, which would have been difficult to create without each student online.
“My favorite part of the conference was playing Kahoot games and making a skit with my group,” Peters said. “It really got everyone energized and involved in what we were truly learning.”
Using the breakout room feature of Zoom, students were able to talk through ideas and get feedback on the plans they wanted to implement in their communities.
“Having the conference virtually really allowed us all to openly share ideas and feedback even though we couldn’t actually be together,” Peters said.
And as Davidson facilitates virtually throughout the year, she has recognized that speaking or sharing during a virtual event may feel daunting, but she felt having the students in smaller groups during the conference allowed for greater inclusivity and for FFA members to truly be heard.
“During COVID, connecting with members has been very different, so having the opportunity to engage with so many students on a deeper level was very exciting,” Davidson said. “I also really enjoyed hearing student ideas for activities they could create or revamp to energize their chapter and community, and how those activities connect to the motivational categories we established earlier in the conference.”
Each FFA member left the conference with a tangible plan of action to create change and energize themselves and those around them.
“I’m going to use this information to focus on higher priorities for myself, as well as apply my new motivation skills towards my loved ones and people in my community,” Peters said.