By Bethany Starlin, OCJ FFA reporter (and Ohio’s 2021 National Officer candidate)
Each October, thousands of FFA members flock to Indianapolis, Ind. to attend the National FFA Convention and Expo. Whether it’s competing in a Career Development Event, interviewing for a proficiency award or simply celebrating the successes of our organization over the past year, there is something in Indianapolis for all to enjoy.
As someone who has attended the National FFA Convention and Expo in a number of capacities — first as a supporter of my older siblings, then as a member and finally as a state officer — I understand the excitement that builds as you travel west on Interstate 70 towards the Circle City.
This year, however, will feel a bit different.
It has been roughly two years since the sea of blue jackets have taken Indianapolis by storm. Two years worth of excitement, anticipation and celebration of the organization we all love will fill our hearts as we travel to convention late October.
For myself and roughly 40 other individuals from across the nation, our journeys to Indianapolis began several months ago as we entered the process to run for national office. The process to run for national office is rigorous and ultimately prepares candidates for the year of service ahead of them if selected. Long nights filled with hours of preparation, conversations with mentors and a fair amount of soul searching are just a snapshot of candidates’ lives leading up to the convention.
Mid-September I attended the National FFA Officer Candidate Training Academy. The event, organized and conducted by Dr. David Frazier at Tarleton State University, is a three-day, high intensity training that allows candidates to see exactly where they’re at in the preparation process.
Over 30 candidates from across the continental United States, Hawaii and Puerto Rico arrived in Stephenville, Texas as strangers. Those involved in our organization understand that the blue jacket doesn’t know a stranger for long. Within 72 hours of meeting, that group of 32 individuals left as friends excited for what’s to come.
I am yet again reminded of the power of the blue jacket. Our organization has the innate ability to bring together individuals from all different backgrounds and unite them over a shared love for agriculture and FFA.
It has been said that individuals are a mosaic of every person they’ve ever met. In some capacity, regardless of the simplicity or grandeur of the connection, I’ve changed because of the people I’ve met along the way. What a blessed feeling it is to know that my mosaic is filled mostly with people and experiences in the blue jacket. The lessons learned and memories made alongside each and every one of you will last forever.
To the members I’ve met in the jacket and out: thank you. Whether it was the long days spent at Ohio FFA Camp Muskingum, joining your chapter for a visit, an all-nighter pulled at a lock-in or showing me around your town between events, you have filled my heart with enough joy and laughter to last a lifetime. Thank you for making Ohio FFA the great association that it is today.
To the two teams I had the privilege of serving alongside: thank you. Through the good, bad and everything in between, you all demonstrated what it means to show up for others regardless of the situation. The impact you make on the lives around you is heartening. Thank you for reminding me of the importance of each day and showing me what it means to serve those around you wholeheartedly.
Finally, to the donors and friends of the FFA: thank you. Your investment in the FFA allows students to reach their fullest potential. The unwavering support you provide single-handedly helps bring our organization’s mission to life. Thank you for changing students’ lives.
As I continue preparing for the interview process, I do so with a grateful heart because this organization has truly shaped me into the person I am today. It is because of the impact you, the members, teammates and supporters, have made on my life that I seek to serve our organization as a national officer.
The list of unknowns throughout this process has been many, but here’s what I do know — regardless of the outcome on Oct. 30, it has been my greatest honor to represent Ohio FFA as the 2021 National Officer Candidate.