Wednesday, July 2, 2014

As the Green Fades Away

There comes a point in everyone’s life where we finally get past the struggles of being new and things finally start to click. It could be having the first successful run down the slopes on a new pair of skis or finally getting an A on a test in a new class. Everything seems to fall into place and we feel a lot more confident with each new attempt in that area. For 129 Minnesota FFA Members things started to click this last week while they attended the State Greenhand Leadership Conference (SGLC). Throughout the week they washed the green off their hands pretty quickly.

At the start things were a little rough, not going to lie. The first 24 hours of camp are by far the most awkward. For the most part people don’t know each other and you could almost smell the regret of coming to camp in the air. I was immediately reminded of my time at SGLC as a camper.  I was the only one from my chapter to go and couldn't believe that I let my advisor talk me into coming to this camp. I had no friends there and was not looking forward to wasting five days of my summer deep in the woods of northern Minnesota. Even though things were different for me this time at SGLC it wasn't much different for the campers. I heard from many different members later in the week that their first day of camp followed a similar theme.

As the week progressed, things took a turn for the better and everyone started to warm up to one another. Each day campers were more and more willing to open up, branch out and even ask other members to swing dance (a camp tradition). Naturally there was a big pick up in energy, even on the second day. Sitting in our officer meeting Tuesday night we couldn’t believe that this was the same group of campers that walked in Monday morning. It was fantastic to see the members become more comfortable with themselves and other people.

However, learning how to socialize was not the only thing that clicked this week for this group of members. During multiple sessions at SGLC there were breakout workshops that allowed members to explore possibilities within the FFA. Each member was able to go to multiple workshops on SAE, CDE, and career pathways topics that interested them. Christina Smith, the Region II President, and I facilitated the Agriculture Education career pathway and SAE workshop. It was such a great opportunity to introduce the idea of being an Ag teacher for the first time to many of these members. Mya Wadena, from the Mahnomen FFA Chapter, said the Ag Ed “SAE breakout helped me realize there is more to SAE’s than just farm work”. Many members along with Mya expressed an interest in doing Ag Ed as an SAE project.

Something that was even more rewarding than potentially creating a future advisor was the growth that happened Wednesday night, our third day at cap. That night was all about stereotypes and diversity. We discussed how toxic and hurtful stereotyping can be. For many members this was an eye opening experience, I know that it was for me when I attended SGLC as a camper. This workshop was so impactful I could tell you exactly where I sat during it. During this workshop we gave the members a chance to share a time they had been stereotyped or hurt by people judging them. It’s amazing to see so many members share and to know that they feel safe to share in a room with over 140 people, most in which they just met. After that night I saw a change in how the members interacted with each other. They talked and made friendships with ease (especially compared to the first day). 

Sadly, all good things come to an end. After the Banquet and dance on Thursday night, it only left a few short hours Friday morning. We held our final session that challenged every member to take what they learned at camp and bring back to their chapters. A few campers shared what they planned to bring back to their hometowns and it warmed my heart to know that these members were truly impacted by this week. The next part of camp is something I along with everyone else dreads, the goodbye circle. This is the last time we are going to be seeing some of these people until state convention so we want to savor every minute we have together.

Even though this week was possibly the fastest five days of my life I can walk away with confidence that the future of the MN FFA is in good hands. This group of members walked away with a deeper understanding of not only what the FFA is and represents, but a deeper understanding of themselves. They understand the importance of friendship and valuing others as well as themselves. I wish I had time to have a real conversation with every single one of the members that attended but with the ones that I did I can say for certainty that this week changed their lives as it did mine. I can't wait to see everything these members accomplish as their green fades away and they start working towards their full potential as FFA members and individuals!

Stationed by the Rising Sun,
Jack Roessler

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