Tuesday, November 28, 2017

So, we got sent to the Principal's Office...

The door clicked shut behind us as we exited Principal Bach’s office. Wren and Sophi turned to me with smiling, shocked looks on their faces. “I have never met him before…he’s actually pretty nice,” trailed Wren’s verbal thoughts. I smiled back at her with a slightly puzzled expression and said, “Wait, you’d never met him before?”


On a beautiful, early November morning just a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Stillwater FFA chapter. Upon my arrival to this newly remodeled, 2,600 student high school, I asked for both a map and verbal directions to the agriculture department from the main office. This was just a bit different from the 500 student high school I grew up in where my principal and all office staff knew me by name and I was in my principal’s office at least once a week my junior and senior years (for all good things, of course). To be quite honest, I was pretty apprehensive going into my very first chapter visit of the year, especially at a school of this size.

After searching the halls of this ginormous school for about five minutes with map in hand and the verbal directions replaying in my mind, I finally made my way into Mr. Boettcher’s agriculture education classroom. At first the room reminded me of my science classrooms from high school, but I soon discovered what else Stillwater FFA members and agriculture education students had available to them as I listened to them share their experiences in the greenhouse, aquaculture room, and outside the school doors at a plot of land near a local river where they release the trout they raise in the classroom. I also had the opportunity to sit in on one of their weekly, informal meetings and hear about the happenings of the chapter, meet the officer team, and discuss the events some of the other members were involved in or excited to try in the upcoming year.

Wren, Sophi, and I in front of the awards display they put together
showcasing Stillwater FFA's outstanding work.
Allow me to introduce to you two of Stillwater FFA’s chapter officers, President Sophi and Vice President Wren. Sophi is currently a senior at Stillwater Area High School and competes on the Horse Evaluation and the Wildlife CDE teams in FFA. She plans to further pursue an education at University of Wisconsin - River Falls next fall majoring in Conservation and Environmental Planning. Wren is a junior, competes on the Horse Evaluation CDE team, and hopes to follow her passion of working with horses to pursue a double major in Animal Science and Equine Science and continue on to veterinary school after high school. These two girls have a passion for agriculture and the FFA organization similar to most of us heavily involved in FFA; they thrive in the environment and have found a second family - but they haven’t always felt the support of their school’s administration.    

As part of my visit to the school, I was asked to have a quick meeting with Principal Rob Bach. Wren and Sophi escorted me back to the main office to have my meeting. Upon introductions, Mr. Bach asked if the two girls were coming with me? Swift glances of their puzzled faces said, “No!” So…I smiled a response saying, “Yes.” We sat down at the small, round table in his office, and he asked, “So, what can I do for you today, Kylee?” As I briefly explained my role in Minnesota FFA and how FFA has been of benefit to me in my life thus far, I then reached out to the girls joining me to share what they are involved in and what their future plans included. At first, I thought Wren was going to forever dislike me from the look she gave me when I started talking about her and then asking her to talk to her principal. But based on our previous conversations on  the same information earlier that morning, I knew they had awesome stories to share! I smiled and urged them both on to continue sharing the happenings of Stillwater FFA and how it would impact member’s lives. Soon, Mr. Bach was asking questions and inquiring about specifics of Stillwater FFA and certain FFA events.

Wren and Sophi’s faces were glowing and their eyes were glimmering with hope as we sat at that table discussing agriculture with Mr. Bach, and for the first time they felt supported by their administration. Why? Because they shared their story.

As youth leaders in agriculture, we have the opportunity to share our experiences and our stories with those around us. You might ask, “Why Kylee? Aren’t all our stories the same? We all wear the same blue jacket…” And I would then respond, “No, you and your story are perfectly yours and unique. You may wear the same jacket, but the person inside that jacket is different than anyone else in the world.” This reminds me of a quote I recently came across, People love what other people are passionate about.

When we share our stories, we do three things:
1) we positively inform those around us by advocating for our passions
2) we (usually) gain support
3) we add to our own stories and learn a bit more about ourselves

Sometimes, we don’t feel like we have anything to share, much like Wren and Sophi when the meeting with Mr. Bach started. But when we walked out, they knew their stories had finally been heard and they had a newfound respect for Mr. Bach, and vise versa. Sometimes, all it takes is stepping out of our comfort zone and taking a leap of faith to share our story with someone new. Maybe that someone new is a potential sponsor or supporter of your FFA chapter, or maybe the coach of the sport you have always wished you played, or maybe it is a five minute conversation with your principal about the importance of agricultural education and FFA.

We all have the potential to share a powerful, passionate story - we just need to be brave enough to say it out loud.

If you aren’t sure where your story starts, I challenge you to grab a piece of paper and think back to the very first thing/event you participated in in FFA, or in your favorite sport, or any other activity or organization you are a part of. Now, write down why you joined. Continue with what you have done, how you have seen yourself grow, and how your participation has positively impacted your life. You now have a story. I would love to hear it. So would the rest of the world. Why? Because you are passionate about it,and “people love what other people are passionate about.”

If you know where your story starts, keep writing pages, fill chapters, share certain quotes and pages along the way, maybe even chapters, but don’t ever close your book of life. Always keep learning, growing, and sharing your experiences.

Pick your passion. Share your story. Be a #PassionateAdvocate. Be a #PassionateAGvocate.

Stationed by the ear of corn,

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