Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Thank You

Flashback with me to my freshman year in high school. It was a warm, sunny Tuesday morning when the bell rang during the first day of school. It was mid-day and I took my first step into the ag room as a student in Mrs. James’ exploring ag class. Mrs. James and I had met before because both of my older siblings were in FFA, but this was the first time we actually had the chance to get to know each other. The class period went on as a normal first day until Mrs. James came over to me at the end of class and said, “There is an FFA Meeting next week; you should come and check it out!” I always knew I wanted to join FFA because my entire family had been involved, but this just helped the cause.

The FFA meeting quickly approached the next week and you could find this shy, timid freshman kid in the back corner of the ag room waiting for the meeting to start. The meeting carried on as normal with reading reports, talking about new and old business and was followed by an activity. As the meeting and activity ended, Mrs. James, came over to me again and said, “Sam, you are going to do creed speaking.” I must of had the most terrified look on my face because she quickly followed that with, “It’ll be okay, I will help you!” This provided me comfort and as scared as I was, I agreed to compete in the creed speaking competition. This was just the start of the many events in FFA that have developed me into the person I am today.

After Mrs. James got me involved in the creed speaking competition. I soon joined the parliamentary procedure team, became a chapter officer, joined the general livestock team and continued to get involved in the FFA any way I could. These events have led me to where I am today, and that is all because Mrs. James saw something in me and knew I had something special to offer. She knew I was capable of something much greater than myself and invested her time into me in order for me to succeed. Without the help and drive of my ag teacher, I am not sure where I would be today.

Each of us have had our lives impacted my someone. For me, it was my ag teacher, Mrs. James, who impacted my life. Like Mrs. James, there is someone out there who instilled faith in you and found that you had something special to offer. They realized you have potential to do great things in life, and they wanted to push you to succeed. There is someone who has made a difference in your life and pushed you to become to the best person you can be! Do me a favor and tell that person thank you, because they are the reason why you are who you are today, and that is something to be proud of.

As my year of service come to a close, there are a lot of people who continue to make an impact. I want to thank the 10,500 Minnesota FFA members for all you have done. Thank you for impacting my life this past year. I am blessed to have had this opportunity and I am grateful for all of you who have, and will continue to, make an impact on my life for years to come.

For the final time...

Stationed by the Door,

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

In Closing...

Here I am, writing my last blog post as the 2015-2016 Minnesota FFA State Reporter.  I am so humbled and filled with joy to have spent the past 11 months in this amazing organization working with the most amazing FFA members ever.  Over the past year, I have done quite a bit of correspondence, written several essays, and completed various written projects for FFA, college classes, and other events.  Quite often at the bottom of my writing, my last paragraph starts with these two words:   “In closing…”  Using the words “In closing” usually refers to one’s last thoughts or parting comments on a subject.  So, my dear FFA family, in closing, I’ve decided to share with you a few of my favorite quotes and thoughts I’ve gathered over this past year.  These are a short compilation of the pick-me-ups, inspiration, reflections, and a little bit of humor that always tend be exactly what I need to read, just when I need it most.  I hope you will read these quotes and thoughts, and keep them as a resource for the times when you may need something similar in your journey, and they may be exactly what you need, just when you need it most.
Take this to heart.  Make a positive difference in the lives of those students and adults you meet, lead with your actions, as actions speak much louder than words. 

Believe you can do it.  It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you believe you can do it.  Don’t just dream about what seems logical and possible, allow yourself to follow your dreams, even the ones that seem impossible.  Believe you can do anything. 

You know what they say, laughter is the best medicine! This quote reminds me to take time to laugh and just relax once in a while.  No matter where you are in life, or what your current role is, be the best you that you can be and always be yourself.  (Unless you can be Batman).

Open your heart, open your mind, be a listener.  One act of kindness, willingness, or sharing might be all it takes to be the light in someone’s day, a forward step in their journey.  Share your light with another, be the spark that lights someone’s fire, help them ignite their passion and fuel their fire!  Give of yourself freely, you have a lot to offer!

Goodness knows that when we are working so hard at being good leaders, believing that we can do anything, and being the best versions of ourselves, there are days where we may get weary and overwhelmed.  Friends, when you heart is heavy and your worries are gaining ground, remember there is always One who has your back, take a minute to give thanks for your blessings and open you heart to Him -   Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds – Philippians 4:6-7 

In closing, I want to say with sincere gratitude, thank you for allowing me to serve as State Reporter this past year.  It’s what you all have given me that has made me who I am today.  I will carry your stories and friendships with me forever, and I will never forget this year.   I thank you for your leadership, your laughter, for believing in yourself and for sharing your greatness with me. 

Signing off for the final time-
Stationed by the Flag,

Madison Taylor

2015-2016 Minnesota FFA State Reporter

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Finish Lines

As track season is beginning in my hometown of Lanesboro, MN, I look back on the hours that I put in during my track seasons to get better and to do the best that I could. There is nothing quite like the feeling of walking up to that starting line, waiting for the commands, stepping up to the line, body tensing as you take those last few breaths before the gun, and that moment the gun goes off, you begin on that race.

Almost every race starts the same way as the one before it, but that doesn’t mean that every race is the same as the one before it. The way you finish each race is what makes it different than the one before. The finish line looks the same to everyone and the race is the same distance for everyone, but each person will have a unique experience running that race and crossing that line.

How will you feel when you cross that finish line? Many times when I would cross that line, I instantly knew that I had more that I could have put into it. I knew that I could have done a little bit more here or pushed a little harder there. Other times, I knew that I had given it my all during the race, but I still wasn’t fully satisfied because I knew that I could have done a better job preparing for that race in the weeks leading up to it. But then there are the amazing times that you cross the finish line- when you know the moment you finish that you gave it your all; you know that you have put in long hours for this and you did the very best that you could have possibly done.  I had this moment when I was running the 3200 at the sub section meet my junior year.  This was going to be the capstone on the year as it would be my last race if I didn’t move on from there.  The gun went off, I pushed myself all the way, I called upon those hours of practice, and I crossed that finish line. 
Without knowing exactly how I had done, I knew that, no matter what, I would be happy with that race because when I crossed that line, I knew that I had done everything that I could. I ended up getting third, advancing to sections, getting a personal record, and setting our school record by less than one second.

We line up at that starting line in many different situations in life. That line could be the start of a 2 mile race, a new school year, a new sports season, the first CDE practice, or even the election to an officer position. It is always important when we are in any of these situations to make sure that we put in the needed effort so that when we cross that finish line we can be happy with the journey, no matter what the result. And when you cross that finish line, remember it is not over.  It's time to find a new starting line.

The finish line for my race as a State FFA Officer is quickly approaching. It continues to be a great race and I look forward to the starting lines that come after this finish line. No matter what point you are in your race, join me in making it a good one.

Signing Off,

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Go-pher It

On an autumn Saturday, there is only one place you need to look to find me. TCF Bank Stadium is home to the Minnesota Golden Gopher Football team and I would dream of being nowhere but here on game day. As my love for the Gophers continues to grow, and my experience at these football games increases, I have learned a few things about how I can “Go-pher It” and make the best out of my experience.

No matter where our passions lie or the task we have at hand, we have the ability to achieve great accomplishments. Similarly to my continued practice at becoming a better Gopher fan, in the different things we are passionate about, there are a few pointers that can help us find success.

1. Arrive early.

Starting the line at the student gate four hours in before kick-off definitely has its perks. Your odds of rushing through the gate, sprinting up the stairs, making sure you don’t fall flying down the bleachers and throwing your blankets across the bleachers in order to get front row greatly improve when you are early.

In your life, when you find something you care about, be prepared. Create goals. Plan out the steps you need to take in order to achieve those goals. Be ready to take on challenges and work hard to overcome obstacles. Being on top of your work, making connections with others who can potentially be mentors in your journey and knowing who you are and what you are seeking to achieve will help you to “arrive early.”

2. Come prepared.

In Minnesota, sweltering heat, a beating sun, wind gusts, down pouring rain, ice and a snowstorm all occur throughout football season. Have your sunscreen, raincoat, boots and snow gear on hand for whatever Mother Nature chooses for game day.

Each day provides new challenges and new opportunities for us. We may not always know what is coming, but we can be prepared to take on whatever is thrown at us. By knowing our plan of action for certain situations and having others around us as mentors to assist us in our journey, we can find success. You will have challenges and complications but, like Minnesotans through any type of weather, you can push through them and see the sun shine again.

3. Stay standing.

How often do you get to cheer on your team with 50,000 other fans? The fans in Minnesota are like another player on the team. Stay standing the whole game and give the team the energy and excitement you have to offer to help them achieve victory.

Beginning a project, starting a new job, or just going through day-to-day life can become tiring, but do not give into it by “sitting down.” You have the ability to make a difference in someone’s life every single day. From buying a homeless person a meal to simply smiling at a stranger you pass by, your actions impact others in 
many ways. What is one thing you can do today 
that can brighten the day of someone around you? 
Stand up every day.

4. Always stay through the end.

The Alma Mater, the anthem of our college that we sing with the team after the game, is a song filled with love for our great state and the school we are at. Standing arm-in-arm with friends and strangers with your same love for the Gophers, win or lose, is something leaving early to “beat the rush” just doesn’t justify.

Take pride in what you are doing. It has become a passion of yours for a reason. Just as a school song is meaningful to a school, so too are your values, morals and beliefs are meaningful to you as an individual. Always stand by those and use them to guide your decisions. When you use the things that are important to you to form your life, you will find yourself “arm-in-arm” with friends, family and others ready to support you and what you are doing.

5. Never give up.

Sometimes there are rebuilding years. Sometimes the game just doesn’t go how anyone hoped. Sometimes the team exceeds all expectations. Always be there. They are YOUR team.

Never give up on your passion. There are ups and downs in life, but through hard work and determination, you can overcome the downtimes and celebrate the good ones. Sometimes the fire in you can seem to die out. Go back to the person that first had a burning flame inside of them. You will see that your flame has not died, it just needs a little more fuel. Give yourself the fuel you need and never give up on what you are passionate about.

While I hope to convert some of you to my Gopher-loving ways, I hope even more that you seize the moment today. There are numerous opportunities available to us each day to make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of others. Hold your passion tight and indulge in it, because you never know where it may take you.

Whether it is becoming a Gopher Super Fan, a volunteer at a local hospital, a great big brother, a daughter doing chores without being asked, or something else, use “Tips from a Gopher Fan” accomplish this challenge:

“Whatever you are, be a good one.”-Abraham Lincoln

You can do it, so Go-pher It. 

Stationed by the ear of corn,

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Make Today Ridiculously Amazing

I leaned my head against the window, watching the cars pass as I sat in the back seat of my advisor’s car.  As my nerves grew, my advisor turned around and said, “Are you excited? This is such a great opportunity!”
My 14-year-old self was on my way to State Greenhand Leadership Conference, a weeklong conference three hours north of my house.  I was the only one from my chapter going and my introverted self was freaking out. I actually was hoping the car would break down, and I would be stranded on the side of the road for five days instead of going to camp.
Flag lowering on the final day of SGLC!
What if this week is horrible? What if I don’t make any friends? These thoughts ran through my head, but as I got to settled into camp, I came to the conclusion that I was the only one standing in the way of my happiness. I had two choices: spend the whole week by myself being miserable or I could step out of my comfort zone and make every day great. In that moment, I decided to make every day of camp ridiculously amazing.  
After going through sessions about leadership, hiking through the woods, canoeing on the lake, and meeting some of the most influential leaders in my FFA experience, I didn’t want to leave camp. I had made incredible friends, and I had one of the best experiences of my life all because I was open to this opportunity.

Fast-forward three years.  I’m a senior in high school and the prepared public speaking CDE is coming up.  This event was one I had always wanted to compete in.  I had a speech idea in mind, and I was excited to start practicing.  However, at the time I was enrolled in a college writing class.  I had already missed quite a few days due to FFA events but one more wouldn’t matter, right?  Wrong.  Although I was caught up on all my work, the attendance policy written in the syllabus was holding me back.  If I were to miss another day of class, I would automatically fail the class.  I was so disappointed.  
So the day of the competition came and I watched as all my friends got on the bus and headed off to the event.   As I walked into my writing class, I saw a substitute teacher in the front of the room and “Self Work Day” written in red marker on the whiteboard.  
Seriously? I’m already caught up and I could be competing right now! I sulked in my chair and for the next 90 minutes; I was pretty bitter at the fact that I could have been at the regional competition.  After a while, my friend Shelby noticed that I was acting a bit off.  She asked me what was wrong and I explained to her the situation.  Then she said something that caught my attention.
“Well, at least it’s only 10:15 a.m.!”
I don’t know what exactly she meant by saying that, and maybe it was that she didn’t have anything else to say.  But it stuck with me and it was in that moment I decided to change my attitude.  Although the events of morning weren’t ideal, there were still 13 hours and 45 minutes left in the day.  I thought back to camp where again those two choices faced me: either write the day off as bad or decide to make it amazing.
Whether it is a CDE, a sporting event, or a new conference coming up, we are presented with a lot of opportunities.  Sometimes we get to take advantage of them and sometimes it doesn’t work out.  Regardless of what happens we are presented with two options.  Make today great or count it as a bad day.  In the end, it is our choice. Life is too short to be anything but happy and sometimes the person standing in our way of having an amazing day is ourselves.

Make today ridiculously amazing.  

Stationed by the plow,