Wednesday, July 19, 2017

#FFAProud - 2017 Texas FFA Convention

Summer time has been in full swing at my house. This past week, I was able to be at the Texas FFA State Convention with my youngest daughter Audrey in Corpus Christi. This event culminates Texas FFA chapter's year of activities, service, and contest with a whirlwind of motivational speakers, state level competitions, concerts, fun nights and our state officers running one of the largest state convention in nation.

All three of our girls and Scott were actively involved in FFA from an early age. Scott was a member of our hometown school chapter in high school and knew he wanted our daughters to be part of what he wished he had been more involved in.
So it started, and all three girls joined our Junior FFA program, got involved, served as district, area and state officers during their tenure. Now as our youngest Audrey sets her sights on her own path with FFA, it's her sisters that she continually asks about and looks up to with their successes in the FFA.

Bethany, Ilissa, Scott and Audrey with their Texas FFA jackets
Bethany Area VI VP, Ilissa State VP, Scott and Audrey local chapter

Last week, as I sat through what has become probably my 14th state convention, I was emotional several times thinking about the impact it has made on my daughters and our lives.  Not everyone understands our involvement, way of life and time spent with this association.  We, however always knew it was much bigger than us and if our girls could just tap into it's principals and teachings they would be the better for it.  We could have never dreamed the places it would take us, how much it would help our girls and ultimately guide their paths in life. Both girls received undergraduate degrees and masters in agriculture  (Texas A&M and Texas Tech) with one now leading at the state level for the Texas Department of Agriculture in government and legislative policy and the other being heavily involved with top agricultural firms in communications and marketing.  To say that FFA guided them in their paths would be an understatement.

Bethany's Houston Grand Champion win with a heifer her sister owned the year before that garnered a division championship with while showing with our local FFA chapter.

 Audrey with her win at Houston while with our FFA chapter

Life is all about choices.  Early on, our choice and to this day we have never looked back.

This past week as I watched with pride as our Audrey competed in the Texas FFA Jr. Prepared Public Speaking contest, I couldn't help be most proud of her grit and determination.  For over a year, Audrey has worked on her speech over Bees.  Both her Agricultural Advisor Sue Witt and I watched a documentary along with Audrey and knew this would be a perfect topic for her.  Audrey researched and with minimal help from me, wrote a speech that she has refined, practiced, competed and researched over for now on a year.  I've watched Audrey pull herself up, walk in and deliver speeches since the fifth grade that I could never have done with a level of confidence and poise that amazes me.  As a naturally shy person when she was younger, she has grown in her demeanor most through these public speaking contest and like many young FFA member in these contest they have grown immensely from being a part of the speaking contests. For that I am forever grateful.

Audrey's win this year in Junior Prepared Public Speaking
You see, FFA isn't just about showing livestock like we love to do, but it's also about building those career and leadership abilities that will help our youth one day in this big world of ours.  More than once, my two oldest girls have repeatedly used their job interview skills from an FFA contest back in high school.  They've repeatedly relied on what they learned from public speaking contest in their jobs to this day. Contest like Extemporaneous Speaking, Public Speaking, Livestock Judging, running for district, area and state offices and even showing cattle with the our local chapter and the Texas FFA have truly been irreplaceable in getting them where they are now.  They've learned leadership skills from Texas FFA programs like the Nomination Committee where they've assisted select National FFA Officer candidates and led programs for Texas FFA like the Ford Scholars.  Each of these FFA opportunities resulted in numerous scholarships, college acceptances and leadership at both while at college at both Texas A&M and Texas Tech.

Oldest daughter Ilissa speaking as a Texas FFA State Vice President at convention in 2008

Our girls representing on the state and local area during their FFA years

As they week started what warmed my heart the most is the fact that the two older sisters  Ilissa and Bethany came to be with their sister Audrey as she competed.  Audrey would repeatedly ask, "Are the sisters coming?' and of course they were there to watch their baby sister.  They prepped her in advance on speech questions, cheered her on through prelims and later the finals and screamed the loudest when she placed 8th overall with her, "What's All the Buzz About Bees?" speech while on stage at the convention. Sure makes a mom proud to see her girls support each other the way they do.

Ilissa, Audrey, myself and Bethany at the preliminary competition in Corpus.

During the week our local chapter had the distinct honor of one of our own former students Jake Traylor presiding over the Texas FFA Convention.  To say he did an outstanding job is an understatement. As Texas FFA President, he was poised, confident, humble and related with every person in the convention hall during each and every session.  Jake...we are so proud of you and look forward to see where life leads you next!  It'll be a great adventure for sure and we know you will be relentless in your pursuit of it!

Jake delivering his wonderful retiring President's address at the 2017 Texas FFA Convention

Jake's week was especially meaningful to our Ag Advisors, Sue Witt, Russell Thomas, Paulette Aguilar, Kyle Keahey and Cati Heikennen who proudly received his first state officer jacket on stage from Jake and watched as a prodigy of theirs in the form of young man, led convention over 12,000 plus members and guest.  His loving family and teachers have done an outstanding job helping this young man achieve his dreams.    
Jake here with our Ag teachers after the final session of the Texas FFA Convention after retiring his jackets.  His shirt signifies the members of the Area VI Association who signed it as a token of remembrance.
Also during the week, I stopped by to visit with The Pulse who I blog for as they were present in the exhibit hall at convention.  It was great to see them there as always supporting our youth and the kids having fun with their games.  What I love most about Sullivan Supply and The Pulse is their constant support of our youth and associations like Texas FFA. Thank you!

Now as we look forward to finishing out summer, this week will always stand out in our memory.  As a family we are thankful, proud and most importantly humbled to know that there is an association and teachers in FFA that give and care so much for not just our children, but those of so many.

Next time you see an agricultural education teacher, realize the long, sometimes thankless hours they spend in and out of the classroom.  Just this week our own local chapter took over 30 kids throughout the week to convention. Some might call that crazy...but we call it devotion and instilling hope in the future of these kids. During the course of their week, perhaps one keynote address or event spurred enough of a passion in them that FFA will forever be in their hearts.  I know it holds a solid place in our entire families hearts.


Thank you Texas FFA, Jake, and our Ag Advisors for this past week and to the Texas FFA for putting on a stellar convention yet again.  Congratulations to everyone who competed, placed and won while there. Remember it's not about the ribbons and  awards, but what you learned along the way.  Take your experiences from the convention theme Relentless home and apply it to your life. I know I personally came away with a renewed spirit and continued appreciation and love for this association's mission.

Audrey with her Agricultural Advisors Russell Thomas, Sue Witt, Paulette Aguilar, Kyle Keahey and Cati Heikennen

#FFAProud #TexasFFA

Alise @ The Ranch Kitchen

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