One thing that I was asked countless times in my high school years was "What does FFA mean to you?"
Well..what does FFA mean to me?
How did I come to be in the FFA?
Let's flashback to the summer before my freshman year.
I had cheerleading practice and was unable to attend Freshman Orientation to choose classes in our first high school schedule.
My mom had to go to orientation for me to get all the information that I would need for the upcoming year.
After orientation, when she picked me up from cheer practice, I got in the car and asked: "Mom, what classes did you sign me up for?"
She started listing classes, but one certain class stood out to me.
Most of you would assume that I was probably ecstatic.
I was certainly not.
"Mom, why would you sign me up for that stupid class? I don't want to take that! I'm switching classes as soon as I can!"
She told me that all of my friends had signed up for it so I would get to spend an "easy-A" class with all of my friends.
I agreed to stay in the class.
As a freshman, our Ag teacher required that everyone in an Ag class join FFA and memorize the FFA creed.
How hard can that be?
I am an overachiever so I learned the entire creed, rather than just one paragraph at a time.
One day, my teacher walks up to me.
"You are going to compete in the FFA Creed Speaking CDE."
I was TERRIFIED of public speaking so I was avidly against it!
"Get over your fears. You can do it and you are whether you like it or not."
I was furious.
I did what I was told and worked on my speaking abilities.
I attended a district-level competition.
I placed 2nd and advanced to the state competition.
Something clicked in me when I put on that Official Dress and Blue Corduroy jacket for the first time.
Something clicked in me when I walked across that stage and received my first banner.
Something clicked in me when I spoke those 5 paragraphs during competition.
Something clicked in me and I was hooked.
This was where I belonged.
I applied for chapter officer for the upcoming year and was given the position of Sentinel.
And then the next year, Secretary.
And then the next year, Vice President.
I received my FFA Degrees.
I spent my free time reading my FFA Manual, studying FFA facts, and dreaming of the next time I was going to be able to wear my Blue Corduroy.
I attended multiple state conventions and even a national convention.
Oh, man was that an experience!
To see tens of thousands of people with the same passion as I have.
To see the greatness of the National FFA Organization.
I applied and interviewed for a District Officer position in the spring of my junior year.
I let my nerves get the best of me.
I didn't make it on the team.
I decided at that point to give up the FFA.
Why should I give my all to an organization that I couldn't be great in?
I decided, however, to still attend the state convention that summer..
I heard an inspiring speech from the FFA State Vice President about never letting life get you down and never giving up on your dreams.
It almost felt like that speech was meant for me to hear.
Hearing it made me realize that I couldn't let go of the organization I loved so dearly.
Soon after, I made the decision to give everything that I had to the FFA for my final year.
I spent the next year working hard and putting my everything into the FFA.
I spent hours and hours every day trying to improve my school's chapter.
I worked closely with our chapter President.
The countless hours I spent engulfed in FFA and studying agriculture made me realize that I loved the FFA more than I had ever thought I had.
It was my life.
It was a part of who I was.
Then came time for my final chapter banquet.
During the official ceremony to appoint new officers, the retiring officers give short statements and then hang up their FFA jackets for the final time in front of their peers.
I took off my Official Dress and hung up my Blue Corduroy jacket for the last time.
My time in the FFA was officially over.
The National FFA Organization made me into the person I am.
It gave me confidence, leadership skills, passion, and purpose.
FFA gave me the opportunity to travel to so many places, like Minnesota, Kentucky, and Indiana.
FFA had been my entire life for four years and I couldn't possibly imagine my life without it.
When I lost loved ones, friends, and hope, I had the FFA to lean on.
When I felt like my life was meaningless, I could look at my jacket and remember that FFA was my purpose.
When I was sad, I could distract myself by picking up my FFA Manual and studying.
The FFA means everything to me and I will forever be grateful for the amazing four years that it gave me.
I also will be forever grateful to the FFA for teaching me premier leadership, personal growth, and career success.
And that, my friend, is what FFA means to me.
Learning to do.
Doing to learn.
Earning to live.
Living to serve.