For a day the Texas State Capitol became a classroom as more than 300 Texas FFA members and agricultural educators visited Austin on Feb. 21. The students learned about the state’s legislation process, especially as it relates to agriculture, at the annual Agricultural Education and Texas FFA Day at the capitol, hosted by the Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association of Texas and Texas FFA.
The event, now in its third year, provides a unique opportunity for high school students to learn from various players in the state’s legislative process - legislators, staffers, agency personnel and lobbyists.
“We want young people to grow up to be engaged citizens who have a voice in the legislation process, because they understand it,” said Texas FFA Executive Director Tom Maynard.
Participants attended educational workshops on citizen and student engagement, as well as legislative and agency advocacy.
Deputy Commissioner for Statewide Policy and Programs at the Texas Education Agency Lizzette Reynolds welcomed the FFA members in the general session. Reynolds commended the students for joining the FFA, because she respects the organization’s morals and beliefs.
Also during the general session, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rick Hardcastle addressed agricultural issues and important legislative topics. He encouraged those in attendance to contact their representatives and promote their FFA chapter.
“Tell your representative how strong your FFA program is on the local, area and state levels,” Hardcastle explained. “Knowledge is the key to politics, so you have to share that information with them.”
Representative Larry Gonzales spoke to the students about pursuing a career in politics. He discussed the various collegiate and professional activities students could participate in to enter the political field. He encouraged the students to be engaged and informed citizens.
“You don’t have to tell people your values if you live them every day,” Gonzales said.
The third annual Day at the Capitol was held in conjunction with National FFA Week and gave students a broader perspective of legislative activities.