As high school FFA members, we are told that the FFA is all about “premier leadership, personal growth and career success.” We know the words and we’ve seen them in action as high school students, but what about after? How does this impact our lives after we leave FFA behind?
I spent this fall interning in Washington, DC. I worked in a congressman’s office, and I lived in our nation’s capitol. Throughout my entire semester in DC, all my experiences and successes kept relating back to FFA. The same phrase kept running through my mind… it seemed so simple—premier leadership, personal growth and career success.
I’ve always been happy with my leadership abilities. I learned a lot through FFA in high school, but it wasn’t until I made it to DC that I saw how much of an impact it had on me. Being a “premier” leader doesn’t just mean having a fancy title or winning a contest—it means mentoring those around you. I had the unique opportunity to share my extensive knowledge of networking and leadership with those around me. It was a regular occurrence for fellow interns to ask me questions on how to approach situations or people. It hit home that even though I didn’t have an officer position embroidered on my jacket, I still had the opportunity to guide those around me. Premier leadership is not just leading, it’s teaching.
As FFA members we grow by doing things outside of our comfort zone. The first time we speak in public, we grow. The first time we travel without our parents, we grow. The first time we earn money from our SAE, we grow. The decision to take the opportunity that Texas Tech gave me and leave Texas for an entire semester was a big one. This was the biggest leap outside of my comfort zone I’d ever taken, but I did it. All the new things I tried and loved through the FFA taught me that I would only grow if I took a chance. Now, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to leave my comfort zone and go to DC. I’ve matured so much as a person, and I owe it all to a little thing called personal growth.
The word career is a little scary when we are in high school, so the concept of career success seems a little hard to obtain. How can we worry about a career when all we want to do is get out of high school and get away to college? I’ll let you know that no matter what you decide to do in life, the FFA will help. During my internship I learned that the world, or network, as a past FFA member is small. The other intern in my office was not only a past FFA member, but someone I routinely saw at contests. Another employee in my office was a past area officer in my home area—Area III. I knew a past national officer that worked in the same building as me. I even met with Dr. Larry D. Case while I was in DC just to talk. There was always a sense that my time in the FFA had truly helped me and contributed to my career success.
I will end by saying; every single Texas FFA member has the potential to do great things. No matter if you decide to become a teacher or a politician, a rancher or a veterinarian—the things you learn and the people you meet in the FFA will help you. Learn everything you can about premier leadership, personal growth and career success. You never know when it will come in handy.
Ashley Larkin is originally from the Cy Creek FFA chapter in Area III served as the 2009-2010 Texas Collegiate FFA President. She interned through the Congressional Internship Program at Texas Tech University’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR). She interned in Congressman Pete Olson’s office, who serves the 22nd District of Texas. After she graduates college, she will become an agriculture teacher.