Austin, TX is known for many things: the University of Texas, great shopping, the home of the Texas FFA Ford Leadership Center, and of course, the historic Texas Capitol. During the first week of January, the Texas FFA State Officers traveled to this well-known city to meet with key political and agricultural figures of Texas.
The state officers’ first meeting in Austin was with the Texas Commissioner of Agriculture, Todd Staples. Upon arrival, the state officers were welcomed into Commissioner Staples’ office, one with a gorgeous view of the capitol. One of the main topics during the visit was that of the future of agriculture in Texas. According to Commissioner Staples, the main issue currently facing Texas, and one that will continue to trouble our state in the future, is the issue of our water supply. With water being one of our most valuable resources, it is important this issue be on everyone’s mind. As young agriculturists, the state officers were all very grateful for this experience and for all that Commissioner Staples has done for our state. He provided the team with great insight.
Later on that day, the state officers arrived at the Texas State Capitol to have a brief meeting with Lt. Governor David Dewhurst. Governor Dewhurst has held this position since 2003 and has had a large impact on Texas’ government. With education being one of Governor Dewhurst’s passions, he was glad to meet with the state officers and see the excellent leadership FFA develops in students.
The next day the state officers were back on their way to the Capitol to take a tour of the historic building and to meet with Speaker of the House, Joe Straus. Speaker Straus, first elected to this position in 2009, will soon take on issues facing Texas during the upcoming legislative session. One of Speaker Straus’ priorities is to ensure our children are well-educated. Meeting with the state officers allowed him to see just how well agricultural education and the FFA organization educate students in order to prepare them for future careers.
The next morning was spent at Lanier High School in Austin, TX. All 10 state officers put on a workshop that taught students the true meaning of SWAG! (Service, Willingness to Work, Attitude, and Goals). The officers were taken on a tour of the Lanier facilities and were very impressed with the amount of service this chapter does. One of their current projects is building wheelchairs in partnership with their local Rotary Club! These wheelchairs are sent to underprivileged countries for citizens who are handicapped. This chapter is doing some awesome things, and it was a great experience for the officers!
Later that afternoon, the officers attended a meeting with Lizzette Reynolds, the Deputy Commissioner for Statewide Policy and Programs at the Texas Education Agency. This meeting was very relaxed and fun for the officers as we were able to discuss one of our passions--education.
Some of the issues discussed included possible cuts in education funding in Texas and the continued growth of career and technology classes. Ms. Reynolds along with Ron Whitson, Director of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resource Science (AFNR) and Vangie L. Stice-Israel, State Director of Career and Technical Education provided for a wonderful meeting at the Texas Education Agency headquarters.
Overall, the week was filled with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for the state officers. If you are interested in taking a tour of the capitol yourself, be sure to attend the Texas FFA Day at the Capitol on February, 22, 2011!