Ready or Not

I finish shooting a round at trap, complete a horsemanship pattern, or say the last sentence of my speech – the same feeling overwhelms me at the conclusion of any task. Can I try that again? I reflect on how I did, analyzing myself. I instantly recognize the places where I could improve and have the strong desire to implement those changes immediately. Society tells us to not fret about the past because we can’t change it, so I tried to not think about my mistakes. But I couldn’t stop. After an Agriscience Fair presentation, I told my mom, “I feel really good about how it went; I just wish I could do it again so I could remember to talk about the article I read about glyphosate”.  I proceeded to ask her why I always wanted to do things again. Her response was, “because, Christy, that means you care and you want to keep improving”. I realized that was true – it’s not that I did poorly, I simply wanted to grow.

Sometimes we are lucky enough to get another try. For many of us, state convention will be that second chance. Teams and individuals can use the mistakes made at district competitive events to excel at the state level. Oftentimes we feel the rush of winning a district competition and assume we can do the same again at state. But state is more difficult. It is different. We can’t simply repeat our prior performances and expect to get better results. We must have the desire to do better.

So, what is holding us back from becoming better? For me, it’s procrastination. I always knew I would need to study and practice to win state, but it was always difficult. There was never a quantified amount of time I needed to study, so I did more urgent tasks. Homework had to be turned in. Trap practice had to be attended. Chores had to be done. They weren’t necessarily more important, but they were more urgent. Soon enough, state convention would come and I would realize I hadn’t practiced. I would cram on the bus ride to Lincoln, but state champions aren’t created on a bus ride.

After majorly failing my first state competition, I decided I would work harder next year. To me, there was no point in competing if I wasn’t going to win. So, next year came around and the same feeling of procrastination appeared. But that year, I kicked procrastination out. I set deadlines for myself and gathered accountability partners to hold me to my goals. Every morning, I took a moment to envision myself holding an award on the big screen. It wasn’t magic. I didn’t immediately start winning that year, but it created an approach which helped me keep growing and getting better. Now, I can finish a task and feel confident I gave it my all. It feels good to look back and know I did everything I could. I challenge you to use your past experiences to drive your desire to do better. Set goals and deadlines to stop procrastination. Finally, finish and feel confident that you put in 100%. The only thing holding us back from success is ourselves!

Sincerely yours,

Christy Cooper

State Vice-President

 

One Week, FFA Week

It was a Thursday morning, approximately 6:45. I tossed the sheets off and went ahead and got ready for the day. I peeked out the window of my bedroom and saw some white flakes falling to the ground. It had already been a crazy and fun FFA week and now it was snowing after it was 70 degrees out a couple of days ago. That is nuts! I soon rolled out of the home I was staying at and entered Stuart High School, accompanied by a few snowflakes. The snow had cancelled an early morning appreciation breakfast already, but it did not hinder the spirit of FFA week!

FFA week was an amazing time seeing all the different activities and ideas chapters had come up with. On Monday, I visited Verdigre, where they were setting up for a “Barnyard” in their shop. This allows the students to bring in animals, showcase them to people and teach people about them. On Tuesday I explored Spencer, Nebraska, home of the West Boyd FFA Chapter. Here I witnessed an event of ancient roots as the “Ag Olympics” were taking place. Middle School students had the opportunity to participate in varies spin-off activities from the agriculture industry. Some examples of these were herding cattle into a pen (balloons into a taped off area), unwrapping a tootsie roll with big leather gloves on, roping a calf (not a real one), and riding a peddle tractor with big overalls on! I enjoyed see all the young students light up when they talked about FFA, try their hardest to accomplish the tasks, and cheer on their teammates. Wednesday brought me to O’Neill High School and the O’Neill FFA Chapter. I was delighted to see their tower of donuts they were selling for FFA week. They had also planned a couple different dress-up days such as a “Hat Day” and their “FFA week T-shirt day”. I got to witness the teacher appreciate lunch also. FFA students brought many different foods from soups to deserts and cheesy potatoes to chips and dip. All of this was for the teachers!

For my last visit of the week I visited Stuart! As I mentioned earlier the snow interfered a little bit with a booster appreciate breakfast in the morning, but the FFA spirit was still high! I left Stuart high school being followed by a big snow storm to end out FFA week a day early. It goes to show that it may snow, storm and cancel events for FFA, but the spirit of FFA is something that burns down inside FFA members and creates a desire for hard work and leadership that is hard to find today. I saw a lot of new activities and ideas this past week, and I witnessed how passionate individuals are about agriculture and leadership. These people don’t get extra rewards, but put forth much effort and time to make FFA week successful.

FFA week is a great time for students to showcase their innovation and leadership. This week allows for students to lead their chapter with their own new ideas. Everyone did a great job putting on FFA week. Keep pushing and findings ways to refine your leadership skills. Keep pushing to experience things that make you better as a person. Keep pushing to better yourself. FFA week is one week out of the year. What are you going to the 51 other weeks of the year to better yourself?

Nicholas Taylor

Nebraska FFA State Secretary

Valentines Day: Love It or Lose It

valentines-dayIt is that time of the year again, folks. Teddy bears, chocolate, flowers, puppies, jewelry, the list goes on and on. Boys are begging their moms to take them to Walmart to buy a stuffed animal for the cute girl in their class so they can finally gather the courage to put a note that says “Are we friends?” in that girl’s locker. Girls are swooning at every boy with a cute smile and snapchatting their besties about who is going to get flowers from whom. Then there are those, that HATE Valentine’s Day. They complain about not having a Valentine or having no one to spoil them with chocolate and a new pair of shoes. Then there are some of us who say “Why are there so many people getting flowers for their birthdays today?” only to have a kind soul remind us that it is a holiday. Regardless of what group you fall in, PSA: It is February 14th and it is Valentine’s Day (Friendly reminder: if you are looking for brownie points, you still have a few hours to get some flowers for your mom). This day causes us to think about love: Who do we love? Is there a reason to be in love? When does the chocolate go on clearance? Who decided that roses should be so expensive? Etc.

When we hear the word “love”, we generally think of hearts, romantic couples, and gushy feelings. However, on Valentine’s Day we rarely think about the things that we love such as ice cream and cats. We don’t generally think about all of the things we love doing like raising cattle and reading. We don’t think about the things that we love telling others about such as sports, our families, or our jobs. I could make a long drawn out list of things that I like, and also a list of things that I love, but you didn’t click on this link just to see what I enjoy. We  often get the question, “What are you passionate about?”  which may be followed with an answer along the lines of agriculture, success, family or other similar categories. Many of us have heard that when selecting a career we should choose something that we are passionate about or that we love doing. But what does that actually look like?

For high school seniors, February can be an intimidating month. Scholarships, picking a college, deciding on a major or program of study are all very big decisions and tasks. What happens if you are like me and don’t know what you want to do when you graduate high school? How do you decide? My advice to you will not the be the cliche go with your gut or follow your heart, but instead in the words of 2015-2016 National FFA State President, Taylor McNeel, “Lead with Your Heart”. If you simply follow your heart how will you know when you have reached your destination?

For example, I love Angus cattle (all animals really), building relationships with people, and advocating for agriculture. Had I decided to lead with my heart, I would not have wasted a semester of college pursuing medicine. I would have known that based on the things that I love and have a passion for, I belonged in the agriculture field. Sometimes we face the problem of loving too many things, and that causes decisions to be more difficult. If that is the case, ask yourself, “Do I like it, or do I love it?”. I liked anatomy and physiology class, but I did not love learning the names of all the bones in the hand. Again, a red flag that medicine was not for me. On the other hand,  I like learning about current issues in production agriculture, and  I also love talking to people in the agriculture industry and learning about their role in feeding the world.

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I challenge you to stop and think. Make a list of the things that you like and a list of things that you love. If your planned future occupation or decisions don’t contain things from your love list, maybe it is time to reconsider your choice. Make conscious decisions that will take you to not only a job that you love, but a life that you love.

We all know that flowers from Valentine’s Day eventually die, the chocolate will eventually go back to regular price, and the sappy love notes will become less common. However, choose to think about who and what you love often, not just on February 14th. The joy we feel from pursuing our passions will never fade. Lead with your heart. Design a life that you love.

With Love,

Kaitlyn Hanvey
2016-2017 Nebraska FFA State President

Let’s Talk About Hope

img_5037I opened my eyes the morning of December 19th and quickly shut them again. I rolled to my back feeling every vertebrae in my body protest this movement. I slowly swung my feet to the ground while investigating the bruises found on my shins, knees, and elbows. It was the morning after my first ski attempt. The combination of my clumsiness, dislike of all things cold, and my need for my speed that has earned me my infamous nickname of “Ricky Bobby,” really hindered my skiing abilities the previous day. I searched the dark room to see three of my best friends sleeping peacefully. I knew when they woke up they would be energized and excited knowing we were hitting the slopes yet again today. I swallowed my fear and anxiety and tried not to trip on my swollen ankle on my way to my suitcase. I layered up in every piece of clothing regardless of whether or not it had already been worn. I filed through inspirational quotes stored in my phone trying to find some motivation to help me carry out with the rest of my skiing experience. The one thing I could cling to is that the ski resort closed at 4 pm and it was already 8 am, so that meant the torture could only last eight more hours—tops. What a thought full of hope…

The experienced skiers decided that they wanted to try some blues (medium level slopes) that day, so they left me with my friend Michelle, who had not been skiing since early childhood. We stuck with the greens, the easiest level. We were probably ¼ of the way down the mountain when we found ourselves laying in drift by a sign that had two arrows pointing opposite directions. One arrow was pointing towards a black (the hardest level slopes) path, the other arrow said “Free-Style Course.” While that initially sounds incredibly scary, we decided it had to be easier than the seemingly impossible black slope. The skiers on both sides of us were flying and zooming past us with such expertise and ease we were h o r r i f i e d.

To say we were scared is to lie. In that moment Michelle and I looked at each other with no hope. We had an understanding in one look that this would end badly. We scooted ourselves towards the “Free-Style Course” and found ourselves facing a “Caution” sign. The sign continued to tell us that the path was only to be taken by professionals and that death could likely occur. Something odd happened at this sign. Michelle and I could do nothing but laugh. We found ourselves struggling to stand up and for the first time since we got on the mountain, it wasn’t because of our questionable skiing skills. The more we laughed, the more hopeful we were. That’s when a ski patrol realized Michelle nor I belonged on either of these slopes and hurried over to us. She informed us that we would have to go down a small black hill to get us back down to a green slope. That’s when the grit came in—we knew that the next obstacle surpassed our skiing skills in a painful way. Hopeful tears filled my eyes. I guess the tears could’ve been from the sight of the “small” black hill. Regardless, we skied, or rolled, (it’s debatable) down the rest of the black where we finally saw a green arrow. We took a deep breath, and laughed our way down the rest of the mountain with a decent amount of ease and a whole lot of fun.

 

My mentor, Kayla Schnuelle offers us some perspective on this by writing, “purpose creates the vision but hopeful grit supplies the passion and perseverance to achieve our goals and tackle the barriers.” This is exactly what we experienced on the top of that Copper Mountain. The purpose of our adventure was undoubtedly getting down a mountain in one piece. We both envisioned us skiing into the nearest Starbucks for the much needed hot cup of coffee. We knew that this would take both passion (in the form of enjoyment) and perseverance. The barriers are pretty self-explanatory. Kayla’s idea of hopeful grit is the exact presence of why I am convinced hope is something that is not only beneficial in the lives of leaders but essential.  We all have aspirations, goals, and dreams. I encourage everyone to regularly imagine where they want to see themselves in the next year, the next five years, and the next ten years. It creates hope, which in turn gives us emotional fuel and focused energy to take the steps and create a plan that will get us there God willing.

I also had the opportunity to bounce some ideas about the simple world “hope” off of Dr. Tom Field, the Director of the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program. He says that hope is recognizing that with hard work, sweat, and grit, and a power bigger and greater than ourselves we will reach our potential and have a journey worthy of our hearts and even our lives. The opposite of hope he says is “despair and doubt, it’s giving up and giving in.” He reminds me that hope is the “precursor,” it is the step before the plan.

Kayla and Dr. Field reminded me of another detail. We can’t talk about hope without talking about faith. This doesn’t have to be a faith in God, but I know this is my strongest case for why hope is not only a nice thing to have but a “must” thing to have. Please relate the following lines to whatever fills your own heart. My favorite prayer goes “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.” The counteraction and the struggle against despair, darkness, hatred, injury, and doubt can be summarized in one word and that one word is none other than HOPE. This is not only a Christian principle but rather, a human principle.

Lastly, I need to give thanks to my new friend, Mr. Shawn Koehler, District Sales Manager at Bayer CropScience. He challenged my thinking during a business and industry visit that was scheduled to network on the topic of Nebraska FFA and current agricultural happenings. He believes that there are more powerful things to pursue than hope, like preparation and the ability to inspire. This is an idealism that I plan on applying to a lot of aspects of my life. Because of our incredibly insightful conversation, everything I had ever incorporated with hope was challenged. For that, I couldn’t be more grateful. His ideas on hope and leadership taught me so much about my personal leadership style and ways that I can work towards improvement. Often times, words like “hope,” “faith,” and “belief” are thought as fluffy and feel-good. Indeed, if these words are used lightly they can be dangerous, conceiving, and ineffective.

Serving as a Nebraska FFA state officer has shown me that the most valuable conversations are ones that challenge you. Every person you meet not only knows something that you don’t but has lived another life that you will never be able to live. The potential in this fact is endless and limitless. Thanks for reminding me of this, Mr. Koehler!

I would love to keep the conversation going, if you have any thoughts, ideas, or arguments on the complex word “hope” email me at cheyennegerlach.neffa@gmail.com. I’ll end with this: love to hope, hope to plan, and plan to serve to the best of your abilities.

Cheyenne Gerlach

Nebraska FFA State Vice President

Know The Need

“Here we are.This is Kayamandi.” Elisma, our tour guide finally said as we parked in the middle of a dirt pathway in a tiny South African village.

I looked around and I didn’t know how to feel. Christy and I stared at one another, both apprehensive to get off the bus. We did not know what to expect when we stepped out. The whole experience in South Africa had been beautiful so far. We had seen the amazing wildlife, food, farms, and landscape South Africa had to offer. We did not know if this village would be a side of South Africa we wanted to see. As I looked outside my window I saw tin shacks, a lot of dirt, and very little evidence of many things I would classify as “essential” in my day to day activities.

I remember thinking, “What can I do to help them? What if I find suffering here that I can do nothing to stop?”

As soon as my feet hit the pathways of that tiny South African township, I knew this part of our journey would stick with me for many, many years. I still think it will, but, not for the reasons I had initially expected.

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Alleyway in Kayamandi.

One of the main reasons I was nervous about visiting the village, was that I felt I was participating in a huge invasion of privacy. There were over 70 state officers from across the United States that were a part of this tour. The idea of that many people parading around my hometown of Ord, Nebraska, taking pictures of the houses we lived in or our lifestyle seemed absurd. I wanted to experience the culture of South Africa, but I was not sold that this was the way to do it. I was positive many of the citizens of Kayamandi would dislike our presence and feel that we were insulting them, which I knew was the last thing anyone on that bus wanted.

As I was greeted with hugs from our local guides, my uneasiness was slightly assuaged. As we were split up into groups and began to walk around this village, my reservations almost completely went away. I was not so worried about invading their privacy because it was very evident that there was no such thing as privacy in Kayamandi. They all shared everything, and they did not seem uncomfortable at all. They were excited to showcase their lifestyle. The children were playing and singing with one another in the streets, but stopped and waved at us when we walked by. The women were laughing with one another as they washed clothes by the only community water pump. The men sang together as they began building another shack. A woman invited us into her home and fed us a wonderful meal, and insisted we stayed at least another day. They all waved and said hello, and were always singing or laughing. They all seemed content. Busy and exhausted- but happy.

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State FFA Officers from all over the United States pictured with local guides and a woman who served as our meal hostess while in Kayamandi.

That was when I realized the Kayamandis of the world do not need my help at all. They leaned on one another, and that lifestyle works for them. They did not want my help. They did not see me as a beacon of light, or themselves as a lost boat. They enjoyed their lifestyle. They wanted to share how they lived. They were proud of who they were. There was still suffering in their world, but I think we can all agree there is much suffering going on in ours as well. I had assumed I would go in there and be consumed with despair that I could not help these people. Yet, I never asked myself if they actually seemed to want my help.

There are many examples of this same mentality, especially through philanthropic efforts. While in South Africa, there were many stories we heard of philanthropies building wells or schools that did not suit the communities they were built in. So much money had been wasted on resources that simply were not suited for South African life. They were all built for a different place and a different culture. Many of these misdeeds do not come from bad intentions, but from a lack of intention and an abundance of assumption altogether.

Misjudgments are not only seen in huge budget philanthropies. How many times have we all walked into a scenario thinking we knew exactly what and how to serve others? Service can be a very powerful act, but must be met with an even greater level of intention and understanding. Otherwise, that act of service will always mean way more to whoever “served” than those who were supposed to be the recipient of the service.

Chapter Presidents, how often do you assume you know the needs of your fellow officers?

Officers, how often do you assume you know the needs of your fellow chapter members?

Members, how often do you assume you know the needs of your community?

 

How often do you ask what their needs are? How often do you truly listen to their responses?

 

If you find it is hard for you to answer these questions, try talking to someone about the needs they see and really listening to their stories.

 

I bet that if you started asking, you would be surprised at some of the things you hear. You would probably find that, just like those philanthropies, you have been wasting energy on solutions that are not addressing the correct problem.

In the FFA, we believe in “less need for charity, and more of it when needed.” We work to create a safe food supply to our world. We work to serve our consumers, community, and chapter. Service can be transformational, but only if we act with intention for the people we seek to serve. At your next meeting, choose to listen and observe so that your service is truly powerful for your chapter. Choose to tailor your efforts to those that are in need of it. Choose to serve with intention, instead of assumption.

 

Halle Ramsey                                                                                                                                                       2016-2017 Nebraska FFA State Vice President

 

Dory vs. Phelps

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Most of us, in our childhoods, have seen the Pixar animated movie, Finding Nemo. Now, I’ll admit, I am somewhat of a Nemo fanatic. It is one of my all time favorite movies and Dory is my favorite character. Her zest for life is contagious, plus, she is ridiculously funny. I relate to her on a very personal level when it comes to short-term memory loss and wonder often if I suffer from the same condition. My forgetfulness always seems to escalate this time of year due to a variety of reasons. It is widely recognized as the most wonderful time of year, but when trying to balance studying, planning for Christmas, and extracurricular activities, one begins to speculate if it should alternately be referred to as the most hectic time of the year. One of the most famous scenes from Finding Nemo is when Dory is trying to comfort Marlon and begins singing, “Just Keep Swimming”. This is undoubtedly a catchy tune and a well-intentioned message on Dory’s part. Dory is trying to convince Marlon that any progress, is good progress. And that motto seemed to get the job done. Marlon and Dory kept swimming, and while they had quite a few detours along the way, they did manage to accomplish their goal of finding Nemo and bringing him back home.

Let’s compare the motto of Dory to that of Michael Phelps. Michael Phelps is a gifted swimmer who is the most decorated Olympian in history, with a total of 28 medals. One of Phelps’ most famous quotes is, “I think goals should never be easy, they should force you to work, even if they are uncomfortable at the time.” It is evident that Phelps’ mentality differs quite drastically from that of Dory’s. Phelps demands that goals require hard work, and promises that any goal worth achieving should come with some degree of difficulty. Chances are Dory’s words seem less intimidating to us. Phelps’ words may make us feel uneasy, but that is the central point of what he is trying to convey. Phelps was obviously born with God-given talent, but no one accidentally stumbles upon 28 Olympic medals. Phelps did not just keep swimming, he swam better than everyone else. He pushed himself to be a better version of himself than what he was the day before. After returning from the 2000 Olympic Games at the age of 15 without a medal, Phelps made a goal to return with significant hardware from the 2004 Olympics. He returned from the Olympics in Athens with eight medals (six of them gold) which tied him as the most decorated individual in a single Olympic Games. His journey to success was anything but comfortable, having to endure countless arduous training hours. When he felt like giving up, he thought of his “happy place” which for him was standing on the podium as an Olympic Champion. He would re-center himself, think of his end goal, and swim even faster than he thought was physically possible. Phelps did not swim to simply survive. He came to each practice, worked extremely hard, and swam to thrive.

Maybe you think I am comparing apples to oranges. It is easy to look at someone like Phelps, a gifted Olympic athlete, and think that we cannot do what they do. I am telling you that you are wrong. Sure, not many of us can swim a 200-meter butterfly in 2 minutes, but we are all capable of working our tails off for something that we believe in. I have had the privilege of working with many Nebraska FFA members over the course of the past 8 months, and I have seen with my own eyes the admirable work ethic and innovation that is expressed by them. We, who wear the corduroy jackets, are difference makers, striving to make positive impacts in our communities. To create these impacts it will take a mentality that is more intentional than to “just keep swimming.” We all made goals when we started this semester, now is the time to execute those aspirations. Let’s take it upon ourselves to put forth exemplary effort in the classroom, in the blue jacket, on the court or mat, on the stage, and at home. Let’s go above and beyond what we think we are capable of. When we are tired and feel that we cannot look at another algebra problem, let’s think about our own “happy place” and know that we are capable of anything we set our minds too. Let’s walk in with confidence to take that final we have been dreading, knowing that we did all we could to prepare ourselves for success. As opportunities to accomplish your goals are before you this week, decide who you will be: Dory or Phelps? Will you just keep swimming through the hallways? Or will you rise to the occasion, demand that you be the best you can be, and thrive to unchartered waters? The decision is yours.
Believing in you always,
Halle Ramsey
Nebraska FFA State Vice President

 

 

The Final Countdown

It all comes down to one week. The last, stressful, challenging week in the semester. The one week that can send chills down spines and students running away crying. Finals week. Finals week can be a challenging and stressful time for many students in both college and high school. It is hard to believe that one semester of school has already flown by and Christmas is already upon us. It is always one of my favorite times when I get to listen to Christmas music in the background when studying. That’s beside the point though. When encountering a stressful time, here are 5 things that I do to help ease my mind and help myself be productive.

               1. Create a list. One of my favorite things to do is to check an item off a list. It may be such a little thing, such as take out the trash, but when I get to put a check mark beside it, it feels good! Along with the satisfaction of completing tasks, this helps me prioritize tasks into urgent and non-urgent items. This helps remind me of tasks that I need to accomplish so I do not forget something. My phone is a great place to store my lists since it is always on my person and I can edit it quickly.

               2. Take a step back and think. Often times I get caught up in the things around me and I don’t always focus on the objective. This has happened with writing papers before as I get an idea, evolve and synthesize the idea, but then forget the objective. Then, I have to go back and edit it. Therefore, when I take a step back and think about what I am doing I often times am able to refocus, accomplish more, and able to better direct my thinking. This helps a lot when I am studying. I get up and stretch and get a glass of water and then sit down and refocus again.

               3. Get some sleep. It is truly amazing how sleep helps the body and brain. When taking in information sleep helps the brain memorize and understand. Many times when memorizing drumline music in marching band, our band teacher would tell us when we work on it at home to work on chunks until we knew it and then take a nap because it would help us memorize it better.

               4. Get some grub. Working hard on an empty stomach always makes matters worse. Making sure to get regular meals and drink enough water is crucial to being successful in stressful times. This will help your body with health and make sure mentally you are ready to bring your A-game. Snacks are nice too sometimes. Also, water is amazing. Drinking enough water helps make sure you are awake and ready to go.

               5. Enjoy it! This one may be difficult but having fun always makes things easier to handle! It can be something as simple as being able to listen to Christmas music in the background when studying. Whatever the case may be, enjoy the situation.

               Whether going through something stressful or not, here are some ideas to combat the situation. Have safe and Happy Holidays!

-Nicholas Taylor 2016-2017 Nebraska FFA State Secretary