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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


A Story on Empowering Students to Do What They Do Best


Today’s blog is a Guest Post from Shane Jacques, from the National FFA.

In 1928, thirty-three farm boys gathered in Kansas City, Missouri to charter an organization that, 85 years later, is over 557,000 members strong. Today, the National FFA Organization remains committed to the individual student, providing a path to achievement in premier leadership, personal growth and career success via agricultural education. Now, the organization is expanding the nation's view of "traditional" agriculture, finding new ways to infuse agriculture into the classroom.

The longest-running program in the 85-year history of our organization affords student leaders of the National FFA Organization the opportunity to travel to our nation’s capital each July for our annual State Presidents’ Conference. These students, most of whom are recent high school graduates, were equipped with carefully crafted talking points that made a strong case for continuing the federal funding that is the backbone for so many of our programs at the local level. It was a few years ago that we made a startling realization: we were depriving our state officers the opportunity to use their strengths to best serve our members.

The truth hit us hard. We had been putting so much time and effort into developing the message that we failed to see how ineffectively the message was being delivered. While our students are smart, articulate, and composed, they are hardly qualified to talk to legislators about the appropriation of federal funding. The more we came to terms with reality, the more we realized our students’ expertise lies in their ability to tell their own “FFA story.” After all, who better to speak to the impact of FFA, agricultural education, and career and technical education than the very students who feel the impact? Excited by this “a ha” moment, we began seeking resources to help our students tell their stories.

With timing as precise as a Swiss watch, Tim and his team released Habitudes for Communicators. As long-time partners of National FFA programming, Tim and others from the Growing Leaders team were attending our National In-service in Indianapolis when they gave the FFA World its first taste of the newly debuted images. As we learned more about “Windows and Mirrors,” “The Faded Flag,” and “House on Fire” in the context of effective communication, we couldn’t help but realize that these images and their underlying principles were exactly what we’d been looking for to help our students demonstrate the impact of our organization. As the fight for federal funding for public education gets even tougher, we know that we’re letting the stories of our students and their successes speak for themselves as we work to prepare leaders who will produce food, fuel and fiber for a growing planet.

--Shane Jacques, Education Specialist, National FFA Organization

Thanks for all you do Shane. Proud to partner with you as you cultivate leaders and communicators. You guys do it well.

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A Story on Empowering Students to Do What They Do Best