MEEKER I Seven Meeker FFA students, accompanied by high school sponsor and coach Trina K. Smith, traveled to Louisville, Ky., Oct. 27-31, to compete as an Ag Issues team in the 88th annual National FFA Convention and Expo.
Such teams are charged with identifying a critical matter facing agriculture relevant to their home community, demonstrating an understanding of the matter from all sides, researching the issue with principal parties involved, and increasing awareness about the issue through local, regional and possibly higher-level presentations.
The Meeker group did go higher, all the way to national competition.
The Meeker team’s topic was “Should Federally Protected Wild Horses Be Permanently Removed from Public Lands [Bureau of Land Management] in Rio Blanco County?” The team earned the right to be Colorado’s entry at the national level by winning the state career development event in May at Colorado State University.
“The team felt the topic seemed very pertinent to our community as it involves the Bureau of Land Management, local ranchers, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and wild horse advocates, all with varying views on how wild horses in the West Douglas Creek Herd Area should be managed,” coach Smith said.
The group competed in the preliminary round Oct. 27 against 37 other state champion teams. They won their pool and advanced to the semi-finals involving the top 16 teams. They came home with a National Silver Emblem, awarded to only 12 other teams. Team members also received gifts and were honored at the banquet.
The Ag Issues contest is an FFA Career Development Event sponsored by Elanco Health, a leader in developing products and services that enhance animal health, wellness and performance. Through the convention theme, ”Amplify—Boost Your Impact!” FFA members were urged to excel in their homes, their lives and their dreams through leadership, service and career success.
They attended the largest U.S. Agricultural career expo networked with agricultural colleges and universities, numerous workshops and presentations.
FFA convention participants listened to national FFA officers and keynote speakers including Dr. Rick Rigsby, Amberly Snyder and Brett Montague.
Rigsby is a motivational speaker, corporate coach, and author of books and blogs. He encourages audience members to become great people who do great things. He’s written “Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout” about the timeless common-sense wisdom he learned from his father.
Snyder is a paraplegic rodeo competitor. Before her accident, she was the 2009 Finals and World All-Around Cowgirl for the National Little Britches Association as well as a former Utah State FFA president. She now rodeos professionally and gives workshops and motivational speeches.
Montague is a writer, director, comedian and father who lectures on how kids and grown-ups, working together, can change the world for the better. He and his wife run a summer experiential program called GO! Camp. He is also the creator of “Kid President,” the YouTube sensation.
The group visited Churchill Downs and watched horses owned by Thoroughbred Keen Ice’s stable (Keen Ice beat American Pharoah in the Aug. 29 Travers Stake, but came in fourth, 12 ½ lengths back, to the Triple Crown winner in the Oct. 31 Breeder’s Cup Classic.)
The members said they learned a lot about the community of workers it takes behind the scenes and off the track to support the races and the horses. They also learned about the money invested in the race horse industry.
“(The convention) inspired us to excel and motivate others to become part of FFA,” team member Lori Ann Klinglesmith said. “We learned how truly important the FFA organization is to the youth of this nation.”
The convention was attended by 65,173 members from 7,757 local chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.
National FFA operates under a federal charter granted by the 81st United States Congress (1949-1950) and it is an integral part of public instruction in agriculture. The U.S. Department of Education provides leadership and helps set direction for FFA as a service to state and local agricultural education programs.
For more, visit the National FFA Organization online at www.ffa.org.