FFA: Developing Our Children and Our Future
By Ron Pulse, Wyoming State FFA Advisor
There are over 2,000 high school students in Wyoming who belong to the largest high school student organization in the United States: the National FFA Organization. The Wyoming Association is one of 52 states and territories that belong to this national organization.
The FFA is an organization of, by and for students enrolled in agriculture education programs in 20 of the 23 counties in Wyoming. The Wyoming FFA chartered with the National FFA in 1928, the same year the national organization was founded in Kansas City, Mo. FFA in Wyoming has enjoyed a long and rewarding affiliation with an organization whose sole purpose is to develop premier leadership, promote citizenship and career development leading to an occupation in our world of work. We’re in the business of building good citizens that will and do make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others around us.
I have been personally involved with the FFA program continuously since the mid-‘60s. This includes active student membership, through agriculture teacher preparation training, as a high school ag teacher, college professor and as the State FFA Advisor since 1985. Agriculture education is a lifestyle that I have shared with a great many people over the years. I think the thing that makes this affiliation so unique is that it has allowed me to share what I do with my family, or at least it has allowed my family to be a part of my engagement in some activity, conference, fair or other event where they could go along with me. I can’t remember the last time we actually had a vacation that didn’t involve work, but I’m sure my turn will come sometime. I don’t worry about retirement; I worry about what I’m going to do with nothing to do! Maybe I will figure that out sometime.
The FFA teaches us many things, but one of the most valuable things it does is make failure absolutely impossible. Our students do not have failures, they have a setback; they don’t lose, they just haven’t figured out the process or learned enough yet; they don’t know what the word quit means, and they see the unknown as simply the next challenge. The ability to take the lessons that are taught and actually put them to work in a real world setting is an amazing thing – the discovery that algebra and trigonometry actually are necessary on the farm and organic chemistry is really what we learn when we teach about medicines and chemicals and what they do to an animal or to the soil or plant.
Communication is the key to maturity. I’ve never met a student who wouldn’t or couldn’t sit down and carry on an adult conversation with me. Our students know the importance of family, respect for their elders, a work ethic that equals their parents’ and they know the difference between when it’s time to be a kid and time to be an adult. Our students don’t say “don’t pick me,” they say, “let me help you with that.” FFA teaches life lessons in so many different venues, whether it’s in the show ring, the public speaking contest or visiting with one of our Congressmen in their office on Capitol Hill. They are able to stand up in public and champion a cause or explain the importance of their opinion and know that in the end a compromise may be made and that has to be alright with all parties.
The quality of a program, regardless of what it is or where it is, equates to the quality of the person who leads it. Your school system works because it is led by capable leaders, your classroom teachers provide services and experiences for our youngsters that are essential for life, your ag programs are measured by the successes of the students all being prepared by the best teachers available.
Wyoming recently competed at the National FFA Convention in over 20 different competitions and we finished in the top 20 percent or better in every event. Wyoming doesn’t go to participate; we are in it to win it. Our teachers make that happen; our parents provide us support and the raw materials that is the fabric of this country. I’m proud to be associated with all of you that believe in our children and our future.