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The Country Today

Sally Albers - Vice President
Sauk Prairie FFA Chapter - Section 6
salbers@wisconsinffa.org
What is your Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE)?
Swine Production Entrepreneurship and Beef Production Placement
What is your favorite Agricultural Education Class?
Leadership and Group Dynamics
What is your favorite FFA Activity?
Speaking Contests and Tractor Pull Concession Stands
What is your favorite hobby or hobbies?
Softball
What is your favorite Color?
Blue and orange
What college will you be attending and what is your major?
UW-River Falls, Agricultural Education
Stand Out
Apr. 07, 2015
I’m sure many of you were tuned into the NCAA National Championship game last night, along with countless others. I know I personally have enjoyed watching March Madness and seeing teams pull of some success that many did not think possible, and also watch teams fight their hardest even when a win seems highly unlikely. Last night I had the opportunity to attend the game, and I watched the Badgers put up a good fight. Looking back it would be easy to say that the Badgers inspired me in some way by the way they played. But the more I think about it, I am more inspired by something that Coach Bo Ryan said after the game.

When asked if it would be hard to see some of his players graduate this year, he said it would be. He said that some teams recruit athletes for a year or two, but his program starts them from the ground up. He sees them grow as individuals, a team, and athletes. Because he is able to see this growth, seeing them go is harder for him than it is for some other coaches.
Now I know you’re probably thinking, “Cute, sentimental…but who cares?” This is where the knowledge bomb comes in. What Bo Ryan is talking about, is just like our Ag Teachers. Think about going through school. You have different teachers for different subjects that come in and out of your life through the passing of the years. But through it all, your Ag teacher is there. They get to see you grow as a person, a student, and a leader. And what’s even better is that many Ag teachers get to see us after we graduate too.

They are an integral part of the growth we have, just as Bo Ryan plays a major role in the lives of his students. Now here’s where the players come in again. Before the interview that Bo had, his players had just done something great. They had made it to the Championship Game, a feat few teams ever accomplish. They played their hearts out against many opponents, and put up good fights, sometimes even defying the odds. If they had simply given up, or played half-heartedly expecting to lose like the media was telling them, the season would have been very different.

If they had done this, it would have been much easier for Bo to see them go. But what means more, being missed, or simply being another one of the masses? Just like Bo, our Ag teachers have hundreds of students that they will work with in their careers, but it is up to you if you want to simply be just another one of the many, or if you want to be someone that your Ag teacher will truly miss.

This means we have to work hard and defy the odds, just like the Badgers did this season. We need to show that we have what it takes to learn, grow, and succeed, so that when we look back at our time in FFA, our Ag teachers can say that we were unique, and hard to see go. It’s up to us, are you going to decide to be one of the masses, or one that will be missed?

“It takes nothing to join the crowd. It takes everything to stand alone.” ~Hans Hansen

~Sally
Welcoming
Mar. 25, 2015
In the last week I’ve had the opportunity to attend the Adams-Friendship FFA banquet, the Lodi FFA banquet, and the Oakfield FFA banquet. It is always so exciting to be part of the celebration for the chapter, and it’s amazing to see all of the support that FFA members have. Last night at the Oakfield FFA banquet, I had the opportunity to sit next to the Oakfield high school principal and her three year old son Quinton. He was a very energetic, but also reminded me of a piece of FFA that I had let slip my mind for far too long.

As the banquet was starting there was a lot of buzz in the room, from anxious FFA members, to interested supporters. When it came time for opening ceremonies the gym became very quiet. At the end of opening ceremonies, when the president asked, “FFA members why are we here?” I stood with several other members and recited those words so many of us know, “To practice brotherhood, honor agricultural opportunities and responsibilities, and develop those qualities of leadership, which an FFA member should possess.” This is so second nature to many of us that I didn’t think much of it, but as I sat down I realized how foreign it seems to an outsider when Quinton asked me, “Why did you all just stand and say that?”

I had to think for a moment about me answer, because it was hard to come up with the words to explain this tradition to a curious three year old. In high school, I often had people from the community ask me why FFA was so great. A common response to this question was that it offered a place for anyone to fit in. That is something that I appreciate, the ability to make anyone feel at home in the organization.

But despite what I thought about how we always seemed to welcome anyone and everyone with arms wide open, I realized that this tradition was confusing to someone on the outside looking in, and made them feel left out. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this is a bad tradition or anything like that, this situation just opened my eyes to what it looks like in the eyes of a three year old. I explained to Quinton that it was something we did at FFA meetings just like the beginning of his favorite TV shows were the same every time.

This seemed to make sense to him, so he continued on enjoying the night by coloring and asking questions. But this made me think, if we took the time to explain what we were doing to those around us, would they be more interested? Would they want to join too? So I encourage you to invite people from the outside to FFA meetings and banquets. But once they are there, make sure you explain what’s going on to them, so they don’t feel left out, and instead feel welcome and a part of something special.

“True beauty is welcoming someone outside your circle of friends into your circle.” ~Anonymous

~Sally
Risk
Mar. 18, 2015
This last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the 9th Street Revue put on by the show choir groups at my high school. This event has always been fun because you not only get to see all of the talent the students have, but you also get some humor from the story line they write. This year they emphasized a poem that all of the present and past students in the music department have learned to live by. It is called “Risk” and goes like this,

“To laugh is to risk appearing a fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out for another is to risk involvement.
To place your dreams before the crowd is to risk ridicule.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To go forward in the face of overwhelming odds is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk
nothing.
One may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they cannot learn, feel, change,
grow, or love.
Chained by ones certitudes they are a slave.
One has forfeited their freedom.
Only a person who takes risks is free.”

As a past member of the Sauk Prairie Music Department, this quote has always meant a lot to me, but last night I was reminded how much of an impact it really has had.

Last night I was lucky to be able to speak at my home chapter’s banquet. The banquet was always a special time of year, filled with lots of recognition and memories. With the quote fresh in my mind from the past weekend, I realized the amount of risk FFA members take everyday. Each of us has taken a risk just by joining this organization. We didn’t know what the outcome might be, but we decided to join anyways. We continue to take risks when we go to sign up for a chapter event, leadership conference, speaking contests career development events, and so much more. With each of these, we risk failing, but we take the risk anyways.

Sometimes when we take these risks we receive great rewards. The feeling of winning a speaking contest, being elected as an officer, or having fun at a chapter activity makes up for all of the nerves that come in taking the risk. But the outcomes are not always positive. Sometimes these risks don’t end the way we want. Sometimes they result in heartbreak and disappointment.

The interesting thing about these risks is that even though we may have felt the heartbreak and disappointment, we continue to take them. We continue to believe that the reward is worth the risk, and we continue to take more every day. You see we as FFA members follow this poem whether we know it or not. We know that taking risks is worth it because we are striving to be something, rather than nothing. We don’t want to stay good, we want to take the risks necessary to make us great.

As FFA members, we are the future leaders, and we can only claim this because we are willing to take risks. So don’t sit back just because you’re afraid of suffering and sorrow, make something of each day. We can learn, feel, change, grow, and love if we risk it all. So my question for you is, are you gonna risk it?

“Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.” ~Denis Waitley

~Sally
Love FFA Every Day
Mar. 04, 2015
What an awesome FFA Week we had! There is no greater feeling than scrolling through your newsfeed on Facebook and having every single post be about FFA Week! I want to thank you all for your hard work in making this year’s FFA Week a success. Doing these simple actions of changing our profile pictures to a picture of us in Official Dress, or posting about our FFAmily helps to advocate for our organization and the agriculture industry. And Wisconsin FFA I want to congratulate you on being outstanding Agvocates this past week!

As great as our Agvocacy was last week, I can’t help but think about what happens now. We blew up social media with our #WIFFA and #FFAweek, but now that the week is over what will people outside of the organization think? Will they think that we all just stop caring about FFA after the week is over? Will they think that FFA only lasts during FFA week rather than the entire year? Will they think that we only post about FFA during FFA week because that’s the only “cool” time to be involved? These questions may sound silly, but I have honestly been asked each and every one of them. So how can we change these stereotypes?

While it may be extreme to post about FFA every single day, like we do during FFA week, it’s not too extreme to post once a week. By posting all throughout the year we can show the world that we care about FFA everyday not just February 21st to 28th. We can show the world that it’s cool to be in FFA all year long! There’s a quote I heard about Valentine's day, “If you love them, you’ll treat them special every day, not once out of 365 days.” What if we think about that quote in terms of FFA, “If you love FFA, you’ll treat it special every week, not one out of 52 weeks.” Woah. It’s mind boggling to put it that way, isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but that sure encourages me to start agvocating more often.

So how can we do it? The easiest way is to post something every week. It doesn’t have to be your own post that you come up with, it can be as easy as sharing something from your sectional page, the Wisconsin FFA page, or even the National FFA page. Whatever it may be, make it happen! Pictures are great! What if you shared a picture of yourself every time you are wearing Official Dress. That may not seem like much, but if you start to add it up, that can be a lot of pictures! Start small. Don’t overwhelm yourself too much, just post as much as you can handle. Remember the Wisconsin FFA theme this year, “Target Success. Take Action.”? Target Success: set a social media goal for yourself to prove that you are an agvocate all year round, not just one out of 52 weeks. Take Action: Follow through with your goal, so that we can continue to spread the importance and value of FFA to all of our friends on Facebook! All right, are you ready to do it? Here’s your start…3…2…1…GO!

“When you feel like giving up, stop and remember why you started.” ~Anonymous

~Sally
Kick Off!
Feb. 22, 2015
What an amazing weekend we had to kick off FFA Week at the Farm Forum Conference! This was a great time for many of us to learn all about the agriculture industry and how we can be better advocates for the industry. Why was this a great way to kick off FFA Week you may ask? Well let me tell you! FFA Week is our time to tell the world what FFA is all about. For some of us, this looks like doing radio advertisements, and writing articles to our local newspapers. For others this may mean posting on social media (make sure you use #WIFFA), and doing activities at your schools.

Whatever route you are taking to promote the week, make sure you are positively promoting the organization we are all proud of! At the conference this weekend we learned a lot about using social media to our advantage. One way we can showcase FFA and the agricultural industry is by using our resources. National FFA has created a social media challenge to help us with this. Each day they have selected a topic we should all post about. Pictures are great, but if you don’t have a picture that’s ok too, you can just write a simple post highlighting the topic. The topics are:

Sunday: Highlight your SAE
Monday: Highlight your FFAmily
Tuesday: Highlight you favorite CDE
Wednesday: #FFAShirtWednesday
Thursday: Highlight your greatest FFA Achievement
Friday: Official Dress Day
Saturday: Selfies with your Advisor!

Make sure when you post these to use #WIFFA and #FFAweek! I also encourage everyone to change our profile pictures to pictures of us wearing Official Dress. Each of these posts and suggestions may seem small, but together we can make a big impact by spreading the word about FFA and telling our stories! Let’s make this the best FFA week yet!

“Small gestures can have a big impact.” ~Julianna Margulies

~Sally
Congratulations!
Feb. 17, 2015
With all of this talk of advocacy and representing our organization well the past few weeks, I think it’s time to congratulate a few individuals who are doing everything they can to advocate for agriculture and represent the emblem with pride! I had a ton of fun at speaking contests, where I had the opportunity to hang out with many of you and talk to you about the nerves before the contests began, the relief when you were finished, and for a few of you, the excitement of hearing your name called as one of the top individuals! Just being able to compete in a speaking contest is a huge feat that not many people would be comfortable doing, so congratulations to everyone who competed in speaking contests the past few weeks, and good luck to the following individuals as you compete at Sectional Speaking in Sauk Prairie on March 10th!


Results From District 16:

Creed Speaking
1. Megan Van Ruisivyk-Waupun
2. Ashley Erdmann-Randolph Cambria-Friesland

Job Interview
1. Hannah Olsen-Berlin
2. Abigail Henken-Waupun

Prepared Speaking
1. Dylan Pokorny-Waupun
2. Jessica Lins-Columbus

Extemporaneous Speaking
1. Hazel Reck-Berlin
2. Cameron Moll-Ranolph Cambria-Friesland

Discussion Meet
1. Emily Schwanke-Waupun
2. Levi Hagen-Markesan

Quiz Bowl
1. Randolph Cambria-Friesland
2. Waupun B

Parliamentary Procedure
1. Markesan


Results From District 17:

Creed Speaking
1. Ashley Hagenow-Rio
2. Daniel Kaehn-Tri-County

Job Interview
1. Tanner Hall-Portage
2. Leah Glunn Montello

Prepared Speaking
1. Hannah Taylor-Poynette
2. Emily Taylor-Poynette

Extemporaneous Speaking
1. Allison Foster-Montello
2. Faith Bork-Adams Friendship

Discussion Meet
1. Brenna Bays-Adams Friendship
2. Zach Olson-Adams Friendship

Quiz Bowl
1. Adams Friendship 2
2. Adams Friendship 1

Parliamentary Procedure
1. Adams Friendship
2. Portage


Results From District 18:

Creed Speaking
1. Kourtney Salverson-Mauston
2. Sarah Albers-Sauk Prairie

Job Interview
1. Amber Bellows-Mauston
2. Allison Reinecke-Reedsburg

Prepared Speaking
1. Kori Beisbier-Reedsburg

Extemporaneous Speaking
1. Jared Mack-Sauk Prairie
2. Anthony Bermeo-Mauston
Discussion Meet
1. Craig Dallman-Mauston
2. Sam Peetz-Sauk Prairie

Quiz Bowl
1. Lodi
2. Reedsburg 2

Parliamentary Procedure
1. Baraboo
2. Sauk Prairie


I can’t wait to see all of you on March 10th!

“Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

~Sally
It's about the Emblem
Feb. 13, 2015
Yesterday my teammates and I had the opportunity to meet with several of the senators and representatives from around the state. We went to these legislators in groups with other Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) State Officers in honor of Career and Technical Education (CTE) month. It was a fun-filled day with several opportunities to not only advocate for FFA, but all CTEs.

One of the unique parts of our organization is that we are a piece of a three-circle model. That three-circle model is the backbone of agricultural education. The three circles are Classroom learning, Supervised Agricultural Experience, and FFA. Because of this model, talking to legislators about the benefits of Agricultural Education and FFA is easy. We help develop well-rounded individuals because we take what we learn in the classroom and apply it through hands-on projects and leadership skills.

Not only do we see the benefits of our organization, but others do as well. The legislators that I had the opportunity to meet with were very impressed by our organization and thought very highly of the individuals involved in FFA. This is something for us to be proud of; wearing our blue jackets means something.

But because of that meaning, we have some big shoes to fill. We need to exemplify what it means to be an FFA member. We need to remember to be good citizens, giving back when possible, and helping others in need. We need to remember those words we here so often during FFA meetings and conventions, “To practice brotherhood, honor agricultural opportunities and responsibilities, and develop those qualities of leadership, which an FFA member should possess.” That line tells us exactly what we need to do.

We need to aware of those around us and support them when we can. We need to honor agriculture by advocating for it and continuing to help move it forward. We need to be leaders. These are not to be taken lightly. When others think of FFA this is what they think of, so if we don’t hold these to be true, we are not only changing others’ views of ourselves, but of our entire organization.

“It’s not about the name on the front of our jackets, it’s about the emblem on the back.” ~Anonymous

~Sally
We Are FFA
Feb. 10, 2015
This past weekend my teammates and I had the opportunity to attend the Wisconsin FFA Alumni Convention. The theme for the convention was “Working as a Team in 2015.” I truly enjoyed this theme because it showed the unity the Alumni has. Everyone in the Alumni comes together to support FFA members, and one concept that was discussed a lot was that “We are FFA.” This includes The National FFA Organization, the FFA Alumni and the FFA Foundation, all three branches coming together as one team. We often look at each of these entities as separate, but working together, when really we should be looking at them all as one big dream team. It’s almost like the Agricultural Education three circle model of Classroom Learning, Supervised Agricultural Experience, and FFA; without one of the three the rest are not possible. Without the Alumni and the Foundation we cannot exist to the level that we do now.

We are a team. And being a teammate means accepting help and offering help when we can. Our FFA Alumni and FFA Foundation help us out quite often, from making trips more affordable, to help us with our Supervised Agricultural Experiences. They really know what it’s like to be a team. But that means we have to pull our own weight on the team as well. The next time we are asked to help with a concession stand or a thank you card, make sure to help because that’s our role on the team.

This also means that our time never really ends. For many of us, the idea of taking off our blue jackets for the last time is very sad. We have so many memories and so much growth in those jackets. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, because even though the day will come when we have to take off the jacket, we have an opportunity to still be a part of this life-changing organization. And that light comes in the Alumni and Foundation. When we are done wearing the jacket we can trade it in for a blue blazer, and continue to support FFA members with our time and financial support.

We have been supported in our time as FFA members, and in order to ensure that future generations have the same opportunities we have, we need to pay it forward by joining the FFA Alumni, and when possible supporting the FFA Foundation. And when thinking about this change in our role in FFA, I think about some of the members of my local Alumni chapter.

At the beginning of my FFA career I had several upperclassmen role models that represented what the FFA is all about to me. They not only took advantage of several opportunities that our Alumni offered, but they also gave back by helping out at Alumni concession stands and selling Alumni raffle tickets. This past weekend I saw several of these role models attending the Alumni Convention. It was a great reminder to me that even though our time as FFA members comes to an end, we can still be agricultural advocates and support other FFA members. They are giving back to the FFA to make sure that current and future members can be the role models they were in their time as FFA members.

“We Are FFA,” we are one organization of agriculture and agricultural education advocates. We must make sure that we continue this tradition and ensure that future FFA members have the same FFA that we all know and love. So pay it forward, be a team, and love FFA.

“Allow others to support you and in turn you support them too.” ~Anonymous

~Sally
Be an Agvocate!
Jan. 28, 2015
A wise man once said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” If you've ever seen the movie The Lorax you may remember hearing these words. Now in the movie there is a boy named Ted who is learning about trees by talking to the Once-ler. The Once-ler was a business man who started his business chopping down Truffula trees. But the Lorax tried to stop him, telling him that the trees were too precious to be chopped down. At first the Once-ler listened, only cutting down the trees in a sustainable manner. But soon his greedy relatives convince him to cut more and more trees down until the last tree was cut down with only one Truffula seed left. The Once-ler gives the seed to Ted, says that quote, and leaves it up to him to plant the last seed and save the Truffula trees, please the Lorax, and restore nature to what it was supposed to be.

I’m sure many of you are now thinking, “That’s a great Dr. Seuss fairy-tale, but why does that matter.” And if we were to trade places I would probably be thinking the same thing, but I’ll tell you why. It is our job as FFA members and agricultural advocates to care a whole awful lot like the Once-ler tells us. This week is the first speaking contest for Section 6 and while this is a great competition for us to polish up our speaking skills, this is also a chance for us all to advocate for agriculture.

Just like Ted cared a lot about Truffula trees and saving nature, we also have to care a lot about the agriculture industry and make sure that people know what it really is. We all have the job to be Agvocates. Trust me that wasn't a spelling mistake; that word represents advocating for agriculture. And what better way to do it than through our speaking contests. Just because we are speaking at an FFA contest, doesn't mean that everyone at the contest knows a lot about agriculture.

In many cases the judges chosen for speaking contests are English teachers and other community members that may know very little about our great industry. This is the perfect opportunity for us to show how much we care and make a difference in their lives. Just think, you’re speech could open their eyes to a new side of the agriculture industry they were not aware of.

Take every opportunity you have to be an Agvocate. Show the world that FFA members care a whole awful lot. Show the world that we will not let things stay the same or get worse; we will always push to make sure we are always improving and always getting better.

“Be bold enough to use your voice, brave enough to listen to your heart, and strong enough to live the life you've always imagined.” ~Anonymous

~Sally
Service=Greatness
Jan. 19, 2015
I’m sure we have all heard or read at least once the FFA motto, “Learning to do, Doing to learn, Earning to live, Living to serve.” While every piece of our motto is important, we often put a lot of emphasis on “Living to serve.” Putting others first is the FFA way. In our chapters we give back to our communities in any way we can. Whether we give back through food drives, highway clean-ups, or whatever it might be, what really matters is the impact we are having on others.

Robert Ingersoll once said, “We rise by lifting others.” As leaders it is our job to give to those around us. This isn’t just materialistic; we can give by helping others, and simply being kind. And as leaders it is important to remember to lead by example. If we serve others, we have the opportunity to encourage those around us to also serve.

It doesn’t take much to serve. We often look at different opportunities we can get involved in and think about the skills necessary for these opportunities, but service is different. You don’t have to be good at math to serve. You don’t have to be a star athlete to serve. All you need is a big heart that is ready to reach out and serve others.

One great example of this is Martin Luther King Jr. Today is a day to remember him and all that he did in his life. Martin Luther King Jr. served those around him every single day. We don’t remember him for his Bachelor of Divinity degree. We don’t remember him for the sports he played as a child. What we remember Martin Luther King Jr. for are all of the peaceful protests he lead in order to serve those around him, and the “I have a Dream” speech he gave in order to serve. His service is what we remember him for. And it is his service that makes Martin Luther King Jr. great.

“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics to serve. You only need a hear full of grace. A soul generated by love.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.

~Sally
Be a Good Cheerleader!
Jan. 14, 2015
Have you ever watched a movie that portrayed cheerleaders as an unnecessary part of a sporting event? I know I’ve seen several movies and TV shows like this, and often it’s easy to believe it. However despite this portrayal, last night I was proved otherwise.


I decided to go watch a boys varsity basketball game at my high school. It was a big game because we were ranked number one in our conference and the team we were playing was ranked number two. During the first half we were rocking it. Swishing threes, making spectacular post plays, and maintaining a strong defense. The student section was loud and proud cheering the boys on and giving them some extra energy to keep it up.


Going into halftime we were still doing well, and the boys headed to the locker room with smiles on their faces. They came back out of the locker room looking ready to go. And that’s when it all started to change.


As the third quarter started, the boys were starting to struggle with their shooting. The shots just weren’t falling like they were in the first half. Things weren’t terrible, they just needed to keep their heads up. But they weren’t getting much help.


The loud and energized student section from the first half, was no longer cheering them on the way they needed. They had fallen silent, as if they would only cheer if their team was doing well. Not only had the players lost their spark, but they had also lost their support.


The third quarter ended and the gap had widened, but during the fourth quarter the student section started coming a little bit more alive. But it was too late. The players had felt abandoned and the student section didn’t start to support them again until they started making a few more plays, making it hard for them to maintain energy and excitement. In the end, the boys lost the game, and I truly believe that it had a lot to do with the silent third quarter.


We often see that it is easy to cheer for someone who is winning, but when support is needed most is when we aren’t doing so well. It is our jobs to help cheer on those around us not just when they’re on top of the world, but when they’re slipping and falling as well. That is when the support matters most. That is when the cheerleaders really have a purpose. They are there to cheer us on when we’re successful, but more importantly they’re there to keep us energized when we’re not. We need to be good cheerleaders for those around us to help each other reach the top.


“A friend will joyfully sing with you when you are on the mountain top, and silently walk beside you through the valley.” ~Anonymous


~Sally
Halftim= Game Plan
Jan. 06, 2015
With a new year, most of us are thinking about New Year’s Resolutions and things we want to change and do better this year. This is happening not only in our personal lives, but in our lives as leaders. With this New Year we have the opportunity to think about those we are serving and improving our service. One great way to improve our service is by focusing on our chapters. There are many ways to continue to set and reach new goals for our chapters from new activities to simply inviting more people to events. But it is sometimes hard to find ways to make this improvement possible.

Have no fear Wisconsin FFA is here to help us all make this possible with our Halftime Conference! This is a chance for two leaders from each chapter to find ways to refuel for the rest of the year and discuss new ideas to bring back and help our chapters improve. And to help make things easier, leaders from across the state can converse about what their chapters are up to and ways to help each other get better and execute new ideas.

This means that these two selected individuals have a big responsibility to take the new ideas back to their chapters. And as chapter members it is our responsibility to ask them questions about the conference, so we can all feel refueled and energized to make the rest of the year the best it can be.

There is one catch. This conference gives us lots of new ideas and energy, but these ideas are nothing unless we do something. Ideas can’t do anything unless we turn these ideas into action. The only way we can all make this year the best one yet is by coming up with new ideas, setting goals, and taking action to reach those goals in order to make our chapters and ourselves better. This may take a lot of work from all of us, but it will definitely be worth it in the end. Don't let the conference go to waste, do something about it to make us all better.

“If you really want to do something, you will find a way. If you don’t you’ll find an excuse.” ~Jim Rohn

~Sally
The Gift of Giving
Dec. 31, 2014
Wow this year has really been flying by, and now the holidays seem to be speeding it up even more! And speaking of the holidays, I hope you all had a wonderful time spent with family and friends. I was so blessed to have the opportunity to spend time with my family and have a lot of fun together.

One part of the holidays that has really stood out in my mind though occurred while we were opening presents. One of my cousins who is about one and a half was getting lots of presents, some that were big, some that were small. But that wasn’t the part that stood out in my mind. The part that was so fun to watch was that every time she got a present she would get the biggest smile and gasp like just seeing that present even thought she had no idea what might be inside, was the greatest thing she could ever receive. And then she would open the gift, and no matter what she might find inside, she always said, “wow!” with a big grin and clapped.

Seeing her light up with the gifts just made everyone want to give her more, because her joy made us all feel good inside. And with that joy she reminded my entire family, myself included, what the holidays and giving are all about.

We often get so caught up in the materialistic side of the holidays that we miss the point. We get so focused on what gifts we might be getting that we forget that the fun part is in giving gifts not receiving them. And it doesn’t have to be the best gift. Sometimes the gifts that are the most fun to give are those that involve time.

One of my relative’s favorite gifts that he’s ever received was a homemade gift certificate for a day of family time spent watching movies and playing games. Gifts that involve spending time together are often the most meaningful ones you can give. At the end of the day the most important part of the holidays is being able to spend time together and give to others. It’s about seeing the joy on the faces of the ones we love.

I hope that each of us don’t just let the gift of giving fade away with the holidays. We can give anytime of the year, because joy isn’t just important around the holidays, it’s important all year round.

“For it is in giving that we receive.” ~St. Francis of Assisi

~Sally
Be "Happy"
Dec. 15, 2014
Music has this uncanny ability to move people in ways that very few will ever understand. When we hear those minor chords, minor keys, and minor movements, it invokes in us anger and sorrow. Think of the song “Say Something” by a Great Big World. That song makes us feel very sad and down in the dumps, but now think about the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. It has the opposite effect on us making us feel joy and upbeat. These songs have a major effect on us, but people can do the same thing.

When we are around someone who is upbeat, they have a similar effect on us as hearing the song “Happy.” And the same goes for someone who’s in a bad mood. When we’re around them we also seem to be in a bad mood, just like listening to “Say Something.” So if that’s the effect people have on us, what effect do we have on them?

If someone is in a bad mood, we have the ability to change their mood by being upbeat or we can feed into their mood by being crabby. Which do you want to do? I encourage all of us to be like “Happy” and always to improve the moods of those around us.

We want to make a positive impact, and this can start out as simple as smiling and saying hi to someone. It can be that easy to impact someone’s day. So let’s do it. We can start small by smiling and saying hi. But where can we go from there?

When we get to lunch we can ask the one student who sits by themselves everyday to come sit by us. Or we can start a conversation with someone we’ve never talked to before. Whatever impact we want to make is up to us, but I challenge each of us to make a small impact this week, and see how we can be the song “Happy” for someone.

“Music can change lives. Whether you are having a good or bad day, the power of music can change one’s mood.” ~Jess Bowen

~ Sally
Speak Up!
Dec. 04, 2014
It’s getting to be that time of year again...and by that I don’t mean it’s almost the holidays, or winter, or even New Year’s, I mean it’s time to start thinking about speaking contests! I’m sure those eight letter words just made your stomach drop a little bit, but reach down pick your stomach back up and hear me out. We all find public speaking a little nerve racking, but this is our chance to improve our speaking skills and cure the nerves.

We've all seen those movies where a student gets up in front of class to give a speech and is shaking from the nerves. The cool thing about FFA speaking contests is that you don’t have to give your speech in front of an entire classroom filled with your teacher and peers. All you have to do is present to a small group of judges, who might I add are super nice! And there are so many options for the types of speeches we can give.

Of course there’s the traditional prepared speaking. This contest is exactly what it sounds like, you prepare a speech, memorize it, and present it to the judges. The nice thing is, this isn't like your everyday English speech, this speech can be about anything related to agriculture. You get to pick the topic and what you want to say. You just need to remember to keep your speech between six and eight minutes long.

Now for those of us who are not very good at memorizing things there is the extemporaneous speaking contest. This contest is a little different in that you don’t know what you’re speech will be about until you get to the contest. When it’s your turn to start you will be taken to a quiet area where you will pick the topic for your speech out of a hat and have thirty minutes to plan out your speech. You get to use note cards while presenting your four to six minute speech. After you present there will be five minutes for the judges to ask you questions.

If you’re a freshman you might want to consider participating in the creed speaking contest. All you have to do is memorize the FFA creed and recite it in front of the judges. After you recite the creed the judges will ask you question relating to the creed. It’s a great contest to get you started in the FFA!

If you’re more of a team player, you might want check out the parliamentary procedure contest. This is a contest where you get to run a mock meeting with your teammates following Robert’s Rules of Order. It’s a lot of fun and can help your chapter’s meetings run more smoothly.

Speaking of team players if you’re a middle schooler you can try out the quiz bowl contest. This a trivia contest based on your knowledge of the FFA. And if you like quiz bowl you can always try the high school quiz bowl contest based on your knowledge of the agriculture industry!

If you want something that you will for sure have to use someday, you should check out the job interview contest. This contest is just like a regular job interview except in the end you won’t get a job. This is also great practice for the job interview you will eventually have!

Now if you’re really not feeling this whole public speaking thing there is one last contest that might interest you, the discussion meet. For this contest you don’t give any sort of speech and you’re not on a team, instead you’re having a discussion about an agricultural topic with other competitors. This not only works on your speaking skills, but it also helps you convey ideas with others and develop your ability to hold a discussion.

As you’re thinking about these contest, don’t let the fear of messing up keep you from participating. This is the best opportunity to learn how to speak in front of people, so that someday when you have to you won’t make any major mistakes. Dale Carnegie once said, “There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.” There will always be room for improvement, but the only way to improve is to try. So go ahead and try one of these speaking contests today!

“Almost every single person will need to speak in public at some point in their lives...You might need to work in sales and speak to groups of people to sell product, you might need to give a presentation at a business meeting, you might have to give a speech at your daughter’s wedding. No matter who you are it is almost 100% certain you will need to give a speech at some point in your life.” ~ Anonymous

~Sally
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