Friday, October 9, 2015

Perspective is Everything

“They are perfect . . . he does not deserve to be an officer . . . I want to be just like them . . . I could do such a better job than them . . . their job is so easy, anyone could do it,” are phrases that we as a team of seven have heard since the day we were elected. Not going to lie when I was in high school, sometimes I had a few of these phrases cross my mind too. I mean, sure I could do their job, isn’t that why I ran to be an officer in the first place?
However, my thoughts and the thoughts of others were, and still are, slightly askew. My image of state office was like looking at a puzzle with missing pieces, but now that I sit in the same office chairs as those I once judged, I know how far from easy state office can be. Having the opportunity to serve FFA members and agricultural education students has already made me see the puzzle with more and more pieces every day.
For me learning how to change my perspective has been extremely challenging. By no means did I change my thinking about state office the first week we were elected. I have met success and failure while trying to change my personal perspective, but the instance that left the greatest impact on me happened weeks ago. I just realized the change here recently.
As state officers, we devote a year of service to an organization that we are undoubtedly passionate about. Normally, this deferment of school takes place between high school and college, but for me this is in the middle of my college career. During summer training and even the Great Indiana State Fair, I found this transition easy. However, after school started up is when it hit me the hardest.
I was stuck in a rut so to speak, because I missed being at Purdue with all my friends and studying to enter the best profession for me. I was having an amazing time serving Indiana FFA, but my mind kept wondering back to my time at Purdue. Often times I would complain to my teammates how much I missed it or how hard it is to put something on hold. In my mind, I thought they would not understand because none of them had been to college yet, but not once did I even think about how what I was saying was making them feel.
I know for a fact that I was annoying every time I said anything about it. I never noticed it then, but I sure wish I had. I thought it was so hard to walk away from everything you knew and something you liked being a part of for something else. What I was failing to see through my own selfishness was that my six teammates had done the same thing in a slightly different manner.
Annalee, Brett, Courtney, Kenzie, Mason, and Sean had all side tracked their future plans to serve Indiana FFA— just like I had. After having a great conversation with them, I realized how much of a jerk I had been; I had been selfish and acted like I was the only one affected, but now I understand an alternate perspective.
What did I learn about my teammates from taking a step back? My new perspective not only helped me realize that the seven of us felt the same way, but it also helped me grow closer to them, by making me realize that we are traveling through this journey together. I was able to change my perspective, and it will benefit my team’s impact throughout the year.
Those phrases such as “they are so perfect” that may cross your mind are not true. We as people, are not perfect. No matter the position we may get the opportunity to hold. That perspective about state office that even I once had was changed in a heartbeat, and I believe it will continue to change throughout my year of service.
There are days that I still think “I can do this job,” but there are also those that feel like I’m in that rut again. When those days happen, I have to remember that a simple change of perspective can lead me down the right path. It helps me realize the true reason why I ran for office. I ran to serve FFA members, agricultural education students, and my teammates . . . not myself or my own perspectives like I once had.

Be the Change,
Joshua Calhoun
2015-2016 Indiana FFA State Sentinel

Friday, October 2, 2015

Find Yourself

As soon as I earned the right to drive, I jumped into my red Volkswagen Beetle and took off full speed ahead. I sped down the rough gravel roads with a billowing cloud of dust in my trail, and I flew down the paved highways into town leaving a trail of yellow and white lines. The world seemed big and open; I felt like I could go absolutely anywhere. I could never replace the feeling that I had driving all alone for the first time.
Since turning sixteen and gaining a bit more experience with the responsibilities of driving, it has lost some of its glamour. The realities of stop lights, flat tires, police officers, and gas prices have made themselves present. It is very comparable to growing up. Upon entering high school as a freshmen, the school seems huge and full of curiosities; college seems very distant; the only important things are friends, algebra II, and getting to every football game.
However, as you grow older, and senior year arrives the school begins to feel small and claustrophobic; college looms over your head; important decisions about the future move to the top of your priority list. In my case, the decision to run for state office became my number one concern. Life goes from flippant and undefined to serious and structured. Sometimes a bright red stop sign halts your journey. Sometimes a police officer appears out of thin air and impedes your progress. Sometimes a flat tire causes you to stop on the side of the road. Sometimes the financial burden of driving causes you to be more selective about where you drive your car.
My life has been full of surprises, blessings, and frustrations, and through it all there has always been one place I could go to clear my head—my car. The place where I feel perfectly content is driving down the road, windows and sun roof open, radio blaring, and miles of blue sky and corn fields stretched out in front of me. This tiny haven away from all the turmoil of life relieves my stress because of its openness and rapidity.
When I feel like all the doors are closed, and my window of opportunity is shrinking; the rolled down windows in my car reveal the endless big blue sky above me—new chances revealed every day. When I feel like I’m not moving forward fast enough the wind blowing through my window makes me feel like I’m flying toward the future. Where do you feel most home? Where do you go to clear your head—to relax and refuel? In our lives today the value of individual reflection is often lost, even though it is infinitely valuable. When the unexpected happens, when things become unbearable, when you have only yourself for support, find a place to call your own, go there, and find yourself.

From the State Officer House with Love,

Annalee Witte
2015-2016 Indiana State FFA Secretary 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Always a King

            “Everything speaks everything always.” That is the moral I try to convey while doing a breakout activity during District Kick-Offs. Over the past two weeks, I have spoken to approximately 1,000 FFA members through this activity. While I’m trying to send the members away with something to think about, they’re impacting me just as much as I hope I’m impacting them. Through the responses I receive in group discussion and the comments I get afterwards, I have seen the pain and struggles that many of the students face on a daily basis. But I also see the hope, joy, and determination they have learned through these struggles.
              The activity I’ve been leading for District Kick-Off is called “Peasants and Kings.” In this activity, each participant is given a playing card they cannot see. These playing cards represent how the other participants are supposed to treat them. Aces are peasants and kings are kings, while everything else gets better in ascending order. I would instruct the students to completely ignore the “peasants,” while the “kings” were supposed to be given lots of hugs and compliments.  After five minutes of conversation, the students then have to line themselves up in numerical order based on how others made them feel. Some groups did better than others, and there were a couple of groups who admitted afterwards that they had cheated in some way to get lined up. When there was no cheating involved, there were always several students who were out of order. Most of the time, a student would place themselves lower than what their card was. When that would happen, I would remind them to never underestimate themselves. After everyone lined up, I would tell them to look at their cards and then make a semi-circle around me. This next part is what makes the biggest impact.
              When everyone is sitting, the discussion begins. The peasants and kings are given the opportunity to share how they felt during the activity. Some of the students don’t take this part too seriously, but the ones who do share things that make my heart hurt. Many of them admitted that they feel like peasants on a daily basis. One student shared a story about his experience moving schools and how he feels much more welcome at his new school. On the reverse side, the students who were given king cards explained that they felt weird being treated like a king because they never get treated like one at their school. After our group discussions, I give the members the opportunity to meet other members and ask me any questions that they might have. This is when the truly heartbreaking things happen. One night, I had a student who was in tears come up and thank me. English is a second language to her, so she struggles on a daily basis understanding and speaking to other people. She thanked me because I had given her a king even though she feels like a peasant at her school. Out of all of the students who shared their stories with me, hers hit me the hardest.
              These interactions opened my eyes to the reality of exactly what I’ve been challenging the students to do. When I first started working on this activity, I thought that it would be a great reminder to the members. I never realized how much of an impact it would actually leave. “Everything speaks everything always.” The students began to understand what I meant by this when they were ignored. Not only do our words speak to those around us, but our actions do too. When we ignore people, we show them that we think they aren’t worthy of our attention. The more we show others we think that way, the more they believe that they aren’t worthy of anyone’s attention. The opposite is true when we show others that we care for them through our words and actions. If we treat people like they can conquer the world, they begin to believe that they can. And that’s all anyone ever wants: someone to believe that they can do great things. Now that I’ve shared my stories, I leave you with a challenge: Never ever treat anyone as a peasant and always, always treat everyone like king.

Love Always,

2015-2016 Indiana FFA State Reporter 

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Blank Notecard

In this day and age, everyone wants to know what you want to do with your life. They expect a list of schools you wish to attend, the specific major you want to pursue, and the exact corporation you wish to work for. Often times, we are so pigeon holed into what majors we want that we forget the real question: What do you want from life?
            The State Officer team had the opportunity this past week to travel from District 10 way down south around Evansville, through District 7 in the Terre Haute area, into Lafayette’s very own District 4, and on to the Region’s District 1. It was on this journey through Indiana that I began to think about the question: What do I want from life?  
            Annalee, Josh, and I started our drive on an essentially empty Interstate 69 south of Bloomington. I’ll admit that I was nervous as the modern high school campus emerged from the cornfields of Gibson County for our first visit that day. We traveled on to Tecumseh (pronounced properly in the southern part of our state, “Techumsee”) and then on to Posey County for a visit at Mt. Vernon.
            We ventured north through the hills and hollers of District 7 and watched the land flatten to the prairie of northwestern Indiana as we visited the chapters of District 4. All of these scenes provided me with a beautiful backdrop to ponder that question regarding my future. This thought progressed as we traversed to the great plains of Newton County, where I fell in love with the students at both North and South Newton.
It was at North Newton that I really found a way to explain what I wanted from life. Our normal activity was slightly off track due to the students not having pencils on hand when we had left the classroom for the library. Thinking on my feet, I had the students raise their blank notecards in front of their eyes. I asked them to picture on the notecard what they wanted to improve in their community. I wanted them to see their “ideal” community on that blank card.
            This improvisation pushed my brain into gear and I began to think about that familiar question: What do I want from life? It was in that moment in the middle of nowhere Newton County that I looked at a blank notecard and saw my future, my “ideal” life. You see, friends, I was looking at this problem of what I wanted to do in life in the wrong way. I was looking for a beginning to the rest of my life when I really didn’t even know what I wanted the end to look like. Maybe you are in the same pinch too. Perhaps you are looking for a beginning when you don’t even know what you want in the end.
            I challenge each and every one of you to pick up a blank notecard right now. Look at that 3” x 5” rectangle full of possibility and picture your “ideal” life. Envision the legacy you want to leave. On that notecard, paint the life you want to look back on some day and say, “I’m proud of the things I did.” What do you see on your notecard? What does that future look like? Do you see it? Awesome! Now, go and seize it.

Keep Smiling, 

Brett Roberts 
2015-2016 Indiana FFA State Northern Region Vice-President

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Take a Step Back: The Bigger Picture

       “Great moments are born from great opportunity.”

This past week, our team spent three days in facilitation training, sharpening our skills and preparing ourselves to head off this upcoming week to chapter visits and district kickoffs. As we watched video clips to learn different stages of emotion, a few minutes of the movie Miracle played. For those that haven’t seen Miracle, Coach Herb Brooks leads his hodge-podge U.S. hockey team into an Olympic victory over the Russian team. At that point in the movie, they were in the locker room, about to venture onto the ice rink for the Olympic championship games. Coach Brooks walks in, and gives one of the most powerful speeches I have ever heard. In this motivational pre-game speech, he says the simple quote I included above- “Great moments are born from great opportunities”.
It seems as though we blinked and the month of August had disappeared; 27 days of the great Indiana State Fair flew by and before I knew it, we were whisked off to Decatur, Illinois for a few hot, but exciting, days at the Farm Progress Show. The seven of us had an absolute blast meeting people from across the country and learning their stories. My personal favorite was meeting Past State Officers and talking about the changes that have occurred in FFA and seeing how much pride they took in our beloved organization.
We all live very busy and chaotic lives. I know for our team, we are always working on the next project or traveling to somewhere new, but we love our late nights at home together, jamming to music while laughing nonstop; inwardly recognizing that time truly does fly. Life goes at such a fast pace that it seems to pass before we can cherish it. But, one of the most important things I’ve realized in just the few short months is that NOW is the greatest time for opportunity.
This applies to everybody-- no matter what stage of life you are experiencing. Maybe you are a freshman in high school realizing everything FFA has to offer you, and feeling a bit overwhelmed. Maybe you are a senior in high school dealing with college applications, studying for the ACT and SAT, feeling stressed to whole new levels. We all feel pressure to achieve, succeed, and get ahead in life. We want to find those great opportunities to create great moments. However, we must not forget to experience the little moments in life that count most.
The smallest opportunities can have the biggest impact. Watching scary movies on the couches, having nerf gun fights in the office, and eating hot pockets together as a team are moments I will remember for a lifetime. In this crazy, action-packed life, it is a complete necessity to stop and experience each moment to its full extent. If we don’t stop and take that time, we won’t do justice to the great opportunities and great moments we earn through our hard work.
Receiving a banner, winning a scholarship, and being named number one are all great instances in life. However, we must not forget to live in the NOW. Every time the clock ticks forward, another second of our lives is lost to eternity. Time is not gained, only lost. Look at every second as though it is a new opportunity to create a great moment-- big or small.  

Explore. Expand your horizons, and look at the world from different perspectives. Every single day is a rare and unique opportunity; be sure to seize that.  

God Bless,

Kenzie Kretzmeier
2015-2016 Indiana FFA State President

Friday, September 4, 2015

Agricultural Education is for Everyone

The list of stereotypes for individuals involved with Ag Ed and organizations like FFA is a long one. Sadly, those same stereotypes are often what keep students from taking an agriculture class in the first place. It was those stereotypes that were in my head when I sat down for my first day of introduction to agriculture class in eighth grade.

Since that first experience in middle school, agricultural education has changed my life. What I learned from that first experience in ag education and my following 4 years of taking ag classes had not been what I was expecting. I studied biology, engineering, business, and much more all in the same classroom. I got the chance to apply concepts I was learning in all of my other classes to real life situations. I learned about myself, my strengths, weaknesses, and where I want my future career to take me.

By remaining involved in agricultural education and joining FFA, my efforts led to 4 appearances in the National Agriscience Fair. Ag ed and FFA allowed me to travel and learn about agriculture outside of my community. Because of my experiences, I have been able to network and create relationships that I know will last a lifetime.

Most importantly, I learned how the United States goes about producing food to feed a rapidly expanding global population. At the end of the day, agriculture is food. It’s what we eat. By being involved in agricultural education throughout my high school career, I have a much greater understanding of where my food comes from than I ever did before.

It doesn’t matter if you live in a city, the suburbs, a small town, or the middle of nowhere. At some point, you are going to need to eat. Now, more than ever, a spotlight has been shined on our food and how it is produced. Across the United States individuals are taking an active interest in the steps it takes to get food from the farm to the table. When it comes to finding that information, I could offer you a list of twitter accounts, blogs, and magazines all dedicated to showcasing food production. However, my best piece of advice? Take an Ag class.

There is no better way to learn about food production, and so much more, than agricultural education. No other subject can combine learning about science, technology, engineering, and math like agriculture does.

At the end of the day, agriculture plays an extremely important role in the life of everyone on the planet. That’s why it’s important to be properly educated about agriculture. It’s not just for people who have been raised on the farm, or those who want to one day be directly involved in the agriculture industry. Agricultural education is for everyone.

All the best,

Sean Harrington
2015-2016 State Treasurer

Friday, August 28, 2015


State fair is one crazy experience. From breakfast with Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellsperman, to lunch with Senator Joe Donnelly, my teammates and I got to have conversations with our state’s finest leaders. After each of these conversations, we could be seen smiling from ear to ear as we excitedly ranted about our experience. We were always fascinated that these fine leaders had taken time out of their day to listen to us. They even shook their heads and smiled as we nervously told them about our future plans! It was great! They took time to listen to what we had to say, and that meant the world to us.

On the second day of the fair, I was on playground duty. As I was picking up some Tonka trucks, I noticed a man wearing a Chicago Bears hat. Being a Green Bay Packers fan, I had to inform him that he had a horrible taste in football teams. Luckily, he was a good sport about it and we discussed the heated rivalry between our teams of choice. Our conversation turned from football, to my hometown, and ended on the topic of FFA. We each shared stories while the other one listened intently. As I walked away, he thanked me for taking time to talk to him.

A few days later, I was sitting in the animal wing selling carrots. A man working at the AgrAbility booth walked over to introduce himself to me. One thing led to another and then he began to share with me the reasons why he was advocating for disabled farmers. His story was incredible. He was a burn victim. The only part of his body that was covered by his own skin was his face. I was fascinated at what this man had been through. I did not get to say much during our conversation, but I could tell that the man just needed someone to talk to.

The next day, as I was sitting in the Caddyshack, an old man approached me. I could tell by his worn out, faded overalls that he worked at Pioneer Village. He asked if I was a state officer. I told him I was, and he immediately began telling me stories about FFA back in the day. The old man, Jack, led a delegation of FFA members in a covered wagon from Northern Indiana to Louisville for national convention. This storied wagon still sits at the Leadership Center today. Jack stopped back by the pavilion many times to check in on a project that he had given us. Each time he would tell many of the same stories, but seeing the joy that these stories brought him made it worthwhile.

I learned many lessons during state fair, the importance of listening being the most valuable. Your title does not impact someone’s life, your ability to put their needs before your own, does. Sure, I had to pee during Jack’s long stories, but walking away was not what I wanted to do. I have no way of knowing if my conversations with these people meant anything to them, but I can only assume that they enjoyed me listening to them as much as I enjoyed Sue and Joe listening to me. Small, extraordinary acts change the world. You don’t have to speak to be remembered.

Forever Imagining,
Mason Gordon
2015-2016 Indiana FFA State Southern Region Vice President