Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Netflix's Life Lessons

Like any good Millennial, I have an obsession with Netflix. My most recent show of choice is the one and only, “Parks and Recreation.” This show is all about Leslie Knope, the Deputy Director of the Parks and Recreation Department, and her enthusiasm for local parks in the small town of Pawnee, IN. I have come to love this masterpiece of cinema magic for a few reasons. First, it takes place in the beautiful state of Indiana. What can beat that, right? Second, it is about local government, which I hope to work in someday. Finally, it is about being passionate about your work, which I would argue is one of the most important things in life.

Before I began writing this blog, I had a binge watching session to finish Season 2 of this glorious show (I know, I’m not that far in. Don’t judge me, Parks and Rec veterans). However, the last episode of that season is set around the turmoil of the government shutdown of City of Pawnee due to the city’s poorly run budget. This causes quite the problem for Leslie’s grand plan for the start of the city’s summer concert series for children. She can’t use any of the local parks because of the government shut down. She will have to get all the supplies donated because she can’t use any of the department’s resources. However, Leslie doesn’t let this stop her from bringing the joy to the children of Pawnee. She overcomes all the challenges and puts on a great concert all for the kids.

This is what I love most about Leslie Knope. She doesn’t give up. She identifies the obstacle, determines how she will get around it, and sets her mind to be successful. Often times, I sit back and wonder, is what Leslie puts herself through really worth it? That’s the difference between Leslie Knope and most of us though. She is so insanely passionate about her work that she makes sure she is successful.

Here’s my challenge: Be the Leslie Knope of whatever you do. Often times, we get in such a routine with our work. We go through the motion. We do what is absolutely required of us and nothing more. I fall into the same trap. When we fall into this trap of stagnation and apathy, we don’t do all we could and we aren’t as successful as we could be. Every day, we must wake up, reenergize the passion we feel for our work, and push on to be the Leslie Knope of whatever we do. You might ask, what if I don’t feel any passion for what I do? Well, it’s time to move on because if you aren’t passionate, what are you accomplishing?  

In the finale episode of Season 2, Mark Brendanawicz, the City Planner, gives Leslie plans for a future park. While he notes he couldn’t fit everything in that she wanted, such as a shark tank or a roller coaster, he thought it was pretty cool. Just when Leslie begins to think she won’t be able to build a park for a while with Pawnee’s budget issues, Mark says, “I wouldn’t bet against you.” If you put your passion to work to overcome whatever challenges you may face, I wouldn’t bet against you either. Whether you are an accountant, a local farmer, a fresh college graduate, an Indiana FFA member, or even a Deputy Parks Director.

Just remember, be the Leslie Knope of whatever you do.

Smile On,
Brett Roberts
Indiana FFA State Northern Region Vice President

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Smoky Mountain Adventure

As state officers, we have the opportunity to do some pretty awesome things. We have the chance to travel, impact/be impacted by new people, and become close friends with other state officers. Last week, Annalee and I had the chance to travel to Gatlinburg, Tennessee for the Tennessee State Convention. It combined all of those “awesome things” I mentioned earlier, so we knew that it was bound to be a blast.


We endured the seven-hour trek to the Volunteer State, singing along to all the Disney songs I didn’t know (but thanks to Annalee I learned every single one). We stopped for the occasional Speedy Freeze or Diet Coke when the interstate seemed to never end. The terrain constantly evolved from flat, to curvy, to mountainous right before our eyes as we drove further south. I couldn’t soak in enough of the beautiful sights. Time flew by, and before we knew it, we were checking in to our hotel for our stay.
I enjoyed watching our friends from Tennessee put on a great convention. We were able to witness differences and similarities in sessions, watch our friends give their retiring addresses, and reward the hard work of numerous members. Our Association jackets received many odd stares, but we weren’t the only ones. Not only did we attend, but Kansas, Iowa, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Florida state officers were there as well. We had all come for the sole intention of hosting workshops, but the convention became so much more than that. We realized that our time together was limited, so it was imperative that we make the most of it. What better way to do that than by an adventure?


After an afternoon session, a large group of us state officers packed into Mississippi’s big SUV and started driving to wherever the road would take us. We found ourselves traveling further and further into the Smoky Mountains, stopping to take pictures and play in the snow. We then made our way to a hole-in-the-wall BBQ restaurant and ate to our heart’s content, laughing and chatting all the while.
When the gas tank was running low and exhaustion started kicking in, we headed back to Gatlinburg. As we drove, I couldn’t help but feel extremely grateful and refreshed. Grateful for the unforgettable friendships we had made, refreshed from a spontaneous trip, and in awe at just how fun that evening was. Work is great, but a little spontaneity never hurts either.
Make sure to take that trip, attend that fun event, or ditch the map and go to wherever that road leads. Escape the ordinary, because the best gift we can ever have is a lifetime of adventure.

God Bless,

Kenzie Kretzmeier
2015 - 2016 Indiana FFA State President 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Climb Your Mountains

As I scroll through my Instagram, I am reminded that it is Spring Break 2k16! From beaches in Florida, to being a lazy bum at home, spring break is always a great time to have fun and be with friends. Luckily, I got to hang out with my friends in Tennessee. We had quite a few adventures along the way, but one adventure will be one that I won’t soon forget.
            My friends and I stayed in a beautiful cabin nestled between the mountains. Being boys, we vowed to explore the mountains before our trip was over. On the second to last night, we realized that we had yet to explore. Despite it being midnight, my friend, Matthew, and I set out to climb the mountain that had been tempting us since the moment that we had arrived.
            Let me tell you a little about this mountain. It was covered in green ivy, and was in no way supposed to be climbed. I was convinced that it was impossible, but Matthew would not settle for anything less that climbing that mountain. I told him he couldn’t. He took that as a challenge and before I knew it, Matthew was struggling up the side of the mountain. Our adventure had officially began!
            He grabbed onto any trees, or shrubbery, that he could find and eventually found himself about 15 feet above me, standing on a tiny edge of the mountain. I congratulated him on his accomplishment, and asked how he was going to get down. He replied, “I’m not coming down. You are coming up!” I took that as a challenge, and began my assent.
            After climbing about two feet, I realized that I was wearing Sperries. Boat shoes really aren’t conducive to climbing, and in that moment I realized that my climb was going to be even more challenging while trying to keep my shoes on my feet. I didn’t let that stop me. I would grab a hand full of ivy, and pull until I could find a safe place for my feet. It was a hard climb, but I was making progress.
            About half way up, I looked back to see how far up I had climbed. Sadly, I hadn’t climbed nearly as far as I had hoped. Looking back, I noticed that there was a group of people gathered at the back door of their cabin, watching me and hoping that I was going to make a fool of myself. I could see the look of judgement on their face, and they could probably see the look of embarrassment on mine. I turned my attention back to my challenge, and continued to show everyone in attendance just how one should climb a mountain while wearing Sperries.
            I reached the top of that mountain, although I had my doubts from the beginning. Matthew and I created some memories that night, and nothing will match the satisfaction we felt standing at the top and staring down on our resort. Life has a way of presenting us with mountains to climb. In evaluating them, we tend to doubt that we have the strength, or the tools, necessary to climb it. Do it anyway. Prove yourself wrong. You will thank yourself when you are admiring the beautiful view from the top.  
             
Forever Imagining,

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

Thursday, March 17, 2016

We Michigained Some Friends

Back in June of last year, the 7 of us found ourselves sitting in a hotel conference room in Lexington, Kentucky. Four short days earlier, we had been elected as the 2015-2016 Indiana State Officer Team. To say that we were a little overwhelmed would be an understatement. We had been almost immediately whisked away to the National Leadership Conference for State Officers, along with the newly elected teams from Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, and Michigan.



We got to know the officers from all of the states, and formed friendships that have lasted long into our year of service. However, we became especially close to the officer team from our neighbor state to the north. Maybe it was the geographic closeness of our two states, or the fact that we thought the accents of the officers from the northern most part of the state were extremely entertaining, either way Michigan and Indiana hit it off. Which led to us coining the phrase “We Michigained some friends”.

The past two days Courtney, Josh, and I have had the privilege of attending Michigan FFA’s 88th State Convention. Let me tell you, I have never experienced a warmer welcome to an FFA event in my life. It was amazing to see our friends we had gotten to know over the past few months up on that stage. I can honestly say I’ll never forget experiences like watching the two finalist teams in their demonstration competition, which they take extremely seriously, or helping to throw glow sticks into a crowd of almost 2,000 ecstatic Michigan FFA members.

The words “personal growth” are some that we hear over and over again in the land of FFA. So much so that I think they easily become words we say, and not necessarily words we mean. These past few days have really reminded me that FFA leads us to personal growth every single day. Our friends in Michigan were not the same people at their state convention they were eight months ago, and the seven of us officers aren’t the same either. Really, none of us can say we haven’t changed a lot over the last year or so. I think we can all agree that FFA is responsible for a lot of that personal growth.

Watch out folks, Sean is starting to get a little sappy.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities I have been given because of this organization. If I said I was thankful every single day that wouldn’t be true, we all get caught up in routine and things like that get forgotten. However, experiences like the past two days give me the opportunity to step back and realize everything FFA has done for me, and I look forward to the personal growth that’s yet to come.

All the best,

Sean Harrington
2015-2016 Indiana FFA State Treasurer

Sunday, February 21, 2016

National FFA Week

National FFA Week is upon us, and, across the nation, over 620,000 FFA members will be celebrating the largest youth run organization in the world. In Indiana, the 7 State Officers will be traveling across the state to celebrate with as many chapters and members as possible. Check out what the State Officers are going to be up to this week!


1)  What are you looking forward to most during National FFA Week?
·      Kenzie: One of the biggest aspects of FFA Week that I am looking forward to is getting to travel southwest Indiana, which is easily the part of the state that I am least familiar with. I also have a lot of fun events that I get to attend and I am very excited to meet more members from District X and part of District XI!
·      Annalee: I am looking forward to meeting many new members and traveling the state of Indiana.
·      Brett: I’m most looking forward to meeting as many amazing FFA members as possible! Indiana FFA members are so passionate and I love to see the great things they are doing in their chapters and communities.
·      Mason: I am looking forward to visiting with North White and New Prairie the most. These two chapters are both reinstalling FFA into their schools. I hope to be able to inspire some students to join this great organization, because we all know they will be hooked once they join!
·      Courtney: I’m really looking forward to traveling around the eastern part of the state and getting to know students from chapters that I’m not really familiar with.
·      Joshua: What I am most looking forward to is finding those schools that remind me so much of my home school, because some of my greatest memories were made in the classroom and I know other chapters are the same way!
·      Sean: Spending time with our new and potential FFA chapters and getting them excited about FFA

2)  What is one of your favorite memories from past National FFA Weeks?
·      K: One of my favorite memories from FFA Week in high school was our Faculty breakfast that we put on every year. Although it meant waking up very early, I remember always having tons of fun preparing food and serving the Benton Central faculty, which set the day off to a great start.
·      A: I always enjoyed visiting the nursing home and giving the elderly cookies.
·      B: One of my favorite FFA Week memories has to Official Dress Day at Columbia City High School. You would get crazy looks in the hallways but it was a great way to explain what FFA was all about!
·      M: My chapter always ended FFA Week with a Hog Roast and Dance. This was always the highlight of my FFA Weeks. One memory from the Hog Roast and Dance was when my friend, Austin, and I “taught” our fellow FFA members how to dance. I still laugh when I think about how fun it was!
·      C: My home chapter always has a petting zoo during National FFA Week that’s always a hit with the elementary and high school students. Normally it runs smoothly without any problems. Last year, however, we had a donkey escape from the shop and run through the hall towards the cafeteria. The hilarious part is the security cameras caught it on tape and it was shared among the teachers during the days following, as well as on social media.
·      J: My favorite memory from National FFA Week happened last year while I was at Purdue. My Ag Education classmates and I missed being active in FFA so much that we made our own National FFA Week with dress up days and events during the week! I had such a great time that I could never forget to celebrate National FFA Week.
·       S: My favorite FFA week memory isn’t necessarily something specific. My chapter always packed the entire week full of activities and so I loved spending all of that time with my friends having a blast celebrating FFA.

3)  What type of activities will you be participating in this coming week?
·       K: Oh my, it’s hard to name them all. I have the opportunity to visit two new chapters, talk to classes, attend a dance, and even play in the legendary District X dodgeball tournament! I can’t wait!
·      A: I have a wide range of visits from faculty breakfasts to chapter fun days.
·      B: Amongst the usual celebrations, I will be making my way around to an after school BBQ, the Hope/Columbus FFA basketball game as well as snow tubing with Scottsburg FFA!
·      M: I will be attending petting zoos, pancake breakfasts, movie nights, and two Greenhand Jacket Ceremonies. I will also have the opportunity to visit numerous ag classes along the way.
·      C: The majority of events I will be participating in are community or staff appreciation breakfasts, as well as classroom activities. I will also be attending two weekend outings, a volleyball tournament, a convocation, and a community service project to a nursing home. That’s just to name a few!
·       J: This coming week I am doing everything from classroom visits, appreciation breakfasts, Ag Olympics competitions, Ag days, basketball tournaments, dances, and a Fort Wayne Komets hockey game! I am excited to experience a new kind of FFA week from the viewpoint of FFA members in northern Indiana!
·       S: I have everything from farmer appreciation breakfasts to chapter banquets. I look forward to having tons of fun both in and out of the classroom.

4)   Check out which part of Indiana the State Officers will be in!


If you’re a past FFA member, we would encourage you to reach out to your home chapter and reconnect with FFA!


From the entire 2015-2016 Indiana FFA State Officer Team, have a wonderful National FFA Week full of celebrations and memories! 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Kodak Moments

            Growing up I remember seeing those commercials about cameras on the TV. Why do I remember those commercials? They always had some huge event portrayed and then a mom or a dad smiling and taking a picture with their camera. Now, I always associate the term “Kodak moments” with capturing some big event or activity with a camera.

A moment most recent for me happened just this last week at the Indiana FFA Leadership Center. The snow was something that my teammates and I had in fact prepared for. A few weeks back Sean came home from the store with a surprise for all of us. He had bought us new sleds!

Now these sleds were pretty legit, one was a long foam based sled with just enough room to stretch your legs out in. The other looked like a lady bug in the means of it was round and red. After seeing Sean walk in the door with those guys, I was ready to shred it on the hill at the center. Unfortunately my teammates talked me down from using them right away, because you cannot have a successful trip down the hill without some snowy padding.

Days had gone by and I was so eager to go sledding, that I was half tempted to make some fake snow just to use them! Fortunately, all my hopes and dreams in the world were answered when we woke up to a few inches of frozen mashed potatoes covering the ground.

After gearing up in our “snow suits,” which for me consisted of jeans, sweats, two jackets, a hat, gloves, and old Sperry’s, we marched our way to the lake dam where we would commence our sledding 2k16 sledding season. A few slides down the hill found us getting a bit gutsier with each trip we took. Sean and Courtney had gone down together on one sled, a snow ramp was half way constructed by Kenzie, but I was determined to blow all records out of the water. I had decided to race Sean and Annalee down the hill, but I was going to go down face first.

 “Go” was yelled and we threw ourselves off of the starting line, when I say threw ourselves off . . . I mean it. I had pushed off so hard, that my sled stayed put and my body went tumbling down the hill. After having a face full of snow, brutally losing with no contest to both Sean and Annalee, and landing at the bottom of the hill, I began thinking about those past few moments.

In all honesty I had no regrets. I thought it was extremely fun and immediately wanted to do it again. So I did. Now, we all have those moments where we wish there was a camera ready, and this was definitely one of those moments.

I pushed off from the top of the hill again, but this time I had my sled. I was soaring down the hill feeling like I was at the top of the world, until I hit the second part of the hill. There I totally lost the very little amount of control I had and once again went tumbling down. This time making sure to scrap my face along the way.

That was a Kodak moment for me. I wanted to remember that feeling of sledding down that hill as fast as I could with some of my best friends in the world. I never wanted it to end because it was the time of my life! We all have these moments, whether it be a time someone got hurt, an event that a lot of work was put in to, or just a night hanging out with friends never be afraid to take advantage of them.

How will I remember my moment? Well now every time I see the snow, I think of those times I went tumbling down. There are many other ways to remember moments. It could be hearing a song, coming across old pictures, or even wearing a green ribbon to memorialize a loved one.

No matter how insane or boring Kodak moments are, they are always worth remembering because we can regain those excited or happy feelings just as if we are about to experience it firsthand again.  That means we should never be afraid to have those Kodak moments in life!


Be the Change,

Joshua Calhoun
2015-2016 Indiana FFA State Sentinel











Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

     Everyone says our State Officer team is weird. We have more boys than girls; three of us were never on the executive committee; and we don’t have anyone farther south than Columbus, Indiana. However, the biggest thing people love to marvel over is all of our college decisions. Courtney is headed to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Kenzie and Mason will both be judging livestock—Kenzie at Butler Junior College in Kansas and Mason at Lincoln Land Community College in Illinois. Sean is going to Indiana University at Bloomington. Brett, Josh, and I will be attending Purdue University in West Lafayette. Upon meeting us, people often assume we are all going to Purdue. They are shocked to hear only three of us will be in West Lafayette in the fall. College decisions are personal and difficult. Don’t settle on a college to make other people happy. When you make your decision, make it for yourself.
     During my senior year, I was terribly conflicted about where I would go after I walked off the stage at the Eastern Hancock High School graduation. I knew I would run for State FFA Office, but that was not a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination. When it was all said and done, only seven people would be moving to Trafalgar after State Convention. Deciding on a college was a necessity, and not only did I have to decide, I had to get accepted too, and after I got accepted, I had to pay for it. It was all enough to make me want to curl up in a ball and stay in my bed forever. But like everyone else in the world, I have a mom who wasn’t about to let that happen; so I started researching schools.
     I narrowed it down to two: Oklahoma State University and Purdue University. I got accepted to both. It turns out that wasn’t too hard. The hardest part was deciding. I felt pulled in a million different directions. People told me stay in-state. People told me go out of state. People told me if I went to Purdue I would be settling. Others said there was no reason to go to Oklahoma State if I could get the same education in Indiana. It was all very confusing. Throughout the whole ordeal, I forgot to listen to the only voice that mattered—my own.
     I was so busy worrying about what was important to everyone else I had forgotten to contemplate what was important to me. One day, I sat down and thought about my priorities. The two most important things to me were scholarships and opportunities. I did not want to walk away from college with debt, and I wanted to go somewhere that could give me good opportunities for internships, travel, and networking. Obviously, I wanted to have fun, make friends, and be on a pretty campus, but those were all secondary priorities for me. Defining what was really important made my life so much easier. I could finally separate everyone else’s wants and needs from my own.
     After that, the only thing I had to do was visit both campuses. They were both beautiful in their own way and both had different strengths and weaknesses. But I knew Purdue was the school that fit the best with my personal priorities. I am happy with my decision, and I am incredibly excited to go to Purdue in the fall.
     To all the seniors trying to decide on a college: Take a deep breath. Everything is going to be okay. I know everyone is telling you a lot of different things, but the only thing that matters is what you think. At the end of the day, you have to go to the school you choose. You have to live there for four years, make friends there, and learn there. You are the one who has to be at peace with the decision. Don’t let anyone influence you. This is one decision you want to make for yourself.  

From the State Officer House with Love,

Annalee Witte
2015-2016 Indiana FFA State Secretary