Saturday, August 1, 2015


The word strength is defined as “a good or beneficial quality or attribute of a person or thing.” When someone talks about strength, it can be used to describe physical strength, one’s mental/emotional state, or the ability to do a task better than average. Regardless of what you relate the word “strength” to, every person possesses numerous strengths that deserve to be recognized.

Back when my teammates and I went through Blast-Off training, we had the opportunity to learn about each other’s top five personality strengths. However, we never really had a chance to see these strengths in action before this week. As we started planning for the state fair, each of my teammates’ individual strengths began shining through. There are those who can visualize color relationships better than the rest. There are others that can visualize how areas should be spatially set up. There are still others who are experts at organizing. Knowing this going forward will make planning other activities as a team much simpler.

While the opportunity to learn more about the strengths of my team was an awesome experience, seeing the strengths of the members who came to set-up days yesterday and today was much more eye-opening. I was amazed by the number of students who were experts on power tools and by the ones who were knowledgeable about pressure washers and building things with table saws. Not only were the skills and personality strengths of each individual useful, but the physical strengths were as well. There were tall and muscular students who were able to carry heavy putt-putt holes with no problem, as well as short and slender students who were much better fits for small spaces.

The real lesson to be learned about strength is how to appreciate and utilize it. Many people don’t realize the importance of their strengths, or may even be ashamed of them. If this is the case, those strengths get locked in a box and become useless. What the owner of the strength in the box doesn’t realize is that they are actually hindering the progression of the group because they possess the skill set needed to work quickly and successfully towards the goal, but still refuse to utilize their strengths. Therefore, I challenge everyone to embrace the qualities that are your strengths so that they never become locked away and unused. It’s when we are the most unguarded and willing to share our strengths that the most effective teamwork takes place. Whatever you do, just let your strengths shine!

Love always,

Friday, July 24, 2015

State Presidents' Conference

Standing on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. is an empowering sight. The white marble buildings embody the very essence of power and tradition. Kenzie and I had the chance to experience this sight this past week at the State President’s Conference. We have experienced D.C. in a new way with our new friends. We have collaborated on delegate work with other State Officers from across the nation and the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. It has been an amazing adventure; one that we will never forget.

Standing on Capitol Hill I realized what had made this trip so amazing. I was surrounded by old buildings that had stood for over 100 years. What made them so strong—their foundations. Each building has a strong foundation, holding it up through the years. Each State Officer at the State President’s Conference also has a foundation. As people, our foundations are our values. The reason Kenzie and I’s trip has been so amazing is because we got to spend the week with people who shared the same values as us.

Obviously each of us have slightly different values in our everyday lives, but as agriculturalists we all share similarities. We all value agriculture. We value problem solving. We value service. Our values are an important part of our story—personally and agriculturally. When we advocate for agriculture, we can spout off information and facts all we want, but the most powerful thing we can share is our values.

How do we effectively share those values we all obtain? It is as simple as this: ask, listen, and share. When talking to others, ask what they see as their core values and discover what is of utmost importance to them. As people portray their passions and show what their heart beats for, listen in order to learn. Active listening is key to actually understanding others. After identifying their values, respond by sharing what you stand for. Relate your values back to them. Allow them to look at your personal beliefs and understand where you are coming from.  By doing this, we are able to display the true meaning of the agricultural industry.

Instead of using cold, impersonal facts and information, take a different viewpoint. This is where we as agriculturalists sometimes fall short. We rely too heavily on science and data.  We need to rely on sharing our unique ag stories and the values that go with them. When we clearly convey our values people listen. They can relate to us and our industry. Ask, share, and listen—this is how we effectively advocate.

From State President’s Conference with love,
Annalee Witte and Kenzie Kretzmeier

Friday, July 10, 2015

Make the Adrenaline Count

Picture yourself on a boat. It has a motor, a covered top, and is drifting across the ocean. You can see an island on the horizon just barely a shade of green. The water is clear enough so you have no idea how deep it is. You walk to the edge of the boat to get a closer look, and you slip. That adrenaline, the shear second you lost your breath, is just a rush of emotions that your brain cannot comprehend all at once. For my teammates and I the last month has been full of moments like that slip on the boat.

With state convention right around the corner, I finished up my freshman year at Purdue University with a study abroad in Jamaica while my teammates concluded their high school careers with graduation. Shortly after being elected, we loaded up with Mr. Martin and headed south to Lexington, Kentucky, for National Leadership Conference for State Officers. We dove right into training about how to work as a team and what is it like to actually do something worthwhile with our time of service.

Little did I know that learning names would be so hard right off the bat, because we were at NLCSO with five other state associations. There were state officers there from Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Arkansas. A total of fifty three state officers were in attendance, but I only barely knew six of them.

As we started training that week I tried to keep myself in that “slip on the boat” moment. I felt like my breath was taken and my body was full of adrenaline every time I met someone new, because that was the way I had decided to remember names. I would associate some crazy moment with each person I met. For example I met this kid Daniel from Michigan, so I immediately thought of the Daniel and the lions’ den story from the Bible. I had no problem remembering Daniel’s name because I just kept that thought of excitement in my mind.

I think that this name learning technique is something small on a larger scale. What if I kept this thought of having adrenaline-filled and breath taking experiences throughout my year of service? Well, I did a small scale test and tried to face each day of BLAST OFF training with this mindset, and guess what happened. I took that week of knowledge and broke it down by relating it to something much more than just training. As a team we learned about our own personal strengths and I kept thinking about my top five talents as pieces of an Iron Man suit.

At that moment I know that I had struck gold! I was able to take something so simple, as names or even personal strengths, and turn them into moments that made my heart skip a beat. I think that could mean something to Indiana FFA. If my teammates and I can complete our year of service always having this mindset, I know we will truly leave an impact. I also know that the initial thought of slipping on the side of a boat will be nothing compared to what could be done with the same mindset.

Be the Change, Joshua Calhoun2015-2016 Indiana FFAState Sentinel

Thursday, May 7, 2015

To All Moms

As some of you know, a pretty important date in history is quickly approaching. You may ask what I'm referring to- Mother's Day of course! News flash, in case you were not aware, Mother's Day is on May 10th which is THIS Sunday! But if you're like me, you may not know a whole lot of the history behind this day!

According to A+E Networks, Mother's Day was created by a woman by the name of Anna Jarvis in 1908 but it was not until 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson officially signed a measure to designate the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day. That was when it became an official U.S. holiday! This was a day designed to honor mothers for all that they do simply by giving them flowers, cards, and other presents to express gratitude and love. 

This day is expressed in different ways around the world but most commonly in the United States it is a day to give your mom gifts and let her pick where to eat on Sunday after church, at least, that's how it works with my family!
Mother's Day is a day to show your appreciation, gratitude, love, admiration, honor, praise and love to your mom! And if we're being honest- moms across the country deserve a day to be acknowledged for all that they do! For me personally, I know that my mom does! She does a lot for me and she does whatever she can to support me in my endeavors! 

Growing up my mom did whatever she could to support me and encourage me. I wanted to play T-Ball and without hesitation she signed me up! I wanted to become a basketball All-Star, she let me try out for the team in 5th grade and she came to ALL of my games. Home and away. I decided that I needed something new, so I switched from 5 years of playing basketball to trying out for the cheerleading squad my sophomore year of high school. Once I became a cheerleader, she continued to come to every game that she possibly could to watch me cheer. After I tried out for tennis as a freshman and did not make the team, instead of telling me to take a break or not to bother, she supported me when I quickly decided to try out the whole running thing with Track and Cross Country. Even then, rain or shine, my mom would come to my XC and Track meets. 
But it is not just with sports that my mom has supported me. In 4-H when I decided that I was going to show a heifer as a 4th grader weighing in at about 50 pounds, although I worried her sick and she was terrified that I was going to get hurt, she allowed me to show cattle for the first time. At church when I wanted to be a part of the musical, she even allowed me to try out as one of the main characters! When I joined FFA and told her that I would have more practices to go to, she told me not to wear myself out but if it was what I wanted to do- go for it! When I decided to compete in our county fair queen pageant as a junior going into my senior year, she encouraged me to just be me and have fun with it, no matter what the outcome may be! When the opportunity arose for me to go on a mission trip my senior year to the Dominican Republic, she wanted me to go! She helped me raise funds, she encouraged me and she continuously prayed for me and my youth group!  

When senior year came around and it was time for me to fill out the application to run for a state office, she supported me wholeheartedly. Even if it did mean moving out of the house, living at the center for an entire year, and driving across the state, sometimes by myself and sometimes really late at night or really early in the morning. When the week after my high school gradation came around and it was time for me to make my way up to Purdue University to attend the Indiana FFA State Convention, even on the drive up to the campus when I was doubting myself and what I was capable of accomplishing- she hugged me when she dropped me off and she told me that I could do it, that she believed in me, and she was praying for me. 
My mom has ALWAYS been there for me and I am so blessed that I get to call her my momma! For the times I made her cry, ate the last Swiss Roll in the cabinet when she probably wanted it, and worried her to death, she carried me in her arms, put me first, completely created her schedule around mine, and watched me grow into who I am today. 

To all moms out there; THANK YOU for all that you do! For your time, commitment, love, and support that you give to your families and your children! Behind every beautiful and humble young lady or every handsome and mature young man, is an even stronger mother who has given her kids all of the love that she possibly can. 
So before its too late, sometimes its good to just say what needs to be said! Go tell your mom how much you love her and thank her for all that she does for you! Not just on Mother's Day, but on every day of the year! 

Abraham Lincoln once said, "All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my mother."

Happy Mother's Day! Love you mom!
Serving with a grateful heart,

Brittany Young
Indiana FFA
State President

Friday, May 1, 2015

In the midst of Banquet Season

The air outside is getting ever warmer, the days are getting longer, and the state officers are getting ever busier. Preparation for the 86th Indiana FFA State Convention is fully underway and the to do lists could probably stretch from here in Trafalgar to New Mexico. However busy this time of year may be though, it is an incredible time of year, and one of the chief reasons is because this is banquet season. March, April, and May are when the bulk of chapter banquets happen across the state, and my teammates and I are fortunate enough to be invited to many of them.

Just last night I attended my sixth banquet, which marked the halfway point. As of now, I have given my speech several times, and been able to visit chapters all across the state. And it is as I reflect on those banquets I have already attended that the real magnitude of this opportunity becomes evident. Attending banquets is so much more than just delivering a speech. For me at least, it offers a genuine insight into not just the chapters, but the communities.

At the majority of the chapters I have visited I delivered a thirteen minute speech about how anyone can make change happen. I love this opportunity because delivering speeches is a real passion of mine. I have learned that every audience is different, and that you can never guess what they’re reaction to your speech is going to be. As a speaker, sometimes you’ll get up there with all the enthusiasm and gusto in the world; you’ll deliver your punchlines with precision, and when you expect the audience to erupt in laughter—they will sit there quietly and politely nodding their heads. Other times, however, you will simply be giving exposition on a story and make a clever remark as an aside, and it will send the audience into a bout of rolling thunderous laughter. Meanwhile, you will be standing at the front of the room wondering why on Earth that was so funny. In my travels I have found the unpredictability of audiences to be one of the greatest sources of excitement. Every time I prepare to take the microphone, I have no idea what will happen in the next fifteen or so minutes. But to me, that is fantastically thrilling. And each time I take the microphone, I can only hope that it will be one of those speeches when the audience laughs at all the right times, and I can visibly see them feeling the emotions I'm attempting to portray to them, and when I bring it all together for my conclusion I can see the dots connecting in their minds as the smiles spread across their faces. Those are magical moments. I have found no greater sense of wholeness in my life than when an audience is applauding after a speech like that.

It would be an injustice, however, if I let you all believe that the only enjoyable part of banquets was speaking. There is obviously the food, which has been wonderful everywhere I’ve been so far. But more importantly, there is the fellowship. Banquets are a celebration among FFA members and community members. They are a mirthful and jovial evening of reflection on the year that has past, and an optimistic look forward to the year to come.  The state officers attend most banquets as guests, and more often than not we know only a few other people there. Sometimes, we don’t know a single person there. Again, this is scary but equally exciting. I always enjoy this experience, because as a guest at banquets I get to peer through a window into the culture of the chapter and the community. Watching the officers one can observe how their team dynamics work. I get to see the relationship students have with their advisors and their supporters. I witness the inside jokes and stories that each chapter has, and often as an audience member they make no sense to me, but I laugh along anyway. I always enjoy this opportunity to witness how the makeup of each and every FFA chapter is different. Yet I am always struck by the things that make them similar—the passion, the pride, the support, and the hard work.

Attending banquets has been a truly inspiring experience so far, and I cannot wait to continue the journey in the coming weeks. 

Best Wishes,
Jacob Mueller
Indiana FFA State Southern Region Vice President 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Hunter Hayes Sang That He Wished He Had a Storm Warning ...Here It Is!

Storm clouds from today's down pour in Franklin, Indiana.
 Thunder booms across the land, rain falls endlessly and lightning flashes across the enormous sky. April showers…bring May flowers. Thunderstorms are not my favorite. I shudder at the loud booms, close my eyes when lightening fills the room and rain hitting the roof so hard making it nearly impossible to think sends me into a night of restlessness. I believe that every experience good or bad always has a lesson you can learn from it. My experiences with thunderstorms have taught me a valuable lesson. Sometimes…in order to enjoy the rainbows, you have to deal with the rain.

When I was a little girl my brothers and I loved to go the beach. Kosciusko County has over 100 lakes and we were lucky enough to live close to a few. In the hot summer months we would beg my mom to take us into town and spend all day enjoying the cool water. Expect there was one hold up…generally my mom would be very busy and that meant that we would only get to the beach if she was done with her “To-Do List”.

 I remember one day in particular. It was hotter than a stove on fire! My mom’s to-do list was at least three miles long. After about 20 minutes of pestering my mom she finally announced if we wanted to go to the beach we would have to help her with all the task.
My brothers and I decided that playing cowboys and Indians would be much more fun. We went outside and played until we couldn’t take the intense heat any longer. We came into the house to see if mom was done with her list. When we asked her…she informed us that she didn’t even make a dent in the things that she needed to accomplish. Again we went outside played cowboys and Indians. Just like before it got hotter than boiling water. We came running into the house begging our mom to take us to the beach.

She looked at us and said, “I am sorry but you didn’t help me with my list and I still have a lot to get done. We have livestock to feed later once it cools off. No beach today.”

I was utterly awestruck. No Beach?!?! The woman was crazy. I am not going to lie…I threw the BIGGEST fit!! I pouted for a good know that little girl self-pity (arms crossed, lip out and crocodile tears). 

The next weekend rolled around and like clockwork my mom’s list was about three miles long. Instead of playing outside my brother’s and I decided that if we worked together then she would have to take us to the beach! This was probably the best plan we ever came up with (even if my mom told us the weekend before). Sure enough after some sibling bickering, competitions and lack of focus we accomplished each task on the list. Water wings on, towel in hand, and a big grin spread across my face as we headed to Winona Lake. Heading to the beach that day I couldn’t be more satisfied.

It wasn’t until later that it really hit me. My mom was trying to teach us a lesson. Obviously she needed help and if we wanted to go to the beach we needed to pitch in. By working together we would knock every item off the list no problem. Even though we didn't always like doing them…we really wanted to go to the beach so we got them done.

My daily reminder! 
Folks, we will encounter times like this often in life. You want to be the best basketball player on the face of the earth? You better believe you better put in the effort to get there no matter how hard it gets. You hunger to be top in your class at school? Yep, got to skip hanging out with your friends this weekend to study for that big test. You want to better yourself for others? Than you will have to take a real hard look at yourself and be honest. Your dream is to change the world? Some sacrifices and hard decision will have to be made.
The next time you’re encountering a storm just keep that saying in mind. Actually, write it down now…on your hand, postie note, wall or arm. Write it down!! If you want to enjoy the rainbow, you are going to have to deal with the rain. 

Also, just a optimistic note…every storm eventually will run out of rain.

Chin up and God Bless,
Lindsey O'Hara
Northern Region Vice President 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Smelling the Roses

Have you ever had a moment that just put your life into perspective? Not necessarily a bad situation, just one that made you realize how incredibly blessed you are? A couple of weeks ago I had one of those moments.  Before I can get into that moment, however, I have to rewind back to February.

Within Indiana FFA there is an Executive Committee. This committee is made up of all the District Presidents, the Section Directors, the State Band and Chorus Presidents, as well as the State Officers. To kick off FFA Week (a week celebrating FFA and agriculture) this year, that committee decided that it would be awesome to do a community service project.  After much deliberation they settled upon helping at Circle City Relief.  I had no idea as to what Circle City Relief was, so I did a little bit of research. I found that Circle City is a Non-Profit, Christian Organization that serves lunch to the less fortunate in downtown Indy every Sunday. The description was enough to get me excited for our excursion, but I wasn't nearly prepared for what this group was all about. When we arrived, we learned they are about so much more than serving food. Not only do the volunteers hand out pizza, soups, drinks, as well as other varieties of food, but they do so every single Sunday afternoon regardless of the weather. The day we were there was testimony to that with the cold temperatures, wind, and sleet that mother nature dealt us.  Outside of this aspect, the organization also offers clothing and bikes to those in need. This all sounds great, but what I really loved was how the volunteers genuinely wanted to get to know the individuals who came through. The group who leads the activities has been doing so for last 5 years and the relationships, as well as the rapport, that they've built with the members of the community is absolutely amazing.

After hearing a little bit about Circle City, I’m sure you can see why some of us fell in love with it. We fell so in love with it, in fact, that the girls and I have gone back since then.  The last time we were able to go was the first Sunday that it really began to feel like spring. The sun was shining and the air was just warm enough for you to really want to shed your heavy winter jacket.  When we arrived, we all scattered in different directions depending on where we were needed. Brittany helped serve soup and got to know people as they passed her. Dakota and I were on ‘Doughnut Duty’ which consisted of passing out boxes of donuts….that is until we ran out. Once that happened we began mingling and just talking to those who were there. Miss Lindsey was drawn to the group of little kids who were there. She told them stories, chased them around the parking lot, and at the end of the day just loved on them. Seeing each of my sisters in an element that they loved so much warmed my heart. And that’s when I had one of those perspective moments.

Not only were each of us so happy to be there, but so was everyone else. There were some individuals there who truly only had a tent to live in, but you never would have guessed it. They had smiles on their faces, a kind word to say, and they were the first to say how blessed they were. Being able to enjoy the company of those individuals for three hours was the highlight of my entire week.
A lot of times I forget about all the blessings in my life because I’m so caught up in figuring out how to finish what’s next on my list. For example, I’m so focused about getting everything ready for college that I forget to thank my parents for all they've done to help me get to the point where college is an option. Or I forget to tell my teammates just how much I appreciate them because I've gotten so used to them being around. It makes me think of the cliché phrase “Take time to stop and smell the roses”.  Most people laugh when they hear this quote, but I think there’s a lot of truth to it. A majority of society has a lot going on in their day and things get pushed to the back of their plate or even forgotten. More often than not it’s realizing what all they’re blessed with.

Being there, in that moment, simply talking to some seriously cheerful people reminded me of everything I’m blessed with; everything from my family, to the opportunity to be there that day. Those three hours of fellowship served as my time to stop and smell the roses.

Especially with it being the Easter season, I realize just how blessed I am. Unfortunately I shouldn't just remember my blessings around holidays. A tip to myself, and to you, remember your blessings and take the time to stop and smell the roses in your life.

Incredibly blessed,
Kathleen Jacobs
Indiana FFA State Treasurer