Friday, November 27, 2015

Lead by Example

     I think it’s safe to say that everyone has at least one role model, maybe more. These role models may be present in our lives or someone we’ve seen on some form of media. They could be older than us, our same age, or even younger than us. I honestly never thought too hard about who my role models are until recently. This week I came to the realization that one of my biggest role models was also my friend.

      Tucker was one of my closest friends all throughout high school. We were in FFA, student council, and on the speech and debate team together. Not only did we do all of these activities together, we were also both the top of our respective classes (he was a year older than me). Everything Tucker did well, I wanted to do just as well. He set the bar high, however. Sometimes I didn’t meet my goal of being as good as Tucker. I never could score or place as high as he did in the Crops Evaluation CDE. I also never reached my goal of beating his SAT score. Other times I far exceeded my expectations. I achieved two of my highest goals in honor of him. He ran for Section II Director the year before I did but didn’t get it. It was a close election with several applicants and I know he did the best he could. When I ran, I didn’t think there was any way I could achieve it because he didn’t. I did, however, and spent the year serving the members to the best of my ability like I knew he would have.

     While I was running for Section Director, Tucker was running for his highest goal at the time: State Office. I had spent some time that summer helping him and our friend Kelsie prepare to run. I knew that they were well-prepared and awesome candidates, but we also put our trust in the nominating committee. I was there right after he and Kelsie opened their slates. (Spoiler alert: their names weren’t on it.) I saw and felt the other side of slate that night. I cried alongside them because I wanted them to get it more than anything. That night crushed my dreams. How could I possibly become a state officer if they hadn’t? I’m too shy and awkward to even be considered. These were my thoughts following that night. Yet, I still ran and gave my all in those rounds.  When it came time to open my slate, I went to the exact same spot Tucker and Kelsie opened theirs the year before. Tucker was even there with me when I saw my name on that piece of paper and again at the induction ceremony.

     Tucker came as my special guest to the first weekend of FIRE and I saw him again a couple of days later. During this time catching up, I realized it wasn’t all of Tucker’s accomplishments that made him one of my role models. It was how he responded when he didn’t reach his goals. One of the first things he and Kelsie told my chapter after that night was to pass slate. They could have asked us to try to break it, but they didn’t. Of course Tucker mourned after not achieving his dream, but he did it privately and humbly. He was happy for the team that made it and even remained friends with some of them. I have so much respect for him after seeing him go through that disappointment and come out a better person. There is no way that not achieving State Office was a “failure” for him, because he’s thriving where he is. He’s at Purdue now, studying a major he loves, hanging out with cool people just like him, and sharing his tremendous Christian faith with others. His happiness is evidence to his success.

     So, who is your role model? Are they a positive influence or a negative one? Do they share the same hopes and dreams as you? Is it your goal to be just like them? Are you as thankful for them as I am for Tucker? If you are, take some time this upcoming Thanksgiving to tell them. Because everyone deserves to know that they are looked up to and loved. You never know, YOU might be someone’s example to follow. Are you a good one? Remember, we lead by example.

Love always,

2015-2016 Indiana FFA State Reporter

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


            I’m a 6’5” 18 year old male who only weighs 160 pounds. It might not seem like it, but I absolutely love to eat! That might have been one of my early attractions to the Columbia City FFA meetings where Mrs. Furthmiller and Mr. Kimmel never failed to provide a feast of delicious snacks. Food is an interesting thing. Food to me is something that is such a common item in American culture that we often overlook exactly what food does for each and every one of us. Food fosters relationships in ways we might not even notice.
            For example, it reminds us of people. Whenever I see a cherry pie, I think of my great grandma Gene, whose cherry pie could knock your socks off. Suddenly, the aroma of warm cherries would bring back memories of my grandma sneaking us chocolates with a soft smile of mischief. That cherry pie is so much more than a sweet treat, but serves as precious memories.  
            Food can bring up images of places we’ve been and places we wish to return. If you know me, you know that I adore seafood. Every time I eat seafood, whether it be shrimp, salmon (my all-time favorite), mahi mahi, crab, scallops, or even calamari, I think of the breath taking coast of Topsail Island in North Carolina. That beautiful island is where my family spent a week together every other summer. In a similar way, sweet tea reminds me of home. As I’ve obviously left home this year, whenever I drink good sweet tea I think of my home in Whitley County. I don’t mean McDonald’s sweet tea, I mean a type of sweet tea that only my southern Indiana raised mama could make. You see I was raised in a home where there was always a cold pitcher of sweet tea in the fridge. Sweet tea makes me think of the home I love.
            Food can mark special occasions! For my 18th birthday, my family went to the BoatHouse in Winona Lake, IN. If you are ever in the Warsaw area, you have to try it out! I remember exactly what I ate that night. I ordered the Bruschetta Pasta with chicken. I don’t remember that meal because it was the greatest meal in the world (even though it is hard to beat). I remember it because my whole family came together to wish me luck before I traveled to the State Officer Candidate Open House. Food creates memories that other things often can not.
            This year has been full of food as well. Whether it was the midnight run to McDonald’s after State Officer Slate was revealed, or the trip to Waffle House in Arkansas, this year has been full of interesting moments, often surrounded by food. I remember the wonderful breakfast my grandparents made for the State Officer team before starting our journey around District 7. I vividly remember how flat out amazing the tenderloin was in Brook, IN where we ate at a restaurant called “Earl’s.”  I kid you not, it was the best tenderloin I have ever had. If you’re ever in Newton County, look up Earl’s. Whenever we stop in Crothersville, we eat at a local cafĂ© called “Lucille’s.” They have a spaghetti plate that will make you want to move to Jackson County just to eat it every day. The most memorable moments of this year have been surrounded by some sort of food.
Food also brings people together. Our team makes it a point to eat a majority of our meals around the kitchen table. Whether it is the mean Hamburger Helper I can cook up, or the amazing dishes of Sean and Josh, 7 random individuals have become best friends through the food we eat together. Food is a weird thing. It is a necessity in order to stay strong in our physical journey through life, but it adds something else as well. We become stronger not because of the food we eat, but because of the memories we create gathered around the table.

Keep Smiling,

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

Friday, November 6, 2015

Take My Hand

     National Convention came to a close for us this past Saturday, and it never fails that our busy schedules cause us to turn right back around and head somewhere else. We were to have our fall retreat from November 1st to the 4th, and this year we would be spending it with Heifer International in Arkansas. The team was beyond excited for a new adventure! We began the ten-hour trek to Arkansas on the Sunday after National Convention. We sang at the top of our lungs, slept for hours, argued like siblings over the most random things, and then slept some more. We arrived around 7 p.m. at Camp Couchdale, which is the beautiful center for Arkansas FFA. After a good night’s rest, we ventured to Perryville, Arkansas for a meeting at the Heifer International Ranch. We spent the morning working out small details for Read to Feed, our service project, and learning more about the mission of Heifer International. We were having a blast seeing our ideas become reality and putting our plans into action, but I think I can speak for everyone when I say that deep down, we were all slightly anxious for what was to come next.

     At the conclusion of our meeting, we headed over to the dining hall for a quick lunch, and this is where we met Fin; a very short, young lady in overalls, with the brightest smile and most contagious laugh. She was going to be our facilitator as we went through the Global Gateway program. We went to an isolated part of the ranch, and began our 24-hour simulation. In this area, there were 5 different “regions” of poverty. We began our introduction to the area in the Appalachian region, which consisted of a poorly-constructed wood house that lacked electricity and plumbing. Nearby, there was also a bus with broken windows, animal-infested, and a distinct odor; it was pretty clear that it had never been taken care of. We then made our way over to the refugee camp, which was essentially just a tent covered in wasps and other bugs. Next came the urban slums; a makeshift home without doors or insulation, patched with cardboard and scattered with dirty, wet mattresses. Across a narrow dirt road we found the Guatemalan home, which was sturdily made of concrete, but the structure was all there was to it; there was no furniture with the exception of a few mattresses and a couch, no water or electricity, and all cooking was done on an outdoor fire. Our last visit landed us at the Zambian huts, which were very simple clay huts with rickety tin roofs and a cloth door. At each of these places, we read a real story written by someone who had actually lived under those circumstances, and we discussed the daily struggles that occurred in those areas. With each stop, our hearts dropped more and more with the reality of it all. 

     It only got crazier from that point. Once we had visited the regions, we all sat down together and thought about our daily lives compared to the situations we had just seen. After some small discussion, the real simulation began! Fin separated us into groups of 3; Sean, Josh, and Annalee were to stay in Zambia, Mason, Courtney, and Brett stayed in Guatemala, and Mr. Martin, Mr. Hays, and I were to live in the lovely Appalachian bus. Fin then made this simulation a little more difficult- Josh, Courtney, and I all were “pregnant” (we carried water balloons a makeshift apron), Annalee was blind from malnourishment, and Mason had to live with a rod tied to his leg to signify a critical injury. Each group received a tub with various items; a pot, a small portion of food, and some eating utensils. Fin wished us the best of luck, and we were on our own from that point forward. 

     And I must mention that none of us had our phones, watches, or any connection to the outside world… So it began. We all made our ways to our respective homes to begin planning what to eat and how to sleep. We traded with other groups for food and other various items, and began cooking while we still had some sunlight. In my group, we were lucky enough to have a working stove in the dim and dirty Appalachian house. We cooked up a concoction of rice, a potato, an egg, and some onion- it wasn’t tasty, but it filled us up. Other groups weren’t so lucky and had to patiently cook over an open fire. Once we had finished cooking, we all came together and shared the rest of our food with each other and to see what each group had made. We spent the rest of our time prior to dusk playing card games and avoiding gigantic rats in my Appalachian home. The sky soon became pitch black, and the eery feeling of not knowing the time or what resided in woods of Arkansas crept upon us. It was not long before we made our ways to our homes. 

     Have you ever desired to sleep in a rotting bus? If you have had that crazy temptation, I advise you to change that dream fast. Mr. Martin and Mr. Hays made their sleeping arrangement on the floor and left the tiny seat to the “pregnant” lady. I huddled up in my single dirty blanket, underneath shattered windows and trying to block out the draft of odor and the constant fear of raccoons and rodents trying to join us for the night. It’s safe to say that I maybe slept for two hours, as I froze from the heavy dew that fell throughout the night and worried about my teammates that slept 300 yards away. 

     The sun finally rose and the nine of us came together for a small breakfast of oatmeal cooked over the fire, still freezing cold and all a little grumpy from our lack of sleep. Fin arrived an hour or two later (it could have only been thirty minutes but I wouldn’t know). We milked two goats, did some morning chores, and then came together to wrap up the simulation. 

     It was eye-opening and terrifying for the nine of us, who have been blessed with safe homes and steady living environments, to see the reality in which millions of people live each and every day. I recognized just a tiny portion of the true struggles that a pregnant lady would face day in and day out; the struggle to nourish her baby, let alone her own body, to live in constant fear of the unknown, and I even got a small taste of what it was like to be separated from my family- my brothers and sisters who made me feel safe. My heart sunk. There is enough food produced to feed everyone in the world twice over, and yet billions of people still go hungry or malnourished. We keep our pantries full with things we may never eat, but once that expiration date arrives that entire item just gets tossed in the trash. People really do live like this every single day, and we turn our backs to it. 

     The entire experience of the Global Gateway program through Heifer International solidified my thoughts that it is all about perspective. We often look at the less fortunate and inwardly think, “Why don’t they just get a job? Why do they have a phone, but can’t afford to eat?” It has become our culture to hide poverty behind the latest technologies and the idea that a job would fix their problems, but have we ever thought about this- some people are at the lowest of all lows and they can’t even get to the baseline of a better life? That person may want a job, they may strive for a better lifestyle. They may interview for that job, but they don’t have the clean clothing or means of looking appropriate for the interview. When they fill out a resume, the second line below their name is address- it’s already going downhill due to the fact that these people most likely cannot claim an address. How can they be at their very best when they’re hungry, ill, and living in these circumstances?

     “When I give you my hand, it’s not for a handout. It’s so you can take my hand and walk this journey together”. Every day, we go through our lives desensitized to everyone else around us. We don’t always think about what it might be like from their point of view. Maybe it would benefit us all if we stop and just take a moment to see it from their perspective, and take action. 

God Bless, 

Kenzie Kretzmeier 
2015-2016 State President

Sunday, October 25, 2015

11th & Baltimore

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” As FFA members gather in Louisville, Kentucky for the 88th National FFA Convention, our organization continues to move forward. With every step, we grow stronger. Over 629,000 students unite under the blue corduroy jacket, a feat which has never been accomplished before. Every one of these students is setting himself or herself apart from others in life by gaining unique, valuable skills with every step made through  FFA. In 1928 this organization was far from what it is today. Leaps, bounds, and great strides have been made in this organization, but forming this powerhouse started out with a single step.
            Last week, I found myself in Kansas City, Missouri. Knowing that we were in the city where FFA’s journey began, my meats judging teammates and I began wandering around the beautiful downtown landscape looking for where FFA was founded, Hotel Baltimore. Within minutes, we found ourselves standing at the corner of 11th and Baltimore, the famed site of FFA’s inception.
            What we found, or didn’t find, disappointed us. We saw a parking lot. We refused to believe that this was where 88 years of history began. We walked up and down Baltimore Street, searching for the place where 33 students gathered for the very first National Convention. Finally, after a chat with a very informative security guard at the public library, we accepted the fact that the hotel had been demolished.
            After making this realization, we made our way back to the vacant parking lot at the corner of 11th and Baltimore. We stood on the parking lot and stared at the street signs, imagining what that street corner looked like on that monumental day; 11th and Baltimore: where dreams of an organization that would allow farm boys to develop confidence and pride in their industry became a reality.
            I found myself imagining what my life would look like if there had been no history made on this street corner. Though it was difficult, I could imagine my closet with no blue corduroy jackets. I could imagine my shelf with no plaques. I could imagine myself at college instead of serving as a state officer. But when I tried to imagine my life without the people FFA has introduced me to, I simply couldn’t.
As I was standing with two of my best friends from high school, I reminisced about the mini-bus rides, running to get a pop before practice, and the conversations we had in the parking lot of our high school’s Ag building. We went through good times and bad times together. The memories we made, and the lessons that we learned, shaped me into the person that I am today.
Walter Newman had a dream. He brought the FFA founding fathers together at the corner of 11th and Baltimore to put that dream into motion. We have made some tremendous strides since that day, but it all began with the courage to take that single step. We all have dreams that might seem impossible to accomplish. But dreams are a journey, and every journey begins with a single step. Follow your dreams. Take that step. You never know; eighty-eight years from now, someone might be thankful for the single step you took today.

Forever Imagining, 

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

My Three Sisters

To my three sisters,

Those that know me pretty well are aware that I am the middle of three kids. Three boys to be more specific. Aside from the story my mom loves to tell about when we wrote “baby sister” on the grocery list, I’ve never had a sister.

When I opened up the envelope that contained my name, and the names of the six individuals who would become my teammates, I gained more than just a state office. I gained six new siblings.

Three brothers? That I could handle. It was obviously going to take some getting used to but I wasn’t worried. Three sisters? That’s another story altogether. Immediately all the jokes came pouring in from my family and friends that I’d have a big adjustment ahead of me learning to live with three girls.

Honestly? The biggest adjustment was learning to live with 6 other people. Really at the end of the day there weren’t many girl specific quirks that I had to accommodate for. However, I have learned a few things.

Girls are tough. Like, if you throw a pillow across the living room in response to one of them insulting you, you can fully expect revenge. In other words, you can fully expect to be mercilessly beaten with multiple pillows.

Girls take extra time to get ready. Like, a lot of extra time. So when they say they’re going to “change really quickly” give them, bare minimum ten minutes. That’s being polite. Don’t worry, you’ll eventually get where you need to go. So what if you’re late, at least you’re arriving in style.

Lastly, girls are actually pretty great to have around.

Scratch that,

Sisters are pretty great to have around. They give really good advice, and are also really good listeners. They’re stubborn, but it works to their advantage. At the end of the day, they’re there for you. That’s pretty dang important.

Also, they’re pretty good with a baseball bat when you think someone is hiding outside your house.

So, to my three sisters, thanks. Thanks for being you. I may not always say it, but at the end of the day I’m thinking it.

All the best,

Sean Harrington
2015-2016 State Treasurer

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