Sunday, November 6, 2016

From the Windy City to Circle City: Indiana FFA State Officer Fall Retreat

Science, Streetlights, Swine, and Service. While these words may seem like a strange tongue twister, they truly summarize the experiences of my teammates, Mr. Martin, and I this past weekend at our fall retreat. Before departing on this adventure we were told to read the book How Full is Your Bucket by Don Clifton and Tom Rath. This novel showed my teammates and I how we can use positive words to fill people’s buckets, and the horrible effects of dipping from someone’s bucket by using negative words.
Showing off the differences in the back of our jackets with our new friends, we even named our group "Illiana."

Science. We began our journey by traveling to the windy city of Chicago to visit Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (CHSAS) where we were truly impressed by the knowledge and poise of the students who led us in tours of not only their state-of-the-art facilities but also educated us on their “pathway” in agriculture. It was mind-blowing to see inner-city students share our passion for livestock, horticulture, food science, education, and all other areas of agriculture during our time in the windy city. These students truly filled my bucket by making us feel as we did our favorite dance, "The Juju" with some of the students.

Streetlights. After our visit at CHSAS we headed into Downtown, Chicago which was painted in the colors blue and red as they celebrated The Chicago Cubs winning the World Series. From getting a free t-shirt, to visiting the Shedd Aquarium, to taking selfies at “The Bean,” my teammates and I experienced life in a big city as some true tourists.
A typical tourist picture in front of The Bean sporting our new shirts that were given our in celebration of The Cubs' win!

Swine. After getting our candy fix at the Albanese Candy Factory, we headed back into Indiana to visit one of the largest farms in the country, Fair Oaks Farms. After eating Emily’s celebratory birthday meal at the Farmhouse restaurant, we did everything possible including the Dairy, Swine, and Crop Adventures. Similar to the passion for agriculture that we saw at CHSAS, I was truly impressed seeing one of our own Indiana FFA members in her Supervised Agricultural Experience in the Swine Adventure. Natalie Wagner, a senior at Kankakee Valley High School, gave us a personal tour of the Swine barns at Fair Oaks. Her speaking skills were outstanding and I was truly astonished that she could answer any of our questions without missing a beat. We truly hoped to fill her bucket after this visit by telling her how amazing she did as a host and FFA member.  
A picture with our OUTSTANDING personal tour guide, Natalie Wagner, from Kankakee Valley High School. 

Service. “Living to serve” is a part of the FFA Motto so what’s a retreat without serving others? We ended our trip in Downtown, Indianapolis at Circle City Relief, where we served meals and clothing to those in need in our own backyards. This was my favorite opportunity to “fill buckets” as Chaela Minor and I helped families sign up for the Christmas shopping event. I saw parents and grandparents moved to tears as the worry of affording Christmas presents was lifted off their shoulders. I witnessed those who utilized these services travel back to the warehouse with us to clean the kitchen where the food was prepared.

Another “S” word to add to this list would be a term my teammates and I use often, “Serving Selflessly.” I learned that one of these volunteers who used these services actually lived under a nearby overpass, but chose to give back and help our team mop the floor of the kitchen, serve food to others in need, and even helped load up the trucks. This man was serving selflessly in a way that I had never seen before, giving everything to something that had given so much to him. I have truly taken away that lesson from this man and am truly reenergized and ready to serve selflessly to the 12,000 members of the Indiana FFA Association! 

Serving selflessly, 

Jessica Mars
Indiana FFA State President

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