Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Intentional this Holiday Season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Family time, hot cocoa, emotional movies, warm blankets, baked goods, shopping, and the list could go on! I absolutely love the holiday season because of the enjoyment it brings. There is a little over a week left until the day some of us have been counting down to - Christmas Day. How exciting! Whether you're celebrating virtually or in-person with loved ones there’s something we need to keep in mind. 

Year after year I’ve caught myself getting wrapped up in the gift giving and stress of the holiday season. By the time the actual celebration comes along, all the joy is almost gone! On Christmas Day I’m so excited to open presents early, but when it comes to spending time with my family in the afternoon I’m just flat out annoyed. We would travel to my extended family's house and I would spend time on my phone instead of in conversation. If you find yourself spending more time on your phone or stressed out about gift giving I have a challenge. Let’s make an effort to be more intentional and genuine with our actions this holiday season. Be intentional about the conversation you make and be genuine with your family. In the end, it’s not about the presents, but more so about the time spent with loved ones. We don’t know the next time we will get to have a conver
sation with someone, so take this holiday season to be truly engaged in a conversation and intentional with your words. By taking this simple step, your holiday season will be a thousand times better! 

Being intentional this season,

Kylie Schakel

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Julia's Joytastic Guide to Christmas

If you’re anything like me, your Christmas tree was up on November 1st and Christmas carols were sung in October. I LOVE Christmas. There’s just something about the lights, the decorations, and the entire Christmas spirit that never fails to brighten my day. So, as we’re drawing closer to the holiday season, I will be sharing with you: Julia’s Joytastic Guide to Christmas! 

  1. Find a Christmas buddy. Find someone that shares the same passion for Christmas that you do. For me, that would be the one and only Taylor Roy. We Facetime almost daily and discuss Christmas, from movies and songs to where our new decorations should be. Celebrating with a buddy is incredible. 

  2. It’s never too early to start celebrating. Though some of my teammates disagree, I’m here to say that we can and should start celebrating the holidays early, perhaps even in March or April if you’re feeling festive. My tree was up on November 4th but I was ready to celebrate back in October. Don’t feel ashamed to celebrate early, it’s completely acceptable, and I highly encourage it. 

  3. Have a Christmas playlist ready at all times. Sometimes, I’ll be sitting in my bed here with the Christmas tree on and just feel a sudden urge to belt out some Christmas tunes. Be sure that you have All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey and 5 More Days Till Christmas by The Cheetah Girls on there, you’ll thank me later.

  4. There is no such thing as too many decorations. Some of my teammates may beg to differ, but you just simply cannot over-decorate for Christmas. Hang that wreath and put up that sign, it will look absolutely beautiful. 

  5. Christmas movies are the perfect way to end a cold November/December night. Cozy up with a big ole blanket with a nice mug of hot cocoa with marshmallows. I highly recommend Elf (shoutout to Emily Royster), How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and The Santa Clause series. 

  6. Write a letter to Santa. I’m 19 years old and still every year I sit down with my niece, Hayden, and we write our letters to Santa Claus. You’re never too old for the best Christmas traditions. 

  7. Make holiday desserts. My mom and I have a tradition where we make a list of holiday treats, such as puppy chow, peanut butter and oreo balls, fudge, and chocolate meringue pies. Try some new recipes and have fun with it. 

  8. Find ways to give. One of my favorite parts of this season is finding ways to give back. I always volunteer with The Salvation Army to ring bells at their kettles and work with my community for our Adopt a Family project. Giving can also be those small acts of kindness, like holding the door or leaving notes of encouragement. Try to find different ways to give to others this season and make someone else’s holiday season even better. 

  9. Get an advent calendar. Ever since I was a newborn, my mom has surprised me every December 1st with an advent calendar. It started with just chocolate calendars for 15 years and I suppiled myself with a Friends calendar this year. N
    ow, I wake up every morning and open the day’s slot to find a piece of Friends memorabilia that helps me start my morning on the right foot. 

  10. Surround yourself with your loved ones and have fun with it. The holiday season can be so magical, but we decide how we make the most out of this season. You’re never too old for a picture with Santa or driving through a Christmas lights display. 

If you follow these 10 steps, you are sure to have a joytastic Christmas holiday. Make like Buddy the Elf and spread Christmas cheer by singing loud for all to hear and don’t try to hug a racoon. Think like the Grinch and understand that Christmas, perhaps, doesn’t come from a store. That Christmas means a little bit more. As Charlie Calvin said, seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing. The Polar Express Conductor stressed to just believe. Believe in the magic of Christmas and all that the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart. Kevin McCallister hopes you have a Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal and a happy new year. I hope that you have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas, as Clark Griswold once exclaimed. Thank you for reading over Julia’s Joytastic Guide to Christmas. 

Have a happy Holidays! 

Julia Hamblen

State President

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

2 Corinthians 5:17

So, I did something a little different for this blog post - I grabbed my bible and let my teammates pick any random verse they wanted. The rule was whatever verse they picked, I would write my blog about. So here we go… 

My fellow teammates and I have been in office for nearly six months now. That blows my mind to think about. I guess it's true that time flies when you’re having fun! As I was writing this I thought back to the beginning of the year when Kylie and I went on a little hike around the Leadership Center. Normally I wouldn't question going on a hike with Kylie, but there was a small problem: it was pouring rain, the only shoes I had were Crocs, she only had her Chacos, and all the trails were a complete mud pit. Did any of that stop us? Of course not! 

Off we go, hiking the trails of the Leadership Center. Was it muddy? Very. Did we slip and fall? Several times. Did I end up soaked after I fell in the creek? Yes, very much so. After we got tired of walking on the same trail, we “Forged our own path.” See what I did there? Long story short, we went so far off the trail that we got lost. By the time we realized that we were lost, we were stuck in this cycle of going forward and not turning back. This definitely was not a good idea. It took another 20 minutes of walking with no destination for us to decide we needed to turn back around. 

Have you ever been in a cycle like this or been stuck in your ways and not realized it? I have. In life it can be super easy to fall into these cycles. By the time we realize that we’ve gone too far off the trail we may think that we’re unable to turn around. Want to know my opinion? That is completely wrong. 

Alan Watts once said, “You’re under no obligation to be the same person you were 5 minutes ago.” If we apply that to Kylie and I going off the beaten path, we get something pretty similar. Watts probably would have seen me and Kylie, soaking wet, covered in mud, and laughing hysterically, and said something along the lines of “You are under no obligation to go the same direction you were 5 minutes ago.” Simply put, you don't have to stay in a cycle. In me and Kylie's case, we didn't have to continue to walk off the beaten path. We didn't have to stay in the rut we created ourselves that said “keep going forward.”

Most likely, you are not reading this during a hike and you are likely not walking off the beaten path. It is entirely possible, however, that you are stuck in a rut. You may think that you are stuck on this path and that you can't turn around. Let me tell you you can. 

You are never too far gone. Forge a new path. Embrace new opportunities.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here! 

2 Corinthians 5:17

Never too far gone, 

Luc Sproles

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Derick’s Tips and Tricks for the Best Possible Thanksgiving

As I’m sure everyone is aware, tomorrow is one of the most popular holidays in the United States. A day that we have all been looking forward to for a while.

National Cake Day.

If you can believe it, National Cake Day is actually a thing. On the serious side, tomorrow is Thanksgiving! A time for us to show thanks for what we have and to gather in good company to appreciate those who mean the most to us. Whether you are gathering for Thanksgiving with close family or sharing the festivities over Zoom, here are some universal tips and tricks guaranteed to improve your Holiday Season. 

The Recipes - What’s Thanksgiving without the good food? Try out some recipes that have been passed down by your parents or grandparents. If they didn’t taste good, they would have never lasted this long anyway. That thirty year old recipe for deviled eggs might just be the key to your Thanksgiving meal.

The Company - Even with the good food, you need someone to share it with! Getting the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins involved means more people to hear those funny stories you’ve been waiting to tell. If relatives can’t come in person, Zoom them in virtually for even more laughs when technology acts up.

The Decorations - Simple decorations go a long way. My family would always bring out the fake pumpkins and plastic leaves to give that homely feel to the place. If you are feeling crafty, hand-traced turkeys are always cute on the refrigerator. 

The Conversation - AVOID politics!! No one wants to get into a heated argument the one time you bring the family together. Let your grandparents tell the “hilarious” jokes they’ve been wanting to share all year. Tell a few stories of all the Zoom Fails you’ve seen this past year. Who knows? You might actually have a really nice conversation with someone.

The Entertainment - Thanksgiving is football time in the Williams house. When you finally get tired of staring at the tv screen, take the best plays and act them out with your family. If physical activities aren’t your style, cards or board games are always a safe option. Seeing someone angrily throw their cards in defeat can be pretty entertaining.

The Dessert - We couldn’t possibly forget about dessert! If I could skip the ham and mashed potatoes for pumpkin pie, I would in a heartbeat. Make sure to put out plenty of additional options like cake, muffins, and candy. The more sweets you have, the happier your household is going to be. Trust me.

The Food Nap - The best way to end your Thanksgiving is a well-deserved nap. We all need a little bit of time for the food to settle after stuffing ourselves. Need a sure fire way to fall asleep? Put on the golf channel. It’s worked for my family for years.

      I hope these tips and tricks give you some ideas for your Thanksgiving celebration! Trying something new and creative can really make this a successful holiday season. Good company and good food is what we all need right now, so enjoy the time you have with family and friends. Let them know just how thankful you are to have them in your life. From my family to yours, have a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow. And oh… make sure you share those last pieces of pumpkin pie.

Happy Holidays! 

Derick Williams

State Reporter

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

We're All in This Together

My sophomore year of high school was a pretty fun year. I had a bunch of science classes, which I loved, and we put on really fun theater productions that year. We started off with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for our Fall play. My mom got to be the assistant director for that show and it was really enjoyable to work with her. Just when I thought the year couldn't get any better, they announced what our Spring musical would be. It was High School Musical

It was every theater kids’ dream! Apparently, it was every high school kids’ dream! We had students flock from all different categories in our school. We had theater kids, jocks who had never been in a show before, kids who never did any other extracurricular activity, and kids in between that auditioned. It was basically High School Musical happening right before our eyes. The cast list was posted and not a single person got cut from the show. It was about to be the coolest show Wawasee High School had ever put on stage. And me? I got to be Ryan Evans.

Rehearsals commenced and the show was well underway. We were on track to have our first performance in March and we were all pretty sure we would have an incredible turnout. Two days before opening night, I got very sick. I missed school, rehearsal, and even parent night! Someone had to fill in for me and I was resting up, hoping that I would be fine by opening night. As if things couldn’t get worse, my mom then told me that our head director, Mrs. Thornburg, was in the hospital the day before opening night. I recovered and made it to the opening performance, still not feeling great. Unfortunately, Mrs. Thornburg didn’t make it to our opening night. She never made it to any of the performances, because she passed away the morning after our opening night.

We were all devastated. Our director wouldn’t even get to see the final product of our months of hard work. We had to continue on and do the final two shows, knowing that she would never be in the audience to see them. The community knew what was going on, so they all rallied behind us and our audience was huge. We did a beautiful tribute to her, singing a cut of her favorite song from the show at the end of the performances. There ended up being so much beauty in the midst of tremendous pain. Our production of High School Musical was more than just a simple musical. The key message in High School Musical is that every single person matters and that “we’re all in this together.” It shows that you need to look past yourself and reach out to others. It means reaching out to the quiet kid sitting by themself at lunch. Invite them over, be a friend. I think this is what Mrs. Thornburg would have wanted people to take away from that show. You have a purpose in life, and you are so loved. You are created in the image of God and He loves you more than anyone ever can. And Mrs. Thornburg lived out that love in her life.

Here’s a quote I want to leave you with:

“With one invitation, we can take someone

From outsider to insider

From outcast to beloved member

From unknown neighbor to coffee companion

From wallflower to life-of-the-party

From shortened life expectancy to 80 years of joy.”

Loving BIG,

Evan Coblentz

State Treasurer

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The 10 Things Loren Can’t Live Without

Hey friends! I recently saw on Youtube a video that had famous people going through the 10 things they can’t live without. I thought it would be cool to tell y'all the 10 things I can't live without.

Cows- I cannot imagine life without the greatest animal on Earth. I have been surrounded by cattle all my life and have found a true passion in the cattle industry. Definitely a must have.

Family- Well let’s state the obvious. Without my parents I would not be here, but they are my biggest supporters and I wouldn’t be able to navigate this crazy thing called life without them.

IPhone-  We live in a world that revolves around technology and my phone keeps me in the loop. I’m a big fan of Instagram and Facebook.

Bologna- I would probably never eat lunch in State Office if it wasn’t for having 5 packages of bologna in the fridge. Bologna is the best lunch meat in my opinion. 

Button-up Shirts- I have approximately 77 button-up shirts. I have no idea why I have so many, but I can’t pass up on a great deal at Goodwill. If you see me in a T-shirt, it is probably because all my button-ups are dirty or need ironed.

Gold Bond Powder-  Whatever the use it never fails. I LOVE Gold Bond.

Hats- If I didn’t have hats, I’d go nuts. Ball caps, bucket hats, cowboy hats, and even visors keep the sun and hair out of my eyes and add to my self-proclaimed fashion statement.

Faith- My faith is my rock and my everything. Jesus is king and I can’t live without him.

Farming-  If you think of it literally, “No Farms, No Food,” which means I starve and I don’t get all of my favorite meals. Farming also runs deep in my blood and I’m not sure what life would be like without it.

Cows- DId I ever mention how much I like cows? 

Thanks for checking out the 10 things I can’t live without! Let me know if you and I have any of these things in common!

Your friend,

Loren Matlock

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Welding Out of My Comfort Zone

The summer before my Freshman year, I mapped out my entire high school class schedule. At this point in my life, I thought I was going to be a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, so my classes consisted of anatomy, medical interventions, introduction to the medical field, and Health Sciences at my local vocational school, Blue River Career Programs (BRCP). I’ve toured BRCP several times, and this place was so interesting to me. Instead of sitting in a chair and desk for 50 minutes, students get to learn hands-on in a specific field, such as firefighting, culinary arts, autotechnology, and much more. In the Health Science 1 class, I would get to learn the ins and outs of the medical field before advancing to Health Science 2 to obtain my CNA license. 

During my sophomore year, plans changed just a bit. I was sitting in my child development class one day when I came to the realization that I didn’t really want to be a doctor. I went back to my 4 year high school plan to make some adjustments. I knew now that I wanted to be a teacher, so I switched my Senior Year Health Science 1 class with Work Based Learning to job shadow a teacher. I submitted my senior year class requests just as I had planned. 5 days later, I was having second thoughts. I spent my junior year in Education Professions shadowing my 2nd grade teacher’s class, and I loved it, but did I want  another year of shadowing? I searched Purdue University’s class list for Ag Ed and focused on the Ag Mech classes, and my eyes were attracted to Welding. In the spur of the moment, I emailed my counselor to sign me up for welding at BRCP. 

My mom’s face dropped when I told her I was going to take welding class, and honestly, I was shocked I did it too. I’ve never welded a day in my life, so was I really about to use 3 hours of my school day to learn this new skill? Absolutely. 

I was the only girl in my class, which I won’t lie, was pretty cool. In a matter of days, I was figuring out the basics to striking an arc and simple stick welding. Before the semester ended, I was mastering all positions of stick and MIG welding with some OxyFuel in between. I started TIG in January and began constructing my project for the SkillsUSA competition in April. Although class was cut short in March and I didn’t get to complete my project or compete with it, I still found a love for the craft and found a way to finish my project at home. 

It’s crazy how plans can just change in the blink of an eye. Yet, when we take a leap of faith, incredible things can happen. We only have this one life, so let’s embrace every opportunity we can and step out of our comfort zone every now and then. 

Always embracing opportunities, 

Julia Hamblen

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Wild Adventures With the Team

Boy oh boy do I have a story for you. 

It was a normal Tuesday afternoon at the Indiana FFA State officer house. We were all hard at work when SUDDENLY a large thud came from the glass door. Julia screamed. 

~Cue the scary music~

 We all ran to the kitchen to see what was wrong and there we saw it. A hawk hanging upside down from the screen door outside our house. The hawk fell off of the door and laid on our back deck.  What do we do?!? After calling a family friend, a DNR officer, we found a rescue sanctuary that would take the hawk. 

~Cue action music~

Now for our next problem… getting the hawk to the rescue center. Now don’t get me wrong I have done my fair share of chicken catching in my day, but a hawk? This one is a little different, and honestly a little nerve wracking. Luckily the hawk was still confused after running into the door so I was able to pick him up pretty quickly. Bird in hand, I walked into the lodge to find a box. Julia then brought us a cat carrier and we carefully got the hawk into the carrier and headed to the rescue center. 

Now would be a good time to tell you that we decided to name the hawk Henry. 

Evan, Julia, Derick, Henry and I piled into Evan's car and we were off to the raptor rescue. Halfway through the drive we had to readjust Henry so he wasn't sliding around in pain. Derick handed me the welding gloves. As I was trying to turn Henry he started to flap his wings and take off (let me remind you we were in the car.) Thankfully Henry was not strong enough to fly away yet so we were able to keep him down. 

Twenty minutes later, we arrived at the raptor rescue and handed our boy Henry off to be treated. Since we were in Nashville we celebrated our good deed with a scoop of delicious ice cream.

The moral of the story is simple, do good deeds with good people and celebrate with ice cream.

Your State Sentinel,

Luc Sproles

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Capturing A Moment

Who else would count down the days until vacation? We can all relate to that feeling of impatience as the final hours before departure ticked away. As a kid, the highlight of my year was always family road trips. Packing up the van and heading south were some of my fondest memories growing up. Nothing else could seem to replicate that same feeling of excitement and enjoyment like a family vacation. To remember that experience, my mother would take countless pictures of everything and anything our family did on our vacations.

Pictures are some of the most unique items ever created by humans. Through the miracle of technology, we can capture a single moment in time and view it long after that moment has passed. People take pictures of everything in life. From small moments spent with friends to big milestones like weddings and graduations, people capture the moments that mean the most to them. Recently, I have become obsessed with Polaroids and instant photography. Just like family vacations, nothing beats the feeling of clicking a button and watching as the picture develops in your hand. When helping my grandparents clean out their attic, we found their original Polaroid camera from the 1970s. After dusting it off and taking a look through the lens, I knew I had to see if it still worked. Four days and an Amazon order later, a shipment arrived with a single package of black and white film. Inserting the film, adjusting the exposure, and pressing the button felt almost like a historic moment.

Surprisingly, the camera actually worked. Not surprisingly, the picture didn’t develop as planned. Unlike the cameras on our phones, you can’t make changes to a Polaroid. Once that picture is taken and it fully develops, you are stuck with the result. As you can imagine, my first attempt at using the camera illustrated that very point. Despite the less than perfect quality, the Polaroid made me appreciate the actual moment I was capturing. In life, we can’t edit the quality of a moment after it happens. The time spent with friends or a big life experience can’t be changed once the experience has passed. Just like a Polaroid picture, we are stuck with the results of our actions no matter how it develops. What makes me appreciate this is knowing we have the power to make that moment count. We have the power to live in that moment and to capture the best it has to offer. If we are given only one chance and one chance only, it's up to us to turn that moment into the memory we want to capture.

As my camera skills hopefully continue to improve, I encourage you to live in the moment. The next time you’re taking that family vacation or you’re going through a big life experience, think of what that moment would look like as a Polaroid picture. Make it count… appreciate the time you have… and turn that moment into the memory you want to remember. You’ll never want to make any changes.

Warm Wishes,

Derick Williams

Indiana FFA State Reporter

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Together We Stand

Starting at a young age, we’re handed Look and Find books that usually contain a section of “Spot the Difference.” As we continue to grow up, we’re told to set our differences aside whenever we disagree or have a conflict with someone. Setting differences aside is ingrained into our heads, but this common phrase oftentimes leads us to have a closed mindset. We become so focused on spotting the differences, that we lose touch with the reality of the big picture. Instead, it would benefit us to take a step back and avoid nitpicking at the differences.

When it comes to building relationships with people, why should we look for differences? Conversely, we should choose to cultivate a growth mindset by focusing on similarities. For us FFA members, that unifying factor is Agriculture. It is our job to use that common passion to work together for the greater good. Additionally, it would benefit all parties involved to stop assuming differences are a bad thing. The very beliefs, qualities, and characteristics that are different are the very things that make each and every one of us unique. This uniqueness that every person brings to the table is what holds tremendous value. 

Take a moment and consider a time when you worked on a team. Whether this team was in a group project at work or school, a team sport, or an FFA officer team, we’ve all worked with someone else before. Were you and your partner(s) exactly the same? Chances are, you weren’t. These differences are what serve as our roots. Our roots don’t have to control us and define us, but they help us to grow. Allow your roots to grow you in order to flower and bloom where you’ve been planted. Each person has different strengths and weaknesses, which is what makes working together such a beautiful thing. Each member’s strengths work to counteract another's weakness, creating an environment where we can stand united in a way that we couldn’t by ourselves. 

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I don’t always have it all together. For example, I sometimes find myself in a position where I become too focused on the details and I forget the end goal. Thankfully, I have been fortunate enough to have FFA officer teammates that are able to give me the gentle reminder to think about those things. These teammates’ strengths lie in having a big picture focus, which balances my habit of focusing too much on the details. 

It’s important to remember that our weaknesses don’t make us weak, but choosing to let those weaknesses define us does. Allow your weaknesses or differences to serve as growing opportunities. Actively pursue constructive criticism from others and keep an open mind at all times. Seek to surround yourself with others that will strengthen you and support you as you seek growth opportunities. A friend once told me, “never underestimate the power of community.” When we make the conscious effort to stop harping on the differences and work to unite with each other, we become an unstoppable force. Alone, there’s not much we can withstand. Together, we can accomplish whatever we want. 

Evan Coblentz

State Treasurer

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Having a Foundation

In-person state convention, gone. State Officer Summit in Washington D.C. gone. FFA Pavilion at the Indiana State Fair, gone. These are the events I’ve missed out on so far as a State Officer and I sometimes ponder what my experiences would’ve been like in a normal year. While I’ve missed my only opportunity to attend Summit, I’m still thankful to have attended multiple in-person conventions already. Despite missing these events, it was my Indiana State Fair experience I remained optimistic for. When the state fair was cancelled, I tried to stay happy by reminiscing on my time spent at the State Fair in the FFA Pavilion in years past. The FFA Foundation gave me the opportunity to spend over 20 days at The Great Indiana State Fair and experience the FFA Pavilion. The Foundation has given members from across the state the opportunity to volunteer at the Country Market. I even had the opportunity to promote Indiana Agriculture when I worked in the Country Market. On top of that, I helped raise money for scholarships. It’s because of groups like the Indiana FFA Foundation that remind me of the awesome experiences before Covid-19. It’s important that the Foundation is able to continue making these experiences even in a new world. Let’s step up and help The Foundation continue to provide meaningful experiences like mine. We can do this by supporting their events like the Blue and Gold Gala. Be sure to check it out on all of Indiana FFA social media platforms! I’m extremely thankful for the opportunities the FFA Foundation has given me, so let’s make sure to show attention to those who’ve helped us get where we are today.

Yours Truly, Loren Matlock

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Modern Day Good Samaritan

Many of us know the parable, or story, of the Good Samaritan from our time spent in Sunday school at church. However, for those of us who may never have heard it before, the story is simply about how there was an injured man lying on a road. A priest and another man passed by the injured man, ignoring his critical situation. Finally, one man who was from Samaria took mercy and cared for the man. The lesson from the story is to love your neighbor as yourself, with neighbor meaning fellow human being. 

SO… why does this story matter? In life it can be hard to find a good Samaritan, much less be one, when we get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of life, our schedule, and our relationships. We all struggle with it, and I am certainly no exception.

To answer that earlier question, it matters because of this text I received a few weeks ago…

My dad is a great man, but he isn’t perfect. Yet what he did in that moment made him perfect to me, and my heart overflows with pride at being lucky enough to call him MY dad. His ability to push off his own needs for the sake of someone else’s, his kindness, and his humanity, those are traits I admire about him. More importantly, those are the traits of a good Samaritan. He serves as a reminder, as do countless other individuals, that we can freely do good in our lives for others if we just stop, look around, and listen. 

Be kind, be selfless, be human. Be a good Samaritan. It is your turn to pass it on.

Learning to do better,

Blayne Vandeveer


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

8 Tips for Virtual Learning

We can all agree that this year has been crazy and we are finding ourselves shifting to a new world of virtual interaction, including our organization. I’ll be the first to admit that at times it can be dreadful to sit at a screen all day long, so I wanted to share with y'all tips and tricks that have worked for me. I hope that through this blog post you can find ways to not dread virtual learning. 

It’s What You Make It - Be Positive 

While situations in our lives may not be ideal, they’ll only be as good as we make them. If we aspire to gain knowledge through a meeting, conference, or whatever it may be: we must have a positive mindset to set us up for success. Being a “Negative Nancy” will make us dread every moment. Then, we won’t take anything away from the experience. 

Engage Yourself

I’ve found that the best way to gain the most out of an experience is to engage with the speakers, activities, and content. This allows us to think about the information being presented and enjoy our time. 

Read Emails 

If I could give you one piece of advice that would make virtual experiences run more smoothly on your end this would be it. Oftentimes, email or social media platforms are filled with crucial information about online events. This is so important to recognize and apply when communicating virtually. 

Take Breaks

It’s okay to take breaks. Occasionally, virtual learning can be long and when we push ourselves too far that’s when we miss out on opportunities because we aren’t focused. When we find ourselves overwhelmed, we should do an activity that will allow us to decompress. This may include taking a walk, watching an episode of netflix, listening to music, etc. This looks different for each of us, but plays a vital role in ensuring we get the most out of our experiences. 

Find a Space to Work That Best Suits You

Our workplace plays a large role in our mood. I recommend being in a clutter free area that is comfortable and try to minimize distractions, such as our phones, “to-do” lists, etc. When I see my “to-do” list I immediately want to work on it, so eliminating distractions like those allow us focus on what’s at hand. 

Dress for the Occasion

While pajamas are comfortable, I’ve found that getting dressed and ready for the day allows me to be more productive and focused. My friend Mackenzie and I say “look good, feel good, show good” when we go to sheep shows. This same mindset works for virtual learning. If we look good then we will feel good and eventually do good, so be sure to get dressed for the occasion (even if it’s virtual). 

Ask Questions

Virtual events and programs can be confusing at times. When we have questions it's helpful to reach out to those in charge through a simple email or phone call. Organizations want to make sure you have the best experience possible! Even in a normal world statements are misunderstood, so it's even more important to ask questions when we have them. These questions can be asked before, during, and even after the event!

Give Grace 

Recognize we’re all navigating through a virtual world together. Give grace to those who are doing their best because I promise they genuinely care for you. Plus, giving grace benefits both parties. 

I hope these tips help you succeed during virtual learning. It’s okay to have a bad day because above all we have to take care of ourselves first. At the same time, we must recognize that the same goes for those providing virtual opportunities. Instructors aren’t always going to have it together either, so let’s be thankful for the opportunities presented to us. Besides, where would we be if we were stuck in quarantine and didn't have all these virtual opportunities to carry on with our lives? Let's make it fun together! 

Kylie Schakel

2020-21 IN FFA State Secretary