Thirty years ago, I attended my first national FFA convention in Kansas City, Missouri. Just a shy, quiet freshman, I filled a sudden opening on the chapter's bus. I didn't know what FFA was about. I didn't know the other students going. I had never traveled without my parents before. The whole trip was destined to be a personal anxiety-ridden disaster. However ...
... this year, I celebrated 25 years since retiring as a state officer with the Illinois Association FFA. The time between that first national FFA convention and serving as an officer was filled with an awful lot of tears and personal growth.
FFA involvement forced me to confront fears of public speaking and meeting new people. I had to grapple with expectations and harness responsibility. I learned the privilege of independence and power of accountability. As an adult, I can appreciate all these life lessons more than I probably did while sweating through that blue corduroy in August at the state fair's FFA barnyard.
This summer, I experienced yet another facet of FFA -- attending the state convention as a parent.
My son, a state proficiency award winner, and my daughter, a member of the state FFA band, strode into FFA slightly hesitant but thoroughly curious. They had heard all my stories. Now, I get to watch them write theirs: shaking hands, making memories and gleaning tidbits of life lessons along the way. At home, they recounted every conversation they had and every speech they heard, and shed a few happy tears for the FFA magic they experienced.
I thought wearing the blue jacket and racking up years of FFA memories was fulfilling, but nothing could prepare me for watching this next generation pave its own blue and gold path.
-- Katie Pratt writes, tweets, farms and wears blue and gold from north-central Illinois. Find her blog at theillinoisfarmgirl.com, and follow her on Twitter @KatiePratt4.
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