LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kyle Strachila is 2,500 miles away from home this week, but he’s among friends — about 55,000 of them.
FFA members from across the U.S., including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, are gathering Oct. 30-Nov. 3 for their annual convention, this year in Louisville. The agenda includes inspiration, training, friendship and election of national officers. That’s where Strachila comes in.
Almost every state nominates one candidate for national office, and Strachila is Washington’s.
He grew up on a dairy south of Lynden, Wash., and joined FFA when he was a freshman at Mount Baker High School. His senior year he was chapter president and student body president, then he was elected to the state FFA committee as vice president. He’s now a student at Washington State University, focusing on ag business.
His father, Ed Strachila, a third-generation dairyman, said Kyle raised pigs, studied horticulture, took honors classes and stayed active in athletics.
“I don’t know where he finds all his energy,” he said. “He’s excited and apprehensive about this convention, and he’s been preparing for it for a long time. Everyone at this level wants this position.”
Other candidates from Western states are Hannah Garrett from the FFA chapter in Galt, Calif., Anna Pratt from Blackfoot, Idaho, and Jason Wetzler from North Clackamas, Ore.
The convention program includes several inspirational speakers:
• Rick Pitino, championship-winning head coach of the University of Louisville basketball team, will bring his 10-step process for becoming a winner.
• New York City Firefighter Joe Torrillo, who was part of the rescue effort at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, survived after being buried alive twice when the towers collapsed.
• Josh Sundquist was told at age 9 that a rare form of bone cancer left him with a 50 percent chance of survival. Chemotherapy treatments and the amputation of his left leg by the age of 13 saved his life. He took up ski racing, eventually competing for the U.S. Paralympic Ski Team.
• Katie Pratt, former FFA member and officer from Illinois, farms with her husband, Andy, and their family. Dedicated to telling the story of the modern farmer, she appreciates the hard work, nature’s power, and the sunrises and sunsets that keep her believing that life on the farm is the greatest challenge tempered by the greatest rewards.
Singer and songwriter Dierks Bentley will perform in concert Oct. 30 with special guest Jana Kramer. Entertainment will also include a rodeo.
The convention will conclude with the election and installation of National FFA officers.
FFA at a glance
The FFA has 579,678 student members in grades 7 through 12 who belong to one of 7,570 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
About 70 percent of them live in rural and farm areas, 19 percent in small towns and 10 percent in urban and suburban areas.