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Western innovator: FFA leader gears up for busy year

'It's more rewarding than I could have ever imagined'


For the Capital Press

SUTHERLIN, Ore. -- Jerry Risk remembers the positive impression the Oregon State FFA officers made on him a couple of years ago when they visited his school. He liked the confidence they showed in their presentations.

Now the Sutherlin High School senior wants to return the favor and be a positive influence on other young high school students. He'll get that opportunity as the new state FFA president, having been named to that position in March at the annual Oregon FFA convention.

"I remember seeing those officers when I was a sophomore and seeing the skills they had learned from FFA," Risk said. "I want to give back to FFA members like they did for me.

"It's definitely a lot more work, but it's more rewarding than I could have ever imagined," he added of his first two months on the job.

The 17-year-old is the first Sutherlin student to be president of the state organization, which has 4,500 members in 105 chapters. At Sutherlin High's year-end FFA dinner May 16, he completed his term as president of that 115-member chapter. He's also been district president for the 400 members in Douglas, Coos and Curry counties.

Joining Risk as state officers for the next year are vice president Mitchell Evers of Banks, secretary Mitch Salo of Canby, treasurer Zech Hintz of Heppner, reporter Garrett Kitamura of Ontario, and sentinel Alex Yancey of Henley High in Klamath Falls.

All six will graduate from high school this year and then postpone attending college for a year so they can concentrate on their FFA responsibilities. Through the summer months the officers will travel around the state to a dozen leadership camps for high school officers, attend various training sessions and visit numerous agriculture-related businesses and industries as FFA representatives.

In addition, they'll attend a national leadership conference for Oregon, Idaho and Washington state officers in late June and Risk and Evers will attend the state president conference in Washington, D.C., in July. At that conference, those two will help plan activities for the National FFA Convention to be held in October in Indianapolis.

Risk said he's eager to travel, to visit with other FFA members and to meet industry officials.

"It'll be a year of service and learning," he said.

Wes Crawford, the fifth-year FFA adviser at Sutherlin High, said students don't get much more responsible than Risk.

"If something needs to be done, he'll get it done," Crawford said. "I would never expect someone to be named the president, but I'm not surprised by his selection. I knew he had the ability and the skills to do this. He's definitely a pretty natural communicator."

This year at the Oregon convention, Risk placed second in prepared public speaking.

In January, Risk will travel with the other Oregon officers to Argentina for a seminar on agriculture in that country. The six will then return to Corvallis and spend the next couple of months planning the state convention that will be held on the Oregon State University campus in March.

When his FFA presidency is over, Risk plans to attend OSU and study bioenergy and bioproducts.

"I believe in myself and if I try my hardest, I'll be satisfied," he said of his upcoming busy year.

Jerry Risk

Position: President of Oregon state FFA

Age: 17

Hometown: Sutherlin, Ore.

Family: TK

Future college: Oregon State University


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