'Healthy community' to gather
'They don't judge you or criticize you, all they do is encourage and support you'
By MATTHEW WEAVER
PALOUSE, Wash. -- Heidi Jamison has high hopes for the upcoming Washington FFA convention.
The Garfield-Palouse High School senior is a contender for state officer at the organization's 82nd annual convention, May 10-12 at the Washington State University campus in Pullman, Wash.
"It treats you almost like you're a family," Jamison said of FFA. "All the FFA members, they don't judge you or criticize you, all they do is encourage and support you. I think that is a very healthy community for building confidence and leadership skills."
Classmate Chandler Pfaff, a sophomore, will compete in prepared speech and agricultural sales events, and is an alternate for advanced parliamentary procedure. She's following in her older brothers' footsteps by participating in FFA.
"They were both really shy, so after they got through FFA, they were great professional speakers," Pfaff said, adding with a laugh. "I'm more outgoing than them, definitely. But definitely in front of people, (the FFA experience) helps."
Jodi Monroe, Washington FFA executive director, said 2,000 members will attend the convention this year, plus their teachers, parents and family members. There are more than 7,000 members statewide.
This will be the first year veterinary science career development events are held, beginning at 7 a.m. May 12, Monroe said. Each state has the opportunity to send two winning chapters to the national convention next fall.
"It's a big deal because FFA members that are taking animal science classes are going to end up in university and technical schools using those same skills," Monroe said, noting the core of FFA is a hands-on supervised agricultural experience. "It pulls them out of the classroom where they're learning and puts them in a real situation they would have."
One of the things Washington State FFA President Sammi Jo Cool is most looking forward is national FFA secretary Jason Troendle's speech at the convention.
"The national officers are like the poster children for FFA -- they're on all the posters and merchandise," Cool said. "Being able to look at those posters as an FFA member and (say), 'Hey, I met that person at my convention' is kind of a cool feeling."
After she hands over the state FFA presidency, Cool plans to attend Walla Walla Community College for two years, then transfer to WSU to pursue a double major in animal science reproduction and physiology and animal nutrition, with an emphasis on in vitro artificial insemination in cattle.
Cool urges the rest of the ag industry to keep an eye out for Washington FFA members on the rise.
"These kids we've been able to meet all year have really bright futures ahead of them and they're eager to get out there and make an impact," she said. "They're on the hunt, trying to get involved as much as they can, and they're looking for ways to make a difference."