REDMOND, Ore. — Wearing the blue jacket is not itself a superpower, but for the six newly elected Oregon FFA state officers, it is a platform for them to inspire their fellow students to reach new heights.
Josiah Cruickshank knows the impact it can have. As a high school freshman, Cruickshank said he was a nervous kid, reluctant to stick out from the crowd. Then he met the state FFA officer team, and it changed his outlook on what he was capable of doing.
“We need leaders, and we need people who can create a ripple,” Cruickshank said. “I want to make an impact on as many people as possible, and keep that ripple going.”
Cruickshank, of Bend, was elected March 25 as the 2019-20 Oregon FFA state president, along with Riley Davis, of Jefferson, as state vice president; Deidre Schreiber, of Enterprise, as secretary; Keegan Gibbs, of Heppner, as treasurer; Olivia Palacios, of Canby, as reporter; and Ellie Hanson, of Silverton, as sentinel.
Officer elections kicked off the final day of the Oregon FFA State Convention at the Deschutes Fair & Expo Center in Redmond. An announced crowd of 3,037 FFA members from more than 100 chapters arrived for four days of workshops and career development events, competing for the chance to move on to the National FFA Convention & Expo Oct. 30 through Nov. 2 in Indianapolis.
For officer candidates, the convention also meant three days of speeches, interviews and wracked nerves before a state nominating committee. A field of 26 candidates was whittled down to 10, vying for six seats as they made their final pitch on the main stage to member delegates.
“It’s the most intense three-day job interview we will ever have,” Palacios said.
The officer team will spend the next year, post-graduation, traveling to schools and communities across the state and working to grow the state FFA organization. Cruickshank said he is most looking forward to making personal connections with students, and lifting them the same way state officers did with him as a freshman.
“Those one-on-one encounters where you are able to look someone in the eye and tell them they have worth and value, that’s the biggest thing I’m looking forward to,” he said.
Each of the 2019-20 officers has a similar story to tell of how FFA helped them to overcome self-doubt and personal obstacles.
Hanson, who grew up on her family’s century farm outside Woodburn raising purebred Hampshire and Southdown sheep, said she was diagnosed with dyslexia, attention deficit disorder and obesity in the third grade, after years of struggling in school.
“I had been a super confident young child, but after that point of being labeled, it kind of changed my perspective of myself a little bit,” Hanson said. “It made me self-aware, which in some ways can be not such a good thing.”
Going into high school, Hanson said she was terrified she would not be able to make friends, but through FFA discovered a group that supported and molded her into becoming a leader.
“I don’t know where I’d be without it,” she said.
Davis, who served as the Jefferson FFA president, said he has dealt with depression at times in his life, and coming into freshman year, “I was in a really bad place.” His FFA advisor took an interest in him early, and the organization inspired him to be find the positives in life.
“I definitely think FFA gave me a second chance at life,” Davis said. “If I can give that second chance to one member like it was given to me, that’s why I’m here.”
While the feeling was still a bit surreal shortly after the elections — and the process had left them all a little sleep-deprived — all members of the team said they were excited and honored to be able to serve Oregon FFA, and look forward to making the most of their national blue and corn gold-colored platform.
“Being able to have the opportunity to serve our organization and give back to the organization that has given us obviously so much is incredible and life-changing,” Palacios said.