By Doster Harper, FFA North Region State Vice President
A new state officer team is elected each year which is comprised of eight students (high school seniors or college freshmen) who are selected by the Georgia FFA members to lead their association, composed of over 42,000 students. I always looked up to the state officers before me, but I never had the confidence in myself to step up and assume such a large role that over 42,000 lives depended upon. For a few years, I served in my leadership role on the chapter officer team of the Newton College and Career Academy FFA Chapter and I didn’t aspire for another leadership role. However, my mind was changed during the fall of my senior year on a long bus ride home from Indianapolis, Indiana.
In October of 2017, I traveled to Indianapolis with the rest of my school’s chapter for the 90th National FFA Convention. This was my second trip to National Convention, and on this trip, I was blessed enough to attend as a national finalist in the Agriscience Research- Animal Systems Proficiency Area. It was an honor to have been chosen and the experience I witnessed while competing at convention was life-changing. Adrenaline and nervousness overwhelmed me before I interviewed, but I was proud. I fell short of first place and that was upsetting, but I continued to enjoy the rest of my time at convention. Every FFA member knows, however, that the bus ride home is always the true culmination of any FFA competition. There are good ones and there certainly are bad ones, and I’ve experienced many bad ones after some losses over the years, but this one was oddly different. I lost, but I was proud.
The sense of pride I had before my interview magnified to become larger than I could ever fathom. I was proud of myself when I interviewed, but looking back on the journey that got me to the interview, I realized how selfish that was. I was proud to represent my family, chapter, community and state at the national level. I received so much love and support from all four of these groups and I couldn’t be more thankful for that. It made me realize how great this organization truly is. I was proud of all the friendships I made through the FFA and all the opportunities it has provided for me. This motivated me to step out of my comfort zone to serve more people.
While thinking about the power the FFA has to change lives, I came to feel the undying urge to serve as a catalyst in this reaction. I finally gained the confidence to run for state office because I wanted to impact as many more lives as I could before hanging my corduroy jacket up for the last time. I ran to reach out to those students who don’t think they can find a purpose in the FFA. I ran to impact those students who don’t know who they are yet. I ran because I genuinely love and believe in the agricultural industry. I ran for FFA chapters like mine, who continue to make a positive difference in their community day in and day out. I ran because I believe this organization is something special. It has a magical way of positively touching countless lives while revolutionizing the industry of agriculture. All it took was just one experience at the National FFA Convention to help me realize my work in it is not done yet. I felt called to do all I can to play my part in helping make the FFA a life-changing experience for students across the state of Georgia. I chose to serve to aid in doing the same in other students’ lives. I have devoted my tenure of state office to helping students find their purpose and encouraging them to rise above their potential in making that purpose a reality.