It sometimes takes bad things to make you realize the good things.
It is no secret ag programs are community programs. More so than most teachers, we all have stakeholders engaged in our classrooms, FFA chapters, and SAEs. It goes the other way as well - we become part of community organizations, leadership, activities, and our neighboring schools. And colleges.
But we don't always give credit to the community-building ag programs can do. This is more than adding the Alumni, Rotary or Lions clubs, donors, or others who contribute to your program. It is creating that sense of community in our students.
It is opening their eyes to what is possible when a group has common purpose.
It is connecting your youngest leaders to the most experienced in your town.
It is teaching youth how they can invest and contribute to the world closest around them.
It is living up to the fourth line of the FFA motto.
It is opening doors to opportunities not for personal success, but for the common good.
It is creating the future of your community - the future where people care, where people support, where people make a difference, where bad things can happen and you know we will be okay in the end.
We do these things. We can do these things greater. And it is so important. It does not happen enough, in enough places. It is not intrinsic anymore, or guaranteed - it must be taught. It must be nurtured. It must be modeled. It must be built so that when it is needed most, it is ready.
This was not my intended first post of the school year. I'm not sure it will even make sense. But I can't describe how it is when something so heinous happens in a building you've sat in, on a campus you grew up with, down the road you live on, where the students you taught were in class. I can't do anything about what happened, but I can choose how to respond, and where I will focus. I choose to contribute, in the best way I know how. And I am so proud of how our part of the world, our towns and our communities, have chosen to respond as well. It isn't always vogue to admit you've moved back to where you came from. I've never been more glad to be from here. And I hope we all live up to the quality of character that has been displayed over the past three days.
Don't take for granted the things - big and small - you do for your community by preparing your students. Continue to build that, with the hearts and minds of those who come into your classroom tomorrow. Make the world better because you were there, and because those students were with you. We have been given a powerful tool and an influential avenue with agricultural education and FFA. Use it. We all may need it.
My community has been tested. It sometimes takes tough things to make you realize how strong you can be.
Our community has proven strong.