"Don't go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail."
As the National FFA Convention approaches I am reminded of all the memories I have gained from the experience. When I was in school, it was the main goal of my FFA career to get to the convention. My dad was the ag teacher in the neighboring school and he would only let me go to the convention if I earned my way there -- meaning I had to be on a state winning team or be a proficiency winner, etc. The problem was, was that everything that I liked to compete in, my dad also liked to coach and time and time again I found my team second to my dad's. So my buddies and I devised a plan to find a CDE that we could be successful at without the competition of Sutherlin. In 1994, we became the Oregon State Poultry Champions. It didn't matter that there were no live chickens in the county, we figured out a way to prepare. Our ag teacher let us have at it, and told us he would be the bus driver if we took it serious.
When I became an ag teacher later, I found myself in a similar position as my ag teacher did when I was in high school. I had an outstanding student that was a tremendous speaker. She quickly got to the point where I didn't know how to help her any more. She won the state prepared contest and we were off to national convention. She had the topic of plant-made pharmaceuticals, which only a handful of farmers were actually raising at the time. Now most kids would email or maybe call their speech sources, but I don't know too many that would raise money to fly into Iowa from Oregon to meet with their sources, she did! Kari won the National Prepared CDE that year, and a year later was elected to a national office. I could easily claim that I helped her succeed, but the truth of the matter is she would have succeeded without me. Every once in a while, we get students that are simply awesome and they make our life extremely easy!
The neatest thing about the National FFA Convention is being able to give students a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially for many west-coast kids -- this maybe the first time they will ever get east of the Mississippi, or ride on an airplane, or be awed by 50,000 kids just like them in one stadium all wearing the blue corduroy.
I look forward to seeing you all in New Orleans in November. Take care and enjoy your time with your students in Louisville.