FFA: The Change Through Corduroy

I remember it like it was yesterday, it had been a long week of interviews as 43 of us National Officer Candidates were in Louisville, Kentucky at the National FFA Convention each hoping to be announced as a member of the next National FFA Officer Team. After weeks of preparing, training, and working with mentors, the time had begun and it was time to represent the best we could highlighting the many memories in the corduroy jacket. The week had been a whirlwind and it was all coming down to the final session where the new team would be announced. Everyone in the convention center was on edge as the nominating committee chair steps up to make the breaking news. “Your New National Officer Team members are…..”

Then after the most intense moments of my life, I realized that my name….. wasn’t called. I wasn’t on the team and thus, the end of my time in FFA. I remember walking back to my hotel room and unzipping my jacket for the final time. I hung it up, never to wear it again. As I began to pack everything up, I could not help but reflect on the many positive memories I had in the organization and how it made me a better leader and team player. The positive difference my Ag Teacher made in my life and the many friendships I made throughout the way could not be more apparent to me. I realized that through my involvement in FFA, that the blue corduroy doesn’t change colors, but instead it changes lives. It certainly did for this FFA Has-Been and it will change yours too, if you let it!

This week I’ve been thinking of everyone traveling to the 92nd National FFA Convention. One thing is for certain: you don’t have to be in Indianapolis to be aware of the achievements of FFA members and Ag-Ed Instructors that will take place this week. Congrats to all those who are participating in and are about to experience the National FFA Convention. Your time in the jacket is priceless. When I took off my jacket for the last time, I wrote down 3 personal goals I challenged myself to do. After convention is over, the lights are off, and everyone goes home, challenge yourself to:

Look Up: No matter the result of your contest. Win or lose. Look up and be proud of who you are, the people you’ve represented, and the organizational jacket you wear. Share your experiences with others. Sometimes the greatest wins in life are disguised as losses in the moment. Look up because so many really do look up to you. LOOK UP

Reach Out: Whether you are a current or an Alumni member, challenge yourself with a goal to persuade at least 3 people to join and be an active member of a local FFA chapter and Ag-Ed Program. By reaching out to others we are giving back in very important way. Imagine how many people can be involved if we each committed to reaching out sharing our story with just those 3 people. I’ll let you do the math. 😉 REACH OUT

Be Thankful: Everyone of us, current or has-beens have someone to thank who inspired, drove us to events, taught us Ag-Ed, cheered us on, and comforted us when things didn’t always go our way. Be thankful for the opportunities, the memories, and the people (Ag Teacher, Parent, Sponsor, etc) who got you there. BE THANKFUL.

Once again, congrats to everyone and here’s to this life changing organization that has and will continue to make a difference in the lives of so many people. I’m so grateful for the tremendous experience I had and very excited for your experience too! You may retire the jacket, but never retire the heart behind it. Let the Blue Corduroy Change your life this week. #FFAalumni #NationalConvention

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Brandon Baumgarten

Brandon Baumgarten grew up in the small town of Oilton, Oklahoma and was elected to serve the Oklahoma FFA Association as State Secretary, State President, and as a National Officer Candidate representing nearly 25,000 students on the local, state, and national levels from 2011-2013. Afterwards, Brandon launched his speaking career and authored the highly sought after leadership book, Caught Up & Called Out, hoping to help others see the impact they can make on this world. He is a professional speaker, speaking at over 100 different events each year, and a graduate from Oklahoma State University in Agricultural Leadership, and was even named a top 10 student. He is a Zig Ziglar Legacy & Youth Certified Presenter and his message is always to engage, encourage, and empower you to do something big in your life! No matter if you are a student, teacher, parent, or business executive, Brandon's presentations are certain to make you laugh, think, and realize your impact is about to begin!

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