An unforgettable experience: M-S FFA officer team attends National FFA Convention

Ask any leader in their chosen field about the moment they realized their passion and many will recall the so-called lightbulb moment. Jennifer Wherley, ag teacher at Mahomet-Seymour High School, said many of her FFA students experience that milestone during the school's annual trip to the National FFA Convention and Expo.Last week, M-S' FFA officer team, including Brayden Bone, Ellen Bushell, Holt Cassidy, Garrett Gauze, Kam Hacker, Colton Heiser, Zoe Hovde, Hannah Kroll, Michael Myerscough, Joey Sullivan, Ethan Terry and Karli Waldrep, traveled to Indianapolis for the 91st National FFA Convention and Expo, where they were able to attend leadership sessions led by keynote speakers and partake in workshops.The national convention is also home to the largest collegiate and career fairs for agriculture students.

"It was pretty massive and students had the opportunity to explore different colleges from Hawaii to Vermont to local as well and interact with different majors," Wherley said.

The career fair was broken down into categories, which allowed students with specific interests to interact with key leaders in their field.

"You can just walk down a room and find a career leader in each field and talk to them," Wherley said. "(They ask): 'What does that job look like? What do you do? I want to do this. Do you do that in your career? It gives them instant feedback that maybe they were looking for, but they don't have the contacts to call someone in the animal science field and make that connection."Ellen Bushell, M-S FFA's vice president, found that the speakers and workshops sparked her interest, especially about emerging ag technology. The senior plans to study ag communications next year at the University of Illinois, where she expects to engage with the topics at hand."It's really eye-opening," Bushell said. "A lot of the speeches that we go to it's a lot about new technology that's happening now, which then when I go to college next year I'll probably end up studying all of that new stuff they're talking about, so it's definitely cool to think about."

"It's cool to be able to be in the moment when that's all made up," she added.

The senior also enjoyed meeting FFA members from all across the country and ended up chatting with a group from California while waiting in line.

"In the back of our booklet, you could try and get signatures from people from every state to try and win a prize so they wanted us to sign the Illinois line and that's how we started talking," Bushell said. "It was fun."

One thing Bushell will never forget is how thousands of students with an ag interest attended the convention.

"It's crazy how many people come," she said. "It was a really cool show (at the Banker's Life Fieldhouse) even though it was like a speech. They had a keynote speaker and everything."

Bushell's positive experience is one Wherley hopes to continue to provide for M-S FFA students.

"It not only gives them exposure — I mean just to see their eyes for the first time they go, they're shocked, they're just amazed at how many FFA members that are just like them," Wherley said. "That exposure of finding someone just like you but also their differences because the industry is so vast. I think it's just a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Out-of-the-classroom experiences, such as the convention and expo, are ones that pay off for Wherley's students, who have come back years later to share just how much the opportunity meant to them.

"Ten years down the road, I hear back from them and they say, 'That was the moment I knew I wanted to go into this field,'" Wherley said. "That kind of moment in teaching a lot of the time you don't necessarily have in the classroom. It's nice to expose students to that click of the lightbulb outside of the classroom in a real-world career focus to make those connections."

Categories (3):News, Agriculture, Education

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