Clermont Northeastern agricultural education teacher Faith Stegbauer (right) talks about the FFA workshop with students and national FFA officers. (Photo by Dick Maloney.)

Visit from national officers inspires CNE FFA chapter

By Dick Maloney

FFA National President Andrew Seibel and National Secretary Jessica Herr were sitting at a table in the Clermont Northeastern High School Commons, talking with the school’s FFA officers and agricultural education/advisor Faith Stegbauer, March 7. It was a chance to share ideas and get to know each other, and a beneficial experience for the CNE contingent.

The topics were varied.

What do you like and not like about Cincinnati? (The weather.)

Tell us about Skyline Chili?

What is your favorite pizza?

The benefits of energy drinks.

Seibel and Herr are college students – he a sophomore agribusiness major at Virginia Tech University; she a sophomore agricultural sciences major at Penn State University. Both are taking a “gap year,” working out of the FFA National Office in Indianapolis, but spending most of their time on the road. Seibel said he estimated they have spent 100 hotel room nights since Oct. 29.

Their itinerary brought them to CNE as part of a tour of Southwest Ohio. Seibel and Herr led a discussion and workshop in the Commons, with all CNE FFA high school and middle school members. They asked students to write down “What I Think I Know About FFA” and “What I Want To Know About FFA” on sticky notes and affix them to poster boards on columns in the center of the room; they also had students break into groups and walk around the room and read about various aspects of FFA on sheets of paper taped to the walls.

It is all an effort to promote awareness of the organization and continue to grow membership. Seibel knew the membership total exactly – 850,823, at the time, trending toward 1 million.

“As an organization, we're looking towards total affiliation, which … means that any student enrolled in an agricultural class that has an FFA program extracurricular integrated into it would be an FFA member, and should that happen, we’d be looking at over 1 million members within the next few years, which is really exciting,” he said.

The duo left an impression on CNE’s chapter.

“It was pretty cool learning about what they do day in and day out, because all they do is they go visit places, teach kids about leadership skills and different careers in agriculture. So it's a pretty neat experience.” junior Will Matthews said. He is the president of CNE’s FFA chapter. Braydin Pride is the treasurer. he appreciated the outreach from the national officers.

“It's good knowing there’s (people) above us in FFA that take the time out of their day to go around and teach other people about leadership and what those skills can do for you.”

Rylie Pence, a junior, was struck by the way FFA impacted the lives of Seibel and Herr.

“It was great seeing how agriculture and FFA truly affected them, and how they let it change their life into something great. It's really nice seeing just everything that they do and how FFA has changed them.”

Seibel is a third-generation FFA farmer and Herr a fifth-generation farmer and third-generation FFA member from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Passing on that experience and love for FFA is important to them.

“I wasn't very involved and then kind of fell in love with it. Once I found a place and a community within FFA, I just ran with it,” Seibel said.

Stegbauer, in her first year at CNE, is a longtime FFA member, having graduated from Fayetteville Perry High School, but this was a new experience for her as well. She has been working to raise her students’ awareness of the benefits and programs offered by FFA.

“I really enjoyed it because I've never met national officers before. My high school never got visited by national officers, and so the only exposure you have to them is at national convention and even then it's like not up close and personal,” Stegbauer said. “And just to get to see them … in person was really neat. And I liked the workshops that they did. I thought they were really educational and influential.”

“We had a lot of fun here today,” Herr said. “I think both Andrew and I have had experience in Ohio and have been here before, but it was fun to be in a different part of the state and interacting with students who are passionate about agriculture and passionate about FFA, but more importantly are excited about their futures and have really big dreams and ideas of how FFA is going to help support them in their future endeavors.”