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November 2012 | Volume 11, Issue 02

REACH OUT to others page 8


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page 10

meeting my own EXPECTATIONS page 4

In each of the remaining issues of Bright Ideas, you’ll have a chance to get to know the members of the National FFA Organization’s staff who make state officer programs function. In this issue, we’re introducing you to members of the program operations team. Program operations is responsible for the overall integrity of the organization’s educational programs. Keisto Lucero I am Keisto Lucero from the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico. I just recently came on board with FFA in mid-August. Before becoming a full-time FFA employee, I was the director of the Washington Leadership Conference and a 212°/360° facilitator. I was also involved in the entertainment industry for a short time as a director of special events, booking and promoting concerts at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces, N.M. Currently, I serve state officer programs as the education specialist for NLCSO, Blast Off, and state officer enrichment at the National FFA Convention & Expo. I am really looking forward to working with you and other state officers as we wrap up 2012 and move into a new year with new beginnings. In addition to NLCSO and Blast Off, I am also the education specialist for 212°/360°, great conferences that allow the organization to reach out and directly impact local members. 212°/360° are also opportunities for talented individuals like you to work for the National FFA Organization to facilitate these conferences in different states and carry your impact and passion for student success beyond your state officer year. Outside of work, I may or may not be obsessed with music. I enjoy most genres of music and live shows. Any concert, underground show or local coffee shop open mic night I can make it to, I’m there. I look forward to working with you or helping in any way that I can. I hope you allow the rest of your year to exceed all expectations you had in the beginning. Thanks for all you do.

Kim Henry Hi! I’m Kim Henry. My primary role at the National FFA Organization is one of project management. I work with all projects/programs to ensure processes and procedures are documented as well as ensure building-wide collaboration is woven into each area. Facilitators and trainers of 212°/360°, BLAST Off, NLCSO and WLC love me because I process their payroll. At the convention and expo, I have two responsibilities: I manage the National Officer Candidate and Nominating Committee Potential Representative application processes and I procure the 500+ judges needed for proficiency, national chapter and agriscience events. I am the proud mother of 15-year-old Cole, a second-year FFA member and competitive swimmer, and 23-year-old Ashley, a Family Room specialist at the Apple store in Indianapolis. My fiancé, Jeff, is now a Ball State University dad! Eighteen-year-old Ali is double majoring in vocal performance as well as music media production. We built our new home on 11 acres outside of Indianapolis four years ago, where we enjoy gardening on a large scale. I am a Kindle addict and love to bake and spend time with my family.

Shane Jacques I’m Shane Jacques (pronounced “Jakes”), originally from the state of Rhode Island (which is neither a Road nor an Island). I am a past state officer who attended the State University of New York at Cobleskill where I majored in agribusiness management. I joined the organization straight out of college and have spent the five years since working with state officers in various capacities. Currently, I’m the education specialist for State Presidents’ Conference, the National FFA Delegate Process and the International Leadership Seminar for State Officers. I manage Bright Ideas for state officers, the Brighter Insights weekly state officer blog and state officer social media. I’m also the education specialist for the State Officer Leadership Continuum, which provides continuity between all programs, and take the lead on new state officer initiatives. Outside of the National FFA Center, I love to travel. A few years ago, I set a goal to visit the 48 continental states by my 30th birthday (I’ve checked off 33 so far). I’ve also traveled abroad to China, Argentina, Italy and Canada. I’m a trivia junkie with a curse for remembering useless knowledge. I also consider myself a student of leadership development; I’ve obtained certification as a Strengths Educator with the Gallup Organization and am a certified facilitator of the Habitudes curriculum. I’d love to earn my Ph.D. one day and be involved in higher education. If there’s anything I can do to make your year more successful, contact me,

ADVOCATING FOR AGRICULTURE Want to be an Advocate? Step 1: Be Aware by Anne Knapke


ave you ever seen a Facebook post on a hot agriculture topic that seemed immature or ill-informed? Perhaps it bashed large-scale production agriculture or was antiorganic. Or maybe your experiences as a state officer have you thinking that there aren’t enough people talking about the benefits of career and technical education.

are driving the public conversation. As an advocate, checking out these sources, particularly on controversial issues, is essential. Go back to the second bullet point in the first column. Understanding and appreciating where other stakeholders are coming from on an issue and what their concerns are enables you to adequately address them as an advocate.

In the September 2012 issue of Bright Ideas, I asked you to accept the challenge of being an advocate for agriculture. An effective advocate is knowledgeable, thoughtful and articulate, and the first step to success is being aware and educated on the conversations that are happening on the issues—among ALL stakeholders. Sometimes this means stretching your comfort zone to really understand different points of view.

4. After you’ve gathered the facts and other information about your topics, think about how you will stay up-to-date on the issue. Write down two ways for each topic. Ideas:

Note: Before reading any further, make sure you have an Internet source and a few hours to do the following activities: 1. Think about some of the agricultural issues that are relevant today and that you care about or want to learn more. Get out three pieces of paper. Jot down three current issues (one issue at the top of each page) that are affecting agriculture in your community, your state or on the national stage. 2. Review each of those issues, asking yourself the following questions: • Do I really understand this issue? • Is it controversial? If so, do you know why? • Who are the stakeholders who care about this issue? 3. Within each area, write down three resources you can use to gather more information. Perhaps you don’t know three right away; Google it and see what turns up. Remember, trusted information sources are academic websites that end in .edu or organizations grounded in scientific evidence and facts. While using trusted sources of information is important to forming your own opinion and point of view on an issue, sometimes it’s the larger universe of not-so-trustworthy blogs and other websites that


• Call your state farm bureau and ask them for ideas on newsletters, publications, or email update distribution lists that will provide you current information on agricultural issues. • Call your land-grant university’s agricultural college and ask the same. • Sign up for email updates from stakeholder websites. Note: A good one on public policy is • Set Google alerts for daily or weekly newsfeeds on the subject. You build a brand for FFA with your advocacy. Educating yourself is the first step, and crafting your message is the second. We’ll talk about that in the next issue.

Anne Knapke has seven years of professional experience in international agricultural development and trade and is currently pursuing her masters at the University of Chicago in international development economics and social welfare policy. She served as a state and national officer and continues to facilitate leadership trainings for FFA and other organizations. Originally from Ohio, she now resides in Chicago, Illinois.

Bright Ideas • Volume 11, Issue 2


Let’s face it, there are plenty of state officer responsibilities that are less than glamorous – filling out expense reports, changing into Official Dress in your car, sacrificing sleep to respond to Facebook messages, buying stock in Wal-Mart to afford nylons. Not exactly what we thought about when we ran, right? But, there are a few time-honored responsibilities that state officers live for. One of which is… chapter visit season! For some of us, a chapter visit may have sparked our interest in FFA. It may have been the first time we saw “Association” on the bottom of someone’s jacket or been challenged to get more involved. Or… it could have made us wonder if those crazy, over-excited people in weird jackets were real people or recon robots conspiring with our teachers to make us do better in school. Truth: Chapter visits are clutch when it comes to building our active member base and can make or break a student’s FFA experience. Yet, many times we are left to our own devices to plan, coordinate and execute this super important role. I had no idea what a chapter visit should look like when I was a state officer. So I followed the most logical course of action: play tons of games and pump them full of candy! But, really good chapter visits aren’t just about games and high fructose corn syrup. Here are some quick and easy tips to make your chapter visits relevant, engaging and stick.

GET THE DETAILS While not the most fun part of chapter visits, success hinges on your pre-visit preparations. Call the chapter advisor three weeks prior to your desired visit and ask the right questions: • How many groups of how many students will I get to present to? Will there be repeat students? • Timing? • Student age and experience level? • What’s the class culture? What should I be prepared for? • In your mind, what’s the goal of my visit? What can I help you accomplish as a chapter?

BE REAL Trying to win over students, especially the “non-FFA Kool-Aid drinkers,” is easier said than done. It’s hard to resist the urge to paint the super excited, positive, neverstop-talking persona we think is expected of state officers. But in reality, students want to interact with people who are most like them. Just because you don’t come into a room doing back flips and singing last year’s national convention and expo theme song doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Being you goes a long way with students. Don’t get me wrong, you should definitely bring energy to every visit. But that energy doesn’t necessarily have to be an abrasive, in-your-face, forced-fun mentality. Try chilling out and finding common ground with your students as it fits your personality. I love watching movies so incorporating some popular movie quotes at the start of my workshop was a comfortable way for me to break the ice and connect with students. Use your interests and hobbies to personally forge connections with your audience.

Surviving CHAPTER


A S tat e F FA O ffi c e r’s S u r v i va l G u i d e by Alex Schnabelrauch

Good luck and happy chapter visit season!

Get a feel for your audience and how you can best connect with them. A week before your visit, follow up to confirm all the details and ask any additional questions. Chapter visits aren’t like Snuggies—one size fits all. Each visit is extremely different; your potential for success improves as you gather more information about the students and circumstances.

WHAT’s THE POINT While games might be an easy, crowd-pleasing way to fill a 45-minute class period, what will students really take away from your visit? “Yeah, remember when that blue jacket dude came and we got to play games all hour? That was awesome!” It feels good to be considered “awesome,” but we are robbing students of real content when we settle for just games. Thinking back to the magic formula, what was our first step? Setting our objectives: What do you want students to leave your visit knowing or doing? Depending on the students, their familiarity with FFA and current involvement level, maybe you cover FFA opportunities or dive into the national chapter application. After you know the audience details, it’s essential to identify your visit’s take-home point.

MAKE IT RELEVANT Taking a look at your audience, what do they really care about? Meeting new people? Traveling? Getting out of school? What aspects of your point will stand out to students who haven’t totally bought into FFA? We can use pop culture references and engaging activities to help our students discover a point without even realizing they’re learning. But what’s even more crucial is giving students a real way to incorporate that point in their lives. Maybe it’s making an action plan for the coming contest season, writing down questions about a specific opportunity they’re interested in, planning their supervised agricultural experience or selecting a younger-member mentee. Whatever the support or application, making it real for students by integrating their interests and talents will enhance memorability and impact. Don’t cheat your students! Spend time crafting relevant,, applicable visits that hold their attention, engage their minds and bodies and help them take action to accomplish your goal.



Alex Schnabelrauch is the communications coordinator for the Michigan Milk Producers Association, a farmer-owned cooperative serving 2,100 members in Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Ohio. She served as a state and national FFA officer and has facilitated various conferences with FFA. Alex enjoys spending time with her family in midMichigan and traveling to visit friends.

Bright Ideas • Volume 11, Issue 2


Leadership from the InsidE OUT:

Meeting my own expectations. by Barrett Keene My first month as a middle school teacher in Miami was one of the most humiliating, challenging and important times in my leadership journey. Since I was launching a new agriscience program, my administration placed more than 200 students—who had originally signed up for another class (e.g. Art 3, P.E., or dance)—in my class. Since my students had never even heard of agriscience, several of them cried throughout the first week. Also, my students seemed to be just as confused by my country accent as they were about being stuck in my class against their will. Knowing something had to be done, I worked with two students to bring some animals into the classroom and set up an aquarium. Andres and Daniel’s sweet mother bought everything we needed for our aquarium, including the fish. In no time the tank was ready, and the fish seemed to love their new home. The following morning, however, I found six fish floating upside down. Apparently, dechlorinating the water and allowing fish to acclimatize to the tank’s temperature are important…who knew? I quickly scooped out the floaters and begged Andres and Daniel to never tell anyone. Two days later, my student Kevin noticed another dead fish stuck under a rock in the aquarium. While I attempted to describe the unfortunate series of events, my middle school students freaked out and started yelling. “How could you do something so horrible?” “You are nothing but a fish killer!” When I promised we would give the fish (which they had just collectively named Fishy) a proper burial and ask for forgiveness from above, my students finally calmed down. In the process of scooping Fishy out of the tank, however, I cut off Fishy’s head with the little green net. As the bell rang, I had 32 students hysterically



running around the room and one little sixth-grade girl literally sobbing in the corner. The next week, my sweet student Frances was kind enough to entrust into my care two beautiful finches. Despite my best efforts, the birds died three days later. This incited almost riot-like conditions in my already-fragile classroom. When I announced we were getting a bunny rabbit the following week, my student Jamie lowered and shook his head and uttered, “Huh…I give him a week.” Shortly thereafter, I thought it would be wise to bribe my students with the ice cream in a bag activity…always a winner, right? For some odd reason, the ice cream mixture would not freeze. After 12 minutes, with my students’ tiny, frostbitten hands glowing red, I agreed to let the students simply drink the mixture. My students immediately began gagging and spewing all over the ground what I assumed would be a delicious concoction. Daniel, who probably still felt bad about being my accomplice in the massacre of seven innocent fish, chugged his entire cup and promptly vomited his school lunch into the garbage can. Apparently, you are supposed to place the rock salt in the outside Ziploc bag. There was literally as much rock salt in the “ice cream” as there was milk or cream. So not only did my students view me as a serial animal killer and a “stupid redneck” and no one wanted to be in my classroom, including me, I had just poisoned an entire class of middle school students.

also may be clean.” I began asking myself questions on how I could lead from the inside out. I asked questions like, “What kind of man, person and leader can I be for my students?” instead of “What trick, activity or story is going to help?” In this, I realized that instead of trying to win my students over, the absolute best thing I could do was to simply meet my own expectations for my students. The three guiding principles for my classroom were:

Love people. Do what is right. Do it well. Focusing more on being a man and leader guided by love, integrity and excellence rather than my own surface talents, abilities and creativity proved to be the right move. The pressure that had been swallowing me calmed as I settled into the realization that my impact as a teacher and leader depended more on the genuine expression and growth of my inner qualities than my fragile, imperfect and often self-centered reliance on my skills and abilities.

If you lead more as a “human being” rather than as a “human doing,” how can you meet each of your own expectations? You will make mistakes, poor decisions, and be altogether imperfect, but leadership is more about your impact and growth than your abilities and success in impressing others.

Barrett Keene is a past state and national officer from Florida. He is currently a Ph.D. student focusing on leadership at Cornell University. Since January 2012, Barrett has been walking across the country raising awareness for The Global Orphan Project. He can be contacted at or through

Take a moment and list two to four of the greatest hopes and expectations you have for the members in your state.

Not long after, I was lying in bed one morning, thinking what in the world are we going to do today? I literally had no clue. Then, it hit me: I was doing everything I could to impress my students, their parents and the people in my school with exterior actions, talents and activities. I thought back to one of my favorite quotes, “First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside

Bright Ideas • Volume 11, Issue 2


Reaching Out to Others by Jill Casten Throughout your year of service as a state officer, you will have many instances to grow your capacity and gain new skills as a leader. However, it’s not enough that you are seeking opportunities to better yourself: How are you being proactive about helping others grow? When working with district or chapter officers, do you seek purposeful opportunities to help them grow as leaders, presenters and individuals? Often we focus on our own growth as leaders, but great leaders find that balance between helping others grow while still looking for ways to push and grow their own leadership skills. Based on the book Great Leaders GROW: Becoming a Leader for Life, written with Mark Miller, co-author Ken Blanchard presents his acronym GROW as four ways we can continue to develop as leaders. The first “G,” we discussed stood for “gaining knowledge.” The next, “R,” stands for “reaching out to others.” As state officers we often hear and tell others about the role of service in our organization, our chapters and our communities. I believe this element of reaching out to others is exactly in line with our value of service and growth as leaders. There are several ways that leaders can grow by reaching out to others. First, take every chance to teach others both formally and informally. Similar to what was discussed in “gaining knowledge,” not all teaching has to take place in a formal setting. It also means that you don’t have to be in the official role of teacher, leader or facilitator. It can be as simple as sharing a tip from a good article you read with your state officer team or explaining the steps you took to solve your calculus problem to your study group. Teaching can also be in the form of asking questions and digging deeper into a topic or issue that is being discussed. Often the best teaching takes place when you ask the right questions and glean information from those around you. Finding a mentor and a mentee can also be forms of informal teaching. Mentorship is something that can be easily and immediately implemented into your own personal development and a great way to capitalize on your teaching role as a state officer.



Second, Blanchard recommends taking notes. Now, this may invoke cringe-worthy thoughts of sitting in a lecture hall taking copious notes on the interaction between two chemical elements, but rather I hope it reminds you of the value of writing down our important takeaways and notes from interactions within meetings, with speakers we’ve heard and much more. When I was a state officer, I absolutely loved my Franklin Covey planner. I used that as a tool to not only keep track of my tasks and calendar, but I learned to take notes on the many interactions I had on a daily basis. I could write down important nuggets of information, quotes or resources I wanted to come back to later. These were handy and helpful when I needed them and already organized in my planner. Taking good notes is a skill that can be developed and something I continue to utilize in both my academic and personal career. Finally, reach out to others by telling your story. In my role, working with farmers and ranchers across the United States for the American Farm Bureau Federation, I train and encourage our members to use their own experiences and unique situations to tell the story of agriculture. A message means so much more and can be so much more effective when told through the lens of a great story. You may not think you have a story to tell, but through your own experiences you can better reach others on many levels to help them understand the importance of a topic or issue. As with “G” for gaining knowledge, the opportunity to reach out to others seems pretty straightforward. It’s a matter of improving your interactions and being purposeful about how and at what level you engage others. Here are a couple of suggestions for you to use as you begin this first step as a great leader who wants to GROW by reaching out to others: 1. Seek mentoring relationships to help build a strong foundation of trust, experience and knowledge in leadership. 2. Find the mode of teaching that is most comfortable to you. Build a one-on-one relationship with a friend, fellow officer or FFA member and share what you learn with each other. Or, utilize social media to teach or share what you’ve learned with others.


3. Keep a journal or notebook for note taking. Keep it separate from your school notes and think about how you can purposefully share your notes with those around you. 4. Identify and hone a few stories that you feel are good examples of leadership or personal lessons you’ve experienced. Once you have them identified, they will lend themselves to great applications in workshops and speeches you give throughout the year. In summary, this piece of “GROW” is about reaching out to others in a purposeful and intentional way. Many of your interactions will lend themselves to this, so make sure to capitalize on the chance to teach, take notes and tell your story. Remember that first and foremost, leadership is not about you—it is about helping those around you grow, too.




Jill Casten is the director of training and development at the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, D.C. She served as a state officer in Kansas and has worked for the National FFA Organization as a conference facilitator and staff member for collegiate programs. A graduate of Kansas State, the University of Nebraska and Virginia Tech, Jill loves college football.

Bright Ideas • Volume 11, Issue 2


RESPECT. First and foremost is always

DIFFUSING DIFFICULT DILEMMAS Advisor Advisory by Tiffany Rogers


y team and I were about to head to our first board of directors meeting as state officers; to say that we were feeling intimidated was an understatement. Within the next few minutes, we would have to make decisions that would affect every member of our state association…so yeah, no pressure or anything. The adult board is composed of state staff, chapter advisors, foundation representatives and agricultural business leaders. But not to fear: Our team had done our homework. We had met a couple days prior to the meeting to discuss our team’s stance on the issues. We had been gathering advisor and member opinions for weeks and we had evaluated all of the facts. We had composed carefully weighed decisions on each issue that we thought would best represent our student membership and meet their needs.

We rocked opening ceremonies and dove right into the first item of business. Little did we know a battle of Gettysburg-epic proportions would ensue. The adult board Tiffany Rogers attends Michigan (one chapter advisor in particular) felt State University studying agribusiness strongly that the issue should pass. Our management and hopes to attend team felt strongly that the issue should fail. law school to become an agricultural Finally it was time to vote… and because lawyer. She has served as a state and of our team’s votes, the motion failed. national office and currently works Outraged, the “one advisor in particular” for the Michigan FFA Association began yelling. He called everyone on our and National FFA Organization as a conference facilitator She can be team “a disappointment” and told us that contacted at we never should have been elected to state office. By the time he finished, three of my teammates were in tears, all of us defeated and brokenhearted. We had just voted in the manner we thought best represented our members; to hear those words was one of the harshest things imaginable. As state officers, a part of our job is to deal with advisors, whether it’s our own advisor, their fellow chapter advisors, our state advisor or other authority figures. One of the toughest situations of our year can occur when we encounter that difficult-to-work-with advisor. The difficulty may stem from a difference in opinion or beliefs, like what my team experienced. Maybe it’s a rude comment, or you’re struggling to get in contact with an advisor to make arrangements for an event. Regardless of the predicament, here are suggestions on how to manage this difficult dilemma.



respect. We must realize that FFA advisors and staff are authoritative figures and our senior. They deserve the utmost respect at all times. Always handle situations in a professional manner. Remember as state officers we are representing our entire state’s membership.

Off the Shelf


Uncommon, by Tony Dungy

There is a reason the advisor finds company with the wisest of creatures. Recognize the amazing amount of knowledge and experience your advisor possess, as well as the excellent resource they can be, and use it to your advantage.

ALLOW THEM TO EXPRESS THEIR OPINION. Everyone wants to be heard, and advisors are no exception. We must keep in mind that opinions will differ because of different perspectives, values and beliefs. That’s why it is necessary to acknowledge these differences and keep an open mind at all times.

BE PREPARED TO EXPRESS YOUR OPINION. You are certainly entitled to your opinion as well. When sharing it, be prepared to express it logically and backed with facts. It’s great to be passionate about your position, but do your research first. As state officers we will be put into situations that will test us. Remember that you were elected because of the person you are. The selection committee and members saw something in you. Be sure to stay true to that while always keeping the members and the organization in the forefront of your mind.

REMAIN POSITIVE AND PATIENT. No matter how flustering the situation may be, we must always keep our cool. Take a deep breath, smile, count to 10, talk the situation over with a mentor… whatever works so that you respond in the best way.

SHOW YOUR APPRECIATION. We’ve all been privy to the demanding hours required of an FFA advisor. They have an incredible heart for this organization and give so much more than we could ever fathom. Whether it’s in person or in a handwritten note, be sure to take time to say thank you.

by Bethany Bohnenblust Parker THE READ I will be happy when I get a boyfriend or girlfriend or when I earn a 4.0 GPA or get voted as team captain or when I can buy those clothes or when I drive a mustang or when I… who even knows! Bethany Bohnenblust Parker is a past state and national officer. She and her husband Morgan, also a past national officer, graduated from Kansas State and are on staff with a campus ministry. She can be contacted at

“There has to be more to life than ‘simply’ having it all and reaching the top.”

In our society we think that once we gain success or recognition we will have “arrived.” But even if we look to those who seem to have reached the epitome of success, like former Indianapolis Colts head coach and author Tony Dungy, they point to a different source for significance, an uncommon source. Dungy points to our attitudes, character and loyalty. He believes these can lead us toward a purpose and a life worth living. He says, “We have to be careful that we don’t let the pursuit of our life’s goals, no matter how important they seem, cause us to lose sight of our purpose.”

THE REALITY In a recent interview, Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots, said “There has to be more to life than ‘simply’ having it all and reaching the top.” He’s right. Shortly after reaching a much sought-after accomplishment, there is sure to come a season of emptiness or after meeting the love of your life there is bound to be times of loneliness. We don’t have to be hopeless though, but we do have to look outside of ourselves for a source of significance. Dungy points us to first developing our “core.” This includes our character, integrity, humility and courage. In a time when it seems popular to reach for instant gratification and fleeting recognition, we must be willing to build a foundation on values that will lead us to being leaders and people with significance found in an uncommon place. When we discover for ourselves how to draw significance from an uncommon place, we’ll finally be in a place that we can help others discover the source of their own significance.

THE RESPONSE • Ask a group of people what they’re living for. Do you agree or disagree? • Check out your personal track record. Are you living out your personal values? • Invite a mentor or older adult to help you evaluate your integrity, humility and courage. • Look deeply at what your life is being lived for. Are you leveraging your life for what you believe will be worth it? Significance in this life requires an uncommon investment now.

Bright Ideas • Volume 11, Issue 2


Bright Ideas National FFA Organization 6060 FFA Drive Indianapolis, IN 46268-0960

The State FFA Officer Programs are made possible through sponsorship from the following organizations as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.

November 2012 Bright Ideas  

The November 2012 issue of the National FFA Organization's Bright Ideas magazine.

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