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Texas FFA, A Home Away From Home - An Essay    
Thursday, September 1, 2022 | Author: Megan Gould, Past Washington FFA Officer
 

Experience the Texas FFA Convention from the Eyes of a Past Washington FFA Officer

It’s a three-hour drive from my home in south College Station. I pack everything in my car, ensuring I have the essentials: heels, clothes, steamer, and coffee. The hours go by quickly, and I am eager to arrive at the convention center to start the week. I turn the corner off the freeway to be greeted by a sea of blue corduroy jackets.

Six years ago, I unzipped my blue jacket on a stage in Washington for the last time. Far away from the home I now know in the Lone Star state. An opportunity to facilitate a workshop at the Texas FFA Convention brought me back into the fold, and I was eager to help and see what the event had to offer. 



I grabbed my things to head inside, staring at my phone as I tried to navigate the vast convention center. An FFA member stopped me and asked if I needed directions, and I explained that I was headed towards registration. The member pointed me in the direction and asked if I would like her to walk me there. This was my first interaction with a Texas FFA member, and her warm smile shook away some of my nerves. 

As we walked, she told me this was also her first Texas FFA convention. When we reached registration, she waved goodbye and headed back to her chapter. Little did she know this act of random kindness was just what I needed to shake my nerves and remind me just what makes FFA members so special. 

As I checked in at registration, I was greeted by an old friend, Ryan Williamson, a past Texas FFA officer, and this year’s National Officer Candidate.  He gave me a friendly hug and eagerly showed me our seats, explaining that the opening session was about to start. 



I was greeted by the greatest roar of excitement when I walked through the curtain to the floor seats. More than 12,000 Texas FFA members joined in celebrating another year's accomplishments. I saw the familiar noise makers but hardly a familiar face in sight. I was a stranger in a big arena and nervous about being in a new place. That was until over the speaker I heard the words “countdown to showtime….” As the seconds rattled down, the convention hall exploded into cheering; I felt a sense of belonging.

The state officer team began speaking about what it means to be home—a place of belonging and comfort. The keynote spoke of spreading kindness and how difficult it can be but how badly we need it. Little did I know those two topics would serve as central themes of my week. 

The following day I woke up excited to facilitate my workshops! Pens? Check. Tearsheets? Check. Sticky notes? Check. Mr. Sketch Markers? Check. 

I was ready to go. 

As I made my way down the hallway, I was welcomed to a small auditorium full of blue jackets. 
I could not believe how many students chose to attend my workshop. Especially being someone they are not familiar with. But to my surprise, the room was overflowing, with members even sitting on the ground.



As I began the workshop, I told the attendees that I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and served as a pat Washington FFA state officer but was now a Texas resident and a proud, fightin’ Texas Aggie.

I instantly hear a cheer of excitement and see one student raise his hand. I call on him, and he asks, “So, ma’am, you have never been to a Texas FFA Convention before?” 

I tell him that I have never been to a convention here before. He then politely turns to his fellow members and says, “Well, ma’am, we are glad you are here, and we are going to show you just what it means to be a guest here at convention.” 

They did exactly that. Over the course of the next hour and the duration of my workshops throughout the day, I was treated with the utmost respect. Every student raised their hand and answered about what it meant to be a leader in their community. Members swapped ideas about what they do to improve their community and their plans for the next school year. 



As the week concluded, I thought back to my first day. I was nervous that the students wouldn’t like me because I wasn’t from the Texas association. However, I was greeted with open arms. Every interaction I had with an FFA member was full of kindness, respect, and eagerness to learn more. Out of the many places I have facilitated, it was at the Texas FFA Convention, where the students made me feel the most at home.

As I pulled out of the parking garage to start my journey home, I eagerly began counting down the days until the next time I could interact with Texas FFA members. 

I have found that home is not a place. It’s not the comfort of the pine trees. It’s not the Washington State University Campus, the home of the convention I attended for many years. Home is a place where FFA members meet. Where a feeling of belonging overwhelms you. It may just look like a convention center in the middle of Fort Worth, Texas. Where you do not know a single person, but an FFA member is always there to greet you with a smile. 

This new feeling of home does not replace the one you grew up with but expands your love for an organization that shaped you into who you are. It’s knowing that you can make a home here, too, all because of the people that took a minute of their day to show you what Texas FFA is all about. 

I knew I was at home, in the sea of the future of agriculture, embraced by members of an organization eager to help out a lost stranger. 

 
   
 
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