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Putting on the Blue Jacket, 6 Years Later

Putting on the Blue Jacket, 6 Years Later

I’ve wanted to be an FFA member ever since I was in 5th grade. When my dad left our family, my stepdad, Andy, came into my life. His family ran a Haflinger horse farm, and so that is where my agricultural journey began. I researched FFA every night, studying the creed, the motto, the ceremony speeches that I may or may not have recited, and I figured out I could join FFA when I was in 7th grade.

5th and 6th grade went by slow, but it soon came time to register for my 7th-grade classes. After registering for my required courses, I had room for 2 electives, just enough for a year-long ag class. As I looked on the course offering list I didn’t see any animal sciences, intro to ag, or plant and soils classes. I asked my counselor where the agriculture classes were, and her response broke my heart. “We did not have an agriscience program.”

This is the case for many Indiana schools still today, but in my opinion, every student should at least be exposed to an agricultural education course in their middle school and high school careers. Fortunately for me, our school system started an agriscience program and an FFA chapter last year. To say I was absolutely ecstatic is an understatement. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t wait to go back to school just so I could be in an ag class.

When I walked into the ag room on the first day of school last year I told myself, “Now Julia, you won’t have as much time in FFA as others may, but at least you’re here, and you get some time. Many students around the country don’t get this opportunity. So make the most of it, do everything you can, get involved, and just have fun.” And so, I walked on in.

I kept asking our advisor, Miss Box, what we do first. I couldn’t wait to start. We started with Livestock Skillathon. Next came Forestry, which I never would have thought I would be sitting in my bed studying leaves, seeds, and wood, or even find it fascinating, but I did. After winter break, we hit Livestock Judging and LDE’s and finished with our banquet.

As I was reflecting back on my first year of FFA, I was astonished I was wearing the blue jacket. As amazing as it was, there was and still are some thoughts that stroll through my mind. I’ll never have my discovery degree. I’ll never have the chance to compete in Creed Speaking or any discovery contest. It will take me much longer to obtain my Hoosier Degree, and even longer for my American Degree. But guess what? I’m going for it. I’ll never have the full 6 years of FFA in my back pocket, but just 3. But, I have years, and that is a blessing just to have time in FFA. I think of FFA as a team effort, and there are several people I have to thank for helping me in my time in FFA as I complete my first full year.

My advisor, Miss Box, who walked into her first day as an ag teacher with students who were brand new in FFA and had no clue what they were doing. She has done a phenomenal job building this chapter from scratch and deserved all of the praise in the world. My fellow officer team of this and last year, has worked alongside Miss Box to bring our chapter alive and to put our name out there. My mom and stepdad, who although don’t have prior FFA experience, have been nothing but supportive with everything I do, in and outside of FFA.  Taylor Roy, District 8 FFA President, has been my rock this past year. She is so knowledgeable in FFA and has been so supportive toward me and my chapter. Her passion for this amazing organization shines through her, and her heart is so big for her fellow members, and I can’t thank her enough for all that she has done for me.

The Greenfield-Central FFA deserves a huge thank you, without them, our chapter would be lost. Our chapters worked together these last 2 years so we can learn from a successful chapter and gain an understanding of how FFA works. Abby Elsbury, Greenfield-Central FFA Secretary, has taught me what FFA is all about. She is a perfect example of a passionate and dedicated member that puts her full heart in everything she does. The Greenfield, Indiana and National FFA organizations are extremely lucky to have Abby. Sydnee Weintraut, Shelbyville Central FFA Sentinel, has been my best friend for the last 2 years and has been by my side through all of our FFA experiences. We’ve helped each other out through everything and she has to be one of my biggest supporters.

Finally, the National FFA Organization deserves the biggest thank you. Without FFA, who knows where I would be right now. I would have never gained confidence in my voice with my speech disorder, I would have never known that cows are ruminants, even though I’ve been raising beef cattle for 5 years.

So no, I won’t have as much time in FFA as other members will. I’ll never have my discovery degree and it will take me longer to obtain my Hoosier and American Degrees. But, I am extremely blessed to have the opportunity to wear the blue jacket now, because I have waited to do so for 6 years. FFA has changed my life for the better, and I couldn’t be more grateful for everything it has done for me.

By Guest Blogger, Julia Hamblen

My name is Julia Hamblen, I'm 17 years old and I am a dedicated 4-H and FFA member. I am currently serving as the Shelby County 4-H Junior Leader's President and the Shelbyville Central FFA President. Along with 4-H and FFA, I enjoy raising and showing horses, beef cattle, swine, goats, sheep, alpacas, and dairy cattle. I also enjoy sharing my stories on my school's speech and debate team.

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