Kansas FFA celebrates the power of ‘Just One’ at state convention

Kansas FFA members from high schools across the state look at supervised agricultural experience projects at the SAE Fair in Leadership Studies 126 on Thursday. (Dené Dryden | Collegian Media Group)

After the spring semester ends, the Kansas State campus transforms into a focal place for Kansas youth programs — this week, middle and high school students convened on campus for the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership conference, Kansas 4-H’s Discovery Days and the 91st Kansas FFA Convention.

From Wednesday to Friday, Kansas FFA members could attend convention sessions, watch the state FFA band and chorus perform and volunteer their time to package meals for hunger relief services.

By the final session of the convention Friday, 1,905 members, chapter advisers and guests had registered in attendance for the conference.

“Just One” was the theme of this year’s convention, following the idea set by the National FFA Organization’s 2017-18 national officer team: Just one encounter, one moment, one person can change a life.

The seven formal sessions — the first of which occurred at 7 p.m. Wednesday and the last at 2 p.m. Friday — featured motivational speakers, items of business from the state student delegation, retiring speeches from outgoing state FFA officers and awards for FFA members and school chapters. This year, six Kansas schools chartered new FFA chapters: Ashland, Chanute, Kiowa County, Lakin, Mulvane, and Shawnee Heights.

Max Harman, sophomore in biochemistry and global food systems leadership and 2018-19 state FFA president, said in his retiring address Friday that through an FFA leadership conference, he learned the value of humility through a former national officer, Mitch Baker, and his gracious interaction with a younger FFA member at the breakfast table who didn’t know Baker’s FFA path. “The simple mindset of humility wasn’t a grand gesture, and Mitch — he certainly doesn’t remember it — but it left a huge impact on me as a bystander and made developing humility in my life a much higher priority.

“In life, we may never know which actions of ours leave a positive impact, make a positive change,” Harman continued. “If we aren’t thinking about the legacy that we’re leaving, we are probably missing out on leaving positive impacts like Mitch had on me.”

Harman also advised the crowd of students at his retiring speech to find their own enthusiasm in something they love, as that is what Harman said makes people stand out in whatever they are doing.

Shea Mikesell, recent graduate of Pike Valley High School in Scandia, Kansas, and Pike Valley FFA Chapter member, said this year was her second year attending state convention.

“I really enjoyed listening to the officers’ stories and how FFA has really impacted them and help them grow into leaders,” Mikesell said.

New state officers were elected at the convention: Logan Elliott, president and freshman in agricultural education; Abby Goins, vice president and sophomore in agricultural education; Elizabeth Wright, secretary and freshman in agricultural education; Lukas Sebesta, treasurer and sophomore in agricultural education; J.W. Wells, reporter and freshman in agribusiness; and Mason Prester, sentinel and freshman in agricultural education.

As K-State is the university seat of Kansas FFA, state officers are almost always K-State students.

Now that Mikesell and Mekenzie Ehlers, also a recent Pike Valley High School graduate, are looking toward college themselves, Ehlers said FFA altered what she wanted to do upon after high school.

“When I was a freshman in high school, I didn’t plan on going to college at all,” Ehlers said. “Then my activities through FFA and with my adviser drove me to want to be a part of that in my future for a long time. So I decided that I want to go to be an ag teacher and be an FFA adviser eventually.”

Ehlers said she will major in agricultural education at Fort Hays State University. Mikesell will also attend Fort Hays State, but is undecided on a field of study.

“I don’t really know what I want to major in yet, but agriculture is very near and dear to my heart, so maybe looking at something in the ag field,” Mikesell said.

I'm Dene Dryden, and I graduated in May 2020 with a Bachelor's of Arts in English. Before graduating, I worked at the Collegian for more than three years as a copy chief, managing editor and editor-in-chief. I also served a term on the Collegian Media Group Board of Directors. While at K-State, I also worked at Wildcat 91.1 FM. My cat Robyn is the light of my life, and I take compliments in the form of coffee.