No Holding Back

Courtney Walker, Miss TN Pageant

When is the last time you risked boldly and tried something new?

Have you secretly been yearning to try an FFA career development event but haven’t yet mustered the courage?

Have you been thinking about an idea for a cool supervised agricultural experience but haven’t shared it with your advisor yet?

Do you actually really want to try out for the school play or the soccer team or student council?

What is holding you back? What are you waiting for?

Crowned a Leader

FFA member Courtney Walker decided not to hold back her first year in high school. She signed up for an agricultural education course and immersed herself in FFA activities and competitions.

Even though her family was three generations removed from the farm, she was fascinated by what she was learning in the classroom and about herself by trying new things through FFA. Throughout high school she ended up competing in 15 state and two national competitions.

Turning to service, she was elected as a Tennessee state FFA officer and after retiring her jacket, Courtney was eager to find another opportunity to serve in a similar capacity.

The Miss America Contest was something Courtney had watched every year since she was a young girl. It dawned on her that competing might be an opportunity to serve agriculture. She could put her public speaking skills to use advocating and educating about the industry to a whole new audience.

It was also a personal challenge. Courtney was equally driven by wanting to change the course of her family’s history of weight-related health issues. But having no history in the pageant world, how did she have the courage to even try? Courtney admits that she, a self-described basketball-playing tomboy, isn’t the “normal” pageant type.

She knew that to pursue this big challenge, she would have to believe in herself more than ever before.

Crafting a Plan

Yet again, Courtney’s FFA experiences proved useful. The strong work ethic she developed in her FFA SAE and in serving as a state FFA officer came in handy.

Just as she’d learned to do when working toward her FFA goals, Courtney created a plan to conquer the barriers standing in her way and took one step after another toward her goal.

She needed to get in shape. So Courtney hired a personal trainer who would help her focus on achieving a healthy weight. As a result, she grew stronger and more confident in her appearance.

She identified her platform. Even though she knew it would be the first time in history that agriculture was chosen as a Miss Tennessee platform, Courtney still felt the pull toward her ag roots. Her “From Seed to Served” platform teaches people about the sources of their food and encourages them to make healthy choices.

She needed a talent. So Courtney called on her FFA experiences, and public speaking became her talent. During her 90-second talent, Courtney solved a Rubik’s Cube while motivating audiences and judges about overcoming the puzzles of life.

After completing her plan with the perfect dresses, hair styles and pageant coaching, Courtney was finally ready to compete!

But success didn’t happen right away. Courtney competed in eight Miss Tennessee regional pageants before winning a crown, and she considers each one an important step toward her goal.

“During my journey, I had people tell me that I needed to change my hair, talent, wardrobe, smile, accent and everything in between. That was challenging,” Courtney reflects. “I had to stay true to myself and keep my eyes focused in on why I was doing this.”

Still she persevered, and her bold risks paid off.

Courtney was crowned Miss Decatur County, a regional pageant that qualified her for the Miss Tennessee competition.

Courtney competed for Miss Tennessee this past June and finished in the top 10, a remarkable feat for her first year.

“Every person needs to not only risk, but risk boldly! Push yourself out of your comfort zone and work for something you really believe in,” Courtney says. “I risked boldly by pushing myself mentally and physically, and the moment I was recognized for all of my hard work is a moment I will never forget.”

Your Own Bold Risk

Leaders risk boldly. Leaders understand that our life is defined by the moments in which we consciously choose to seize opportunities to try something new – even if it means getting uncomfortable and working hard. Leaders consciously ignore the sound of voices of doubt in their minds. Leaders demonstrate courage by listening to their guts. And everyone has the potential inside to be a leader.

Listen to yourself. How can you risk boldly this year through FFA? By trying something new? By giving voice to your dream? You can do it. Courtney is living proof.

Anne Knapke