I have never been a runner, but a few years ago I participated in a half marathon. I took off running at the beginning only to slow to a walk. Then I hit the one-mile mark where volunteers stood cheering.
“You’ve got this girl!”
With their encouragement, I started running. After a few minutes, I went back to walking. Soon I came across the next mile marker where more people stood, cheering us all on.
“I believe in you!”
Every mile marker for the rest of the race repeated this scene. Sure enough, just as I felt tired and began to slow the encouragement helped me pick up the pace. Before I knew it, I saw the finish line – and even more people happy to cheer for people they didn’t know. Their efforts helped me reach my goal.
The mission of the cheering crowds was simple: they wanted to encourage everyone, because at the end of the day, we were all there for a common goal. We all showed up with different talents, different time spent training, and even different reasons for participating. But these mile-marker cheerleaders realized something pretty special – it takes all types of people with their different time, talent, and treasures to make something successful.
We can take that same perspective and look at the FFA Alumni. What would happen if every FFA member had the opportunity to be encouraged, pushed and celebrated by their own crowd of supporters?
In other words, what if every FFA chapter had a supporting FFA Alumni affiliate?
It would simply be transformational.
The possibility of this should be the reality for which we aim. Having 100% activation in our local alumni chapters will ensure every FFA member can develop their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success. There could be no limit to FFA member participation in Career Development Events (CDE), Supervised Agricultural Experiences, camps, leadership conferences, and conventions.
So how do we do this? Identifying an achievable goal is a great first step.
In an FFA Alumni chapter that already exists, the goal should be increasing activity and participation among the alumni members. Every member of an alumni affiliate, local, state, or national level, brings different time, talents, and treasures to the table. One way to figure out those valuable skills is to have alumni members fill out a Volunteer Resource Inventory (PDF available via FFA.org log-in) . This is a quick reference to see who can and is willing to help with what.
Those half-marathon cheerleaders met me where I was and encouraged me from there. FFA Alumni chapters can do the same by meeting the chapter where it is. This includes speaking frequently to the advisor, meeting the needs, and finding ways to engage all students in FFA.
For an FFA chapter that needs an FFA Alumni chapter to activate, consider how I prepared for my half-marathon: I looked to the experts. I asked my runner friends how to train, how to choose the best shoes and how to get in shape.
In starting an FFA Alumni affiliate, there are experts we first need to talk to. This starts with asking the local advisor what they need and how they see an alumni working to support their chapter. This is also a way to keep the chapter successful – by checking in regularly with the advisor making sure the needs are being met.
Aiming for 100 percent FFA Alumni chapter activation is undoubtedly a lofty goal. But when you consider the transformation it could spark among a generation of FFA members, the goal is worth pursuing.
by Taylor McNeel
Taylor McNeel is the National FFA President from Arkansas.