For seniors Ashley L. Willits and Jake T. Ledoux, being the 2013-14 Future Farmers of America state president and vice president, respectively, has been a rewarding, if not hectic, experience.
FFA has really made me into a marketable person. I came [into FFA] with basic farm skills. ... I can take these skills and be marketable to colleges and potential employers, said Mr. Ledoux, a senior at Beaver River Central School, Beaver Falls.
Ive been able to connect more with members, and thats what this year is about for me to get to establish real and lasting friendships. Not just to be a leader, but a friend, as well, said Miss Willits, a Lowville Academy and Central School senior.
The two admitted to missing a sizable amount of school to fulfill their duties as state officers.
My guidance counselor told me be it would be easier to write a pass for when I want to come to school, Miss Willits joked.
But the high honor roll student said she has learned to manage her time better so she can keep up her schoolwork while maintaining her job.
My teachers are really great. Theyre letting me know the work I need to do ahead of time. ... Now I get my work together before I go to events, she said.
She said balancing her FFA and personal life has been a challenge, but she has been doing well with it thus far. Mr. Ledoux said his constant absence has been turned into a joke by his friends.
One of funniest questions is, How long you going to be with us now? Where are you jetting off to next, you international traveler? the 17-year-old said.
But the struggle has by far been worth it, Miss Willits said.
Ive had a really phenomenal year already. The things Ive learned have been incredible and I wouldnt change it for anything. Im so glad to have met with my team this year, she said.
Mr. Ledoux added, The way I like to think of it, the members voted me in; therefore theyre my employers. They hired me to do this job, so Ill do my best to represent wherever I can.
Most often, the two, along with their six cabinet members, are responsible for attending workshops, meeting with chapter presidents and attending national events.
Already this fall they have gone to the Empire Farm Days, the National FFA Organization and Convention and the FFA State Presidents Conference in Washington, D.C.
That was one of my favorite experiences, Miss Willits said. We got to meet state officers from all other states.
The two agreed they returned with a number of ideas from their fellow state officers.
How to change or add new programs or to make members better readers. Things are really moving forward, Mr. Ledoux said.
When I retire in May, which Im not ready for, Im real excited for what lies ahead, Miss Willits said. I just want to finish out my year of service strong.
On an individual level, Mr. Ledoux entered the Poultry Production portion of the FFA Agricultural Proficiency Awards and was named a national finalist.
As a result, he won a trip to Costa Rica in June. This month, he will spend almost two weeks in South Africa with fellow FFA officers from across the nation.
Miss Willits intends to study agricultural business at Morrisville State College and transfer later to Carolina State, where she will major in agricultural education.
Mr. Ledoux intends to study agricultural science at either Cornell University, Ithaca, or Morrisville.