FFA Students Explore World Issues


Megan Schendel

     Seniors Kaitlyn Shimizu and Spencer Jenkins traveled to the Washington Leadership Conference (WLC) over the summer as members of the Future Farmers of America (FFA). Along with 12 other students from Hawaii, Shimizu and Jenkins attended the event in Washington D.C., from July 17 to 22, to learn how to take a more active role in their community.

     “There’s so many problems that we don’t really notice,” said Shimizu. “Even one little action is going to make a big difference, and even if those actions don’t seem to succeed there are a whole bunch of other people who are (working) towards the same goal, so if everyone is towards that same goal it isn’t so hard meet it.”

     The conference did not focus solely on agriculture but also encouraged students to take leadership roles in their communities. “It promotes agriculture, but more importantly for the student members it’s about developing, growing themselves, leadership, personal growth, those kind of things, as well as leading into potential careers in agriculture,” explained FFA Adviser Jeffrey Yamaguchi. One of the main goals of the program was to create better leadership for tomorrow and to expose students to different social issues ranging from world hunger to HIV. In exposing the students to a wide variety of social issues through games, activities and lectures they hoped to expand the student’s ability to problem solve in their community and collaborate with their peers.

     Participation in the community wasn’t all that the conference stressed. It also motivated students to take a look at the world around them. “It’s amazing how issues that we have in Hawai’i are the same issues they have in Texas, California, the East Coast. A lot of the issues are very similar,” stated Yamaguchi. Shimizu added, “One night we did an activity where they simulated how the world eats. A large portion of us had one bowl of rice that we had to share among ten of us, and some ate like kings. It simulated how a lot of the world is hungry.”

     Through activities and lectures students worked toward finding their purpose. “Given our mission, I think the most concise statement of our goals is codified in the FFA motto, ‘Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve,’” said the Hawai’i State CTE Specialist Michael Barros. “On the first day we learned our own purpose,” added Shimizu. “(Which includes) our strengths and just to do what you’re passionate about and not let it die with you. Not only do you die when you die, but also those dreams; they can’t go anywhere. They kind of look back at you like why didn’t you accomplish me. They made me feel like I shouldn’t not do something because I’m scared to. I should just do it to have that drive.”

     Aside from learning new skills, Shimizu and Jenkins were also given the opportunity to make new connections. “They get to meet FFA students from across the nation, get to know others, and gives them as well as us different perspectives of what goes on in agriculture,” explained Yamaguchi. “I got to meet a lot of people from different states and see how they run their FFA programs,” said Jenkins.

     In their final year in the FFA program Shimizu and Jenkins look to continue learning new things and practicing the skills they developed at the WLC.