Fresno State’s campus was buzzing Sunday afternoon with around 6,100 high school agriculture students for the 88th California State Future Farmers of America (FFA) Leadership Conference.
Starting at 11 a.m., around 100 Fresno State faculty, staff and students hosted FFA members in workshops and tours of the University Agricultural Laboratory. Workshops covered everything from how to accomplish career goals to effective ice breakers and were held by FFA members from San Luis Obispo, Davis, Pomona, Chico and other cities.
Dae Ramirez, 14, of Firebaugh, said her leadership skills have flourished during the past two days of attending FFA events and workshops.
“I’ve met so many more people, I’ve learned so many more qualities of leadership that just go in your daily life,” Ramirez said. “You kind of learn how to be more sociable and outgoing, and I think that’s one of the greatest things FFA convention has taught me so far.”
The state convention runs through Tuesday.
Alana-Grace Minton, a Fresno State graduate student, led a workshop on networking, and its career benefits.
“We’re talking about how to get yourself out there, especially for those who have difficulty conversing with new people,” Minton said.
FFA national secretary Nick Baker, of Tennessee, and national president Taylor McNeel, of Arkansas, gave the keynote speech to an audience of several hundred students, all wearing their blue FFA jackets. The two were both elected to their positions in the fall and will spend the next year traveling to state conferences around the country.
“The topic is about fear and how, a lot of times in high schools, kids let that fear get inside themselves,” Baker said. “And they keep it from starting their dreams and goals, and what they want to do.
“What we talked about is once you’ve accepted that fear, you can embrace it and use it as motivation to push you toward your goals,” Baker said. “If our students are in ag classes and wearing blue jackets, then we’re developing the next generation of educated, motivated leaders.”
Jesus Avalos, 18, is the vice president of the Porterville High FFA chapter and was at the conference for his second year.
“The people that come with you, you really get close to,” Avalos said. “You don’t know them that much going in but you’re really close when you get back.”
Central Valley High junior Alondra Gonzalez, 16, of Ceres, said the networking opportunities were what she looked forward to most during the three FFA conferences she has attended.
“We get to talk to other people, other teachers, other schools, and participate in activities with them,” Gonzalez said. “It’s honestly just a great time to hang out with the friends we had made.”