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Friday, October 23, 2009

Serve Out Loud!

Lead Out Loud! At National Convention this week you will see and hear these words everywhere! Before each session the national officers give us words of encouragement on how we can do just that, Lead Out Loud! But let’s take it a step further - the theme of our fourth general session of the week is Serve Out Loud and the National FFA, as you probably already know, has set goals for our organization to do this in a big way. The Million Hour Challenge (MHC) is a special initiative that focuses on service learning and brings together the hours served by FFA members to reach a goal of one million.

According to Michelle Sullivan, leader of FFA’s Living to Serve initiative, there are five categories in which chapters can log hours: education, government, healthy lifestyle, environment, and social and human services. By logging the most hours in these areas a chapter can win $2,500 to reinvest into their service project. Winners of the $2,500 award this year, sponsored by Monsanto, are as follows: Government- Forest Lake FFA Chapter from Forest Lake, MN; Social and Human Services- Perrydale FFA Chapter from Amity, OR; Education- Ponchatoula FFA Chapter from Ponchatoula, LA; Environmental- Rosewood FFA Chapter from Goldsboro, NC; and Healthy Lifestyles- Waupaca FFA Chapter from Waupaca, WI.

The Ponchatoula FFA Chapter was very interested in diversity. The chapter wanted to focus on diversity and helping the community know what diversity is; that it isn’t just race, it is education, age, geographic location and so much more. The chapter held a conference for their community and invited churches, schools, and other organizations. Chapters all across the county have been creative with service projects and are getting actively involved in their communities.

If your chapter hasn’t already gotten involved with the Million Hour Challenge now is the time to start! As members it is our obligation to serve and this initiative is the perfect motivation to do so. By serving out loud, we also LEAD OUT LOUD!

~Kelsey Ross, National FFA Convention newsroom staff

The Challenge of Tomorrow

On Thursday night at the fourth general session the president of Monsanto, Hugh Grant, spoke to FFA members of the challenges that face American agriculture today and that will only get more difficult as we approach tomorrow. Among these challenges he listed food, water, climate change, and hunger; and that agriculture is a big piece of the solution. Grant told members that we need leaders in agriculture now more than ever. “Agriculture is one of the oldest industries in the world,” Grant said, “and today it’s one of the coolest.” FFA members couldn’t agree more!

Grant informed members that we will have to produce more with less, starting with land. In 1850 there was a half acre for every person in the world; today we are down to a quarter of an acre. He also said that we will have to “squeeze more crop out of every drop” of water. And with these constantly decreasing resources we must produce as much food in the next 50 years as we have over the past 10,000.

With 98 percent of the country who do not live on farms, and 2% who do live on farms the country tends to forget how much they depend on farming for our growth. Grant continued, “People don’t even have to think about where food comes from, it’s just there.” For this reason, he said “we need to tell the amazing story of agriculture.”

Facebook was one of his suggestions to do this. Grant believes that by using Facebook, that the 2 percent who do live on farms can share the promise, story, and power of agriculture with the much larger 98 percent who do not.

Of the challenge he presented, Grant asked, “How do we do it?” His answer? “We do it loud!” Grant closed with this motivational and yet bold statement, “More and more the world is counting on you and the decision you will make.”

FFA members: What decision will you make?

~Kelsey Ross, National FFA Convention newsroom staff

Put a Little Sizzle in Your Day—Spontaneous Performances Help the Community Connect to FFA

The smell of fries, cooked noodles, hamburgers, and fresh baked pretzels all mingle together.

The anxious sounds of two hundred hungry teenagers and adults fill the air. People crowd around tables and stand in line awaiting their turn to order.

Then, the sound of a guitar, fiddle, and banjo joined with harmonic voices to rise above the noise. The strains of “Sweet Home Alabama” fill the four story space—the National FFA Convention Sizzle Performance has begun.

This was the scene that unfolded at the food court in Circle Center mall as the first of a chain of performances—known as Sizzle Performances— began.. By sharing their talents with the Indianapolis downtown community through these impromptu and spontaneous performances, the National FFA Talent group hopes to bring the message of FFA to the public and create another a new way to Lead Out Loud.

According to Mandy Hazlett, coordinator of the Sizzle Performances, the idea behind the performances was to bring spontaneous entertainment to the crowd attending the FFA convention and to the downtown community. The performances were modeled after popular impromptu events put on by a group called Improv Everywhere.

Members of National FFA Convention Talent, such as Aura Smith of Fayette, Missouri, were selected to participate in these impromptu events because of their ability to perform. Those talents helped make an impact on FFA members like Sam Schafer and Amanda Wolfe. Both Schafer and Wolfe joined in the performance by clapping and singing. “It was exciting!” said Schafer.

Another Sizzle Performance will take place at the last convention session. Also, the talents of these performers and many others will be featured throughout the convention and at the National FFA Talent Revue.

~Dorothy Spencer, National FFA Convention newsroom staff

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Just a spoonful of Purell keeps H1N1 at bay…in the most delightful way!

Hello friends,

If you’re like me, you’re a big hugger.

And there is no place like the National FFA Convention to share the love: reuniting with old friends and meeting new ones.

But in this media-fueled atmosphere where H1N1 is a reality, is it o.k. to give a friend a hug? What about shaking hands with the national officers if you’re an award winner?

Most experts say that taking a few simple precautions can help prevent the spread of the flu virus:

1. Don’t touch nose, eyes and mouth! If you touch something diseased (and we don’t mean your little brother) and then touch your face, you can spread the sickness. Don’t!

2. Get enough sleep! Especially during convention when you’re running around, visiting the Career Show, watching the sessions and enjoying our lovely host city, it’s still important to get enough rest.

3. Hand sanitizer is your new BFF! Throughout Conseco Fieldhouse and other convention sites, you will find hand sanitizer. Use it! It contains alcohol that kills those nasty germs.

4. If you’re sick, stay home! Don’t contaminate others if you’re not feeling well. Just stay at home (or in your hotel room) catching up on daytime TV. Glenn Close is on The View today…didn’t you just LOVE her in The Stepford Wives?!

5. Cover your coughs! Speaking of Grandma Betty, she’s been telling you this since you were a wee lad/lass. Take her advice.

6. Wash, wash, wash your hands! No wittiness to add here. Just please do it.

7. DON’T CALL IT SWINE FLU! You can be an educator! Inform anyone who uses the phrase “swine flu” that they can’t get H1N1 from eating bacon or petting a piggy. Millions of swine producers nationwide thank you.

Now by following these easy steps, you can stay as healthy and germ free and keep your fellow convention-goers the same.

Have a great time in Indy!

Peace and love,

Dustin Petty, National FFA Convention Newsroom Staff

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Coming Soon: The New Indiana Convention Center

The difference a year makes at the 82nd National FFA Convention.

A year ago, standing in between the Indiana Convention Center (ICC) and the brand new Lucas Oil Stadium (LOS) was a downtown Indianapolis landmark on the verge of destruction -- but in the name of new construction. The RCA Dome was visibly under demolition and behind barricades along south Capitol Street last year as FFA members walked from different convention sites.

This time around, however, the Dome is gone and a rapidly advancing addition to the convention center is already well underway -- an improvement FFA members will see in completion at the 84th National FFA Convention in 2011.

With an anticipated completion date in December of 2010, ICC will be expanded to a whopping 1.23 million square feet -- or more than 28 acres under one roof. Currently, it offers just over 500,000 square feet of convention space to the FFA.

All of that area -- from the 400,000-square foot open area housing this year's Career Show and shopping mall to the many separate rooms housing events ranging from delegate meetings to the FFA Alumni Auction -- is used up by the folks in blue and gold for this week's convention. That space, of course, doesn't include the meeting rooms and other spaces used in downtown Indianapolis hotels as well as events at Conseco Fieldhouse (CF), LOS and the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

As for the Dome, the former home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts came tumbling to the ground in December of 2008 thanks to a controlled demolition -- roughly two months after 2008's 81st National FFA Convention. Since then, work on the ICC site has been in fast forward.

FFA members transitioning between the ICC and CF (site of eight of the nine general sessions) or LOS (home of Wednesday night's Toby Keith concert and Saturday's prestigious American Degree Ceremony) will certainly notice the skeleton of Indianapolis' convention center upgrade taking shape.

But in just a year -- remember the difference it makes? -- that metal frame skeleton will be completely covered and the workers will be hustling to finish the details inside the new ICC, bringing Indianapolis' convention profile even higher.

So after four great years for FFA in Indy, FFA members still have more to look forward to in the coming years.

What more can you ask for?

~Geoffrey Miller, National FFA Convention Newsroom Staff