Each year at the National FFA Convention and Expo, thousands of FFA members will don their blue jackets (at least formally) for the last time, when they receive their American FFA Degree. The highest earnable degree in FFA, it’s the capstone of a student member’s FFA career, which can seem bittersweet.
But FFA Alumni Development Specialist Allie Ellis says graduates shouldn’t view it as a farewell to FFA. “It’s an emotional time because you think you’ll never do that or be there again, but it doesn’t have to be the end of your FFA experience,” she says. “We say, ‘Come back to the convention and help others on their path. It can be the beginning of your alumni experience.’”
Ellis knows of that which she speaks, having attended all but one of the national conventions in the past 16 years since she earned the prestigious degree. She encourages FFA Alumni and Supporters to join her.
More than 65,000 attendees are expected at this year’s convention. Ellis reiterates: FFA Alumni and Supporters are more than welcome to attend. They’re greatly needed and appreciated. “We couldn’t pull this off without the help of all our countless volunteers. It’s pretty neat to see how many people come to help make it happen,” she says.
Here are just some of the ways FFA Alumni and Supporters can pitch in from Tuesday, Oct. 29 to Friday, Nov. 1:
- Chaperone or drive for a local chapter.
- Act as a Career Success Tour or National Day of Service host, helping students travel safely to and from off-site destinations in and around Indianapolis.
- Answer convention questions and welcome attendees to Indy at one of the FFA hospitality desks, banquets or entertainment events.
- Serve as a career or leadership development event, agriscience fair or proficiency award judge.
- Learn how to help more at the local level by attending an alumni and supporter workshop.
Ellis says that in addition to serving others, alumni and supporters can enjoy reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. “Friday is Alumni Day at convention, so we really try to celebrate them,” she says.
About 1,100 people come to the annual meeting and reception. For newer alumni and supporters who are still early in their careers, it’s an ideal networking opportunity to meet ag industry leaders, and for longtime alumni and supporters, it’s a way to experience firsthand the results of their giving.
“We have a lot of requests from our corporate sponsors who want to see the students in action, and many of them are there to interact with our student members—to actually help and be involved, in addition to supporting them financially,” Ellis says.
If you do attend, she recommends visiting the FFA Experience Booth in the expo, hearing a keynote speaker at a general session, and especially helping celebrate the newest alumni — the American Degree recipients — by attending the FFA Alumni and Supporters Reception.
For registration details and a complete events schedule, go to the alumni and supporters convention webpage. To sign up to help, visit the local volunteers webpage. For questions on judging, email firstname.lastname@example.org.