Sponsors help FFA members grow, lead, give back

The annual National FFA Organization’s Washington Leadership Conference draws more than 2,200 FFA members from around the country to Washington, D.C., in June and July.

Each of the conference’s seven weekly sessions focuses on developing students’ leadership skills. Students identify personal strengths and develop awareness of societal differences and human needs. Throughout each week, each student also develops a community-service initiative for their local community, with the intention of each student returning home and implementing their plan.

Last summer, Sierra Coulthard did just that. Coulthard, an FFA member from Neillsville, Wis., returned home from WLC and connected with Nashville-based Soles4Souls, which since 2005 has secured more than 17 million new and gently used shoes for people throughout the world. The charity shipped her a large supply of new shoe boxes that she placed throughout her hometown.

Nearly 1,000 pairs of shoes were donated to the “Sierra’s Shoes” drive. And last month, she was able to travel to Haiti and pass them out to children who needed them.

Students come to WLC wanting to make a difference. They leave knowing they can – and will.

The conclusion of each weekly session is a Day of Service, where students work together on a real, hands-on community-service project. Last year, through each week’s Day of Service, students contributed a total of $85,283 worth of volunteer labor to the greater Washington, D.C., area.

This year, students volunteered more than 9,500 hours to pack and ship thousands of meals to Nicaragua to help the developing country battle hunger.

None of this would be possible without the support of the outstanding sponsors who make WLC possible.

Sponsor corporations send representatives to the conference during their designated week to witness firsthand just how beneficial and influential student-training seminars are to FFA members. These companies have a chance to engage FFA members, talk with them about issues and trends, discuss career exploration and teach members what they know about personal growth, leadership and career success.

So on behalf of the thousands of FFA members who will grow substantially from their time in D.C. this summer, thank you Monsanto, Timberland PRO, CSX, TransCanada, Crop Production Services, Farm Credit and CHS for making it all possible.