Choosing from among the many career and leadership development events (CDEs and LDEs) can be challenging and sometimes overwhelming.
However, that doesn’t have to be the case. Megan McGrady, manager of educational development at the National FFA Organization, says selecting your ideal event can be as simple as starting with your interests and career aspirations.
“If a student is interested in becoming a veterinarian or veterinary technician, for example, I would highly recommend they take part in the veterinary science CDE,” she says. “They’ll get valuable hands-on experience and potentially make industry connections that could serve them later in life.”
McGrady also suggests FFA members examine their weaknesses and choose events that can help them build new skills and overcome fears that may have previously held them back.
“Many students are terrified of public speaking, and as a result, they struggle when it’s time to give a presentation or speech in class,” McGrady says. “The Creed speaking LDE is a great place for seventh- to ninth-grade members to start, especially when it comes to building confidence when speaking in front of an audience. From there, many students naturally progress to the prepared public speaking and extemporaneous public speaking LDEs. What was once fear-inducing becomes a fun experience.”
Additionally, McGrady encourages members to ask their advisors for recommendations, either based on the member’s talents, strengths and passions or what has been historically popular with chapter members.
“Some FFA chapters have deeply rooted traditions that members uphold over the years when it comes to these competitive events,” McGrady says. “Even if the particular event doesn’t interest you right off the bat, you may still want to consider participating; you never know what skills and knowledge you’ll pick up along the way.”
Regardless of their choice, McGrady says students will only gain from competing in CDEs or LDEs, and she urges everyone to get involved — at least once.
“Even if you don’t think you’ll pursue a career in agriculture, competing in CDEs and LDEs will likely benefit you for years to come,” McGrady says. “Not only will you develop transferrable skills that will set you up for future success, but you’ll also be a more informed and educated consumer. Take a leap of faith, get out of your comfort zone and give at least one event a try. You won’t regret it. In fact, you’ll be glad you did it.”
To access additional resources to help you identify which CDE or LDE might be a good fit, visit FFA.org/Participate/CDE-LDE.