When you think of FFA—the Future Farmers of America—what comes to your mind?

Maybe you think of chickens, cattle, or other farm animals. You might think about woodworking, welding, or land judging. You might even think about those blue jackets the group’s officers wear.

But for the members and officers in the Acadiana High FFA program, they think about leadership.

"It's the organization that helped me become who I am today," Acadiana High FFA President Kayden Smith said.

Smith says the organization has helped him break out of his shell. He says the group has also made him a better leader.

"Without this organization, I would not be able to do the things that I do, such as public speaking. It helped me become more mature over time. It helped me become a leader. Through FFA, I've learned that I have to put myself out there to actually become a better person and to learn from mistakes and to take the chance to do what I want to do."

Smith says his family has a background in agriculture.

"My dad's side of the family comes from Crowley," Smith said. "They have a very big agricultural presence. My grandfather was a farmer. He also worked on an oil right, but they always cows (and) chickens and grew stuff on their farm. Plus, my uncle is the agricultural head in Lake Charles."

Acadiana FFA Vice President Iris Lormand wasn't so fortunate. She came to the organization with no agricultural experience.

"When I first heard about FFA, I heard Future Farmers of America. I was like: What is this? I'm this little Lafayette city girl. I've never even touched a cow before. I was so confused. But after I was pushed by one of the ag advisors to join it, I realized it was so much more."

Club advisor Wayne Oubre says that mix of kids with and without farm experience is what makes the group so special.

"I actually love it," Oubre said. "I'm the traditional grew-up-on-the-farm agricultural person, but I love having my city kids come out there and experience new things because you watch them change from their freshman year to their senior year and you see how they've grown. They're so much more comfortable being around things that, when they first looked at it, they though they could do it. It's just amazing to see their growth."

Part of that growth includes helping FFA students find a career and training them for the job hunt.

"One of my former students on our meat identification team who competed at nationals works for Red Lobster now," Oubre said. "He actually got his masters in meat science, and he works for the meat department for Red Lobster. He lives in Orlando and works for the entire Red Lobster organization throughout worldwide."

"During this career development, I had to learn how to do a résumé," Lormand said. "I had to do an interview as if I were applying for a real job. It helped me for the job I have now."

Oubre and his officers agree: There's a place for everyone in FFA.

"You don't have to have an agricultural background to be in FFA," Smith said. "It's to put yourself out there and join something new to get something greater out of it. I'll be honest: It's helped me so much in so many areas that I can't begin to process it. It's helped me so much."

"Not all of us have an ag background, but each and everyone of us is able to make something of it," Lormand said. "Each and every single one of us is having our life transformed, and our futures are being opened up for us because of it."

"We're a lot more than just future farmers," Oubre said. "We're about future leaders. That's what we're really about."

Acadiana FFA will be sending around 20 of its members to the national conference in Indianapolis later this school year, and you can help them get there.

The organization is accepting donations to help their students pay their way to the conference. If you’d like to donate to the Acadiana FFA program, write a check to Acadiana High School with “F-F-A Donation” on the memo line. You can mail the check to the school or drop it off at the front office.

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