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'Something special' -- FFA Winter Leadership Conference to focus on service projects

Leadership can be a tricky word to define and an even more challenging trait to develop. The primary goal of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) is to make a positive difference in the lives of its members by developing their potential for premie...

Larissa Klitzke of the Powers Lake FFA Chapter (left) and Lauren Voeller of the Rugby FFA Chapter (right) take part in a leadership activity at the 2018 Winter Leadership Conferences in Bismarck, ND. Photo courtesy of ND FFA Foundation
Larissa Klitzke of the Powers Lake FFA Chapter (left) and Lauren Voeller of the Rugby FFA Chapter (right) take part in a leadership activity at the 2018 Winter Leadership Conferences in Bismarck, ND. Photo courtesy of ND FFA Foundation

Leadership can be a tricky word to define and an even more challenging trait to develop. The primary goal of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) is to make a positive difference in the lives of its members by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.

More than 1,000 North Dakota FFA members from 75 different chapters are scheduled to attend the 2019 Winter Leadership Conferences (WLC) in Bismarck, N.D., on January 5th and 6th.

"The Winter Leadership Conference offers great opportunities for members to hone their leadership skills and is a weekend we look forward to every year," said Tamra Maddock, executive director of the North Dakota FFA Foundation.

At the conference, members will learn what it means to be a leader through various individual conferences and service projects.

"In addition to the personal growth we'll see, it is inspiring to think of the impact these service projects will have on people in need within our communities and state. To see members from across the state come together and carry out these projects is something special." Maddock said.

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Three unique and individual leadership conferences-the Greenhand Conference, 212 degree and the 360 degree Leadership Conferences-will see members receive foundational leadership training. In addition to the conferences, members will participate in two seperate service projects aimed at enforcing the service aspect of being a community leader.

The Greenhand Conference was first developed as an introductory conference for student members in the 7th, 8th and 9th grades. This conference is conducted by the N.D. FFA State Officer Team and will feature topics and workshops built to give these members the foundational qualities of leadership.

The 212 degree and 360 degree Leadership Conferences see students spend their time in sessions designed to increase understanding of the importance of influence, conducting a chapter needs assessment and crafting. The 212 degree conference is named for the temperature at which water boils and focuses on taking students to the boiling point of leadership.

"At 211 degrees, water is extremely hot, but just one more degree gets us to the next level," Maddock said. "That's what we are looking for, getting our members to the next level."

The two-day 212 degree Leadership Conference is focused on student development and helps FFA members become aware of their personal growth. FFA members attended sessions on making positive decisions, setting SMART goals and taking steps toward self-improvement.

The 360 degree Leadership Conferences take students full circle in terms of chapter leadership. The two-day 360 degree conference is focused on the importance of influence and how to become an influential leader.

Students in the upper echelon conference spent their time in sessions understanding the importance of influence, conducting a chapter needs assessment, crafting an influence plan for their local FFA chapter and developing a strategy to make an influence.

The culminating activities are the two service projects.

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The first of the two state-officer-organized service projects takes place at WLC with the intended purpose of benefiting the Children's Hospitals of Sanford Health and CHI St. Alexius Health in Bismarck, N.D. The goals established by the state officer are collecting items intended to ease a child's time in the hospital. Items sought include toys, crafts, sporting balls, gift cards, movies, games and more.

The second service project aims to raise money for the Granville FFA Chapter vice president, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

State officers have organized to have wristbands sold at the WLC dance, as well as a "dollar dance" event on the evening of January 5th with all proceeds going to help defray the medical expenses associated with treatment and hospice care.

The 2019 WLC will also see 260 members receive their blue corduroy FFA jacket courtesy of the North Dakota FFA Foundation's program, Blue Jacket Bright Futures, which provides the iconic jackets to members who may not have the financial resources to obtain their own.

The North Dakota FFA Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to support the leadership opportunities and activities of the ND FFA and agricultural education. They do this by building partnerships with industry, education, government, other foundations and individuals to secure financial resources that fund scholarships, financial assistance and sponsorship of the N.D. FFA State Association's activities to help grow leaders, build communities and strengthen agriculture.

For more information about the N.D. FFA Foundation, visit ndffafoundation.com

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