“Organically cultivating an unconventional leader in agriculture”

(L-R) Chuck Crawford, Kolesen McCoy, Jeanne Gogolski and Kirk Merritt participated in a GrowNextGen workshop, which briefed leaders on how to connect STEM and agriculture education effectively.

By Courtney Heiser
agricultural communication student

A flood of emotions filled the Lucas Oil Stadium as the lights dimmed and a sea of blue cheered during the final session of the 92nd National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis. Twenty-five candidates nervously anticipated the moment they would hear their name called to serve on the 2019-2020 National FFA Organization officer team.

After the election of four regional vice presidents and the national secretary, 20 candidates remained, including Kolesen McCoy, of Springfield, Ohio, intently listening to who would be elected to serve as the organization’s national president.

McCoy patiently awaited his fate. It was now or never, all or nothing and then it happened. “Your 2019-2020 National FFA president, from the state of Ohio: Kolesen McCoy,” was called out from the podium and McCoy became the third Ohioan in history to serve as the National FFA Organization’s president.

McCoy followed an unconventional path to obtain this leadership position, but his experiences with the Global Impact STEM Academy (GISA) and GrowNextGen (GNG) have cultivated his abilities and shaped him into the young agricultural professional he is today.

The Early Years
Early in his high school career at the GISA, McCoy was approached by his agricultural education teacher with an offer to be a part of an initiative to start an FFA chapter. McCoy was struck with curiosity, as, prior to this opportunity, he had never heard of the National FFA Organization.

“The unique pathway in leadership, personal growth, and the potential careers set before me sparked a passion that has stayed with me ever since,” said Kolesen McCoy, National FFA Organization president.

In cooperation with GISA, the GNG program, funded by Ohio Soybean Farmers, has been dedicated to providing opportunities to grow the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders for the ever-changing industry that feeds the world.

“Kolesen’s willingness to try new opportunities presented to him is one attribute that has stood out to me as he has developed as a young leader,” said Rachel Sanders, FFA Advisor at GISA and teacher leader for the GNG program.

In addition to McCoy’s notable contributions to GISA’s young FFA chapter, he also served as a high school ambassador for the GNG program. As an ambassador, McCoy showcased how agriculture is a STEM-related field by helping run bio-based STEM outreach events at local elementary schools and the Clark County Fair. He also conducted activities at the GNG Booth during State FFA Convention.

Finding His Purpose
“The first trip I ever took to Farm Science Review in London, Ohio, was sponsored by GrowNextGen,” said McCoy. “It was the small but very impactful moments like these where I saw GrowNextGen invest in myself as a young agriculturist that have stood out.”

Growing up, McCoy spent time on his grandparents’ farm in northwest Ohio. He learned about machinery and common practices of a corn and soybean operation, but his immediate household was not involved in production agriculture.

“GrowNextGen served as a great vehicle for myself to become involved in the reality of agriculture in the 21st century,” said McCoy. “Becoming involved in the mission to feed the world and invest into the communities around us has completely reshaped not just my personal outlook, but my professional outlook as well.”

As McCoy became more involved with his studies of agriculture at GISA and his experiences with GrowNextGen, he connected the dots and realized his potential to make a positive impact within the agriculture industry.

“The GrowNextGen program is set apart in its focus on student success through educational outreach and resources,” said McCoy. “The practicality of its mission to grow the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders for the changing industry of agriculture will always be present as our world grows. Every resource and initiative created is done so with the intention to fulfill the mission, and GrowNextGen delivers.”

Leaving His Legacy
“Kolesen’s aspiration for new opportunities led him to new adventures that allowed him to reflect and discover his purpose,” said Sanders.

In 2017, McCoy was elected to serve as the Ohio FFA state secretary. Throughout his year of service as state secretary, he was exposed to many opportunities and experiences which enhanced his leadership abilities and passion for agriculture and serving others.

Building upon his involvement with GNG, his impact on Ohio FFA as state secretary led to his election as the 2018-2019 Ohio FFA state president and now the current National FFA president.

“What makes this organization what it is, is the people involved,” said McCoy. “The classmates beside you, the agricultural educator behind you, and the supporters all around you encouraging you every step of the way. I genuinely am thrilled to be able to be an authentic advocate for the agricultural industry, a voice for our student body at the national level, and a kind friend to all both in and out of the blue jacket.”

“Kolesen is a very genuine young man who serves for the greater good,” said Sanders. “He truly has a positive outlook on life and will make the most out of any opportunity.”

In a short three years of service to both the Ohio FFA and National FFA Organizations, McCoy has humbly left a legacy and continues to make an impact as a leader in agriculture. Through his many opportunities to serve others, McCoy has made it a priority to grow with every new experience.

McCoy also represented Ohio in the 2019 American Soybean Association Ag Voices of the Future Program. This program is designed to expose young people with a farming connection to an education on major policy issues and advocacy.

“Ultimately, what makes the greatest impact is when you seek to serve and learn from the people around you,” said McCoy. “Learning this was what catapulted my growth as a leader.”

What’s Next for McCoy?
“It was because of the programs like GrowNextGen that I became more invested in the industry of agriculture, further influencing my decision to pursue both a degree and career in agribusiness,” said McCoy.

As a second-year agribusiness student in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Science at The Ohio State University, McCoy looks forward to pursuing a career that is connected to his passion of working with people and the agriculture industry. He is interested in agribusiness management, international trade and policy, organizational leadership, public relations and education.

“Through the intentional growth of my professional network sought after in these experiences, I hope to be a sound advocate and contributor to the agricultural industry and those in the rural community,” said McCoy. “Genuinely, I can say my experience with GNG served as a catalyst for opening my eyes to the incredible diversity and unity within the agricultural industry.”

GrowNextGen is the Ohio Soybean Council’s checkoff-funded program that brings agriculture science to the classroom by providing real-world educational tools to engage the next generation workforce. GrowNextGen helps expose students to different career fields in a thriving industry. To learn more about this program and other ways GNG is preparing the next generation for careers in agriculture, visit grownextgen.org.

 

This feature story was written by Courtney Heiser, an agricultural communication student enrolled in the Agricultural Communication 2531 course during the 2019 Autumn Semester. Dr. Joy Rumble instructed the course.

Augustine awarded American FFA Degree

Written by:
Samantha Augustine
sophomore
agricultural communication

I joined FFA my freshman year of high school, just like all members of my family had. I was a 3rd generation FFA member following in my great grandfather, dad’s, and my older sister’s footsteps. I never expected this organization to have the impact on me that it did and now as I earn my American FFA Degree and hang up my FFA jacket for the last time I look back on this organization and think about how blessed I am.

This organization allowed me to discover my passion and voice for advocating for the beef industry. Through FFA, I was able to find my dream school, “GO BUCKS,” make friends from all over, including my best friend, who later turned into my roommate, and made amazing memories along the way.

My great grandfather was the first person from the Loudonville FFA chapter to earn his Ohio State FFA Degree, and as his grand-daughter, I am honored to be the first in my family to earn their American FFA Degree. Earning this degree showcases everything this organization was able to teach me and everything I can accomplish. I am honored to earn this degree, and there isn’t a bone in my body that isn’t excited to get my hands on that golden key.

We join FFA because we care about agriculture in some way, shape, or form, but we stay because of the deep passion we discover inside ourselves along the way. All I have to say is thank you, FFA, for the memories, friends, and lessons learned and one last thing…GO BUCKS!

 

 

 

 

Mabry awarded American FFA Degree

Written by:
Jasmine Mabry 
sophomore

agricultural education

My involvement in the FFA can be described as nothing less than incredible. The experiences I’ve had, skills I have gained, and memories I’ve made are irreplaceable.

FFA is what lead me to pursue a degree in agriscience education. Being able to lead students into becoming the best, most successful versions of themselves is my aspiration. Although my time in the blue corduroy is over, I know there will be so many new and incredible experiences to come as an agricultural educator.

When I look back on my time in the FFA, the most memorable things are receiving my State FFA Degree, receiving a gold-rated Secretary book twice, camping for my senior officer retreat, the many conventions, competing in public speaking, all of the time spent on trips (regardless of location), and receiving my American FFA Degree.

I got my inspiration to achieve the honor of receiving my American Degree from my FFA Advisor. Miss Sarhra Flinn was very persistent in helping me to achieve my dreams. She works diligently to ensure the success of her students, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without her pushing me and showing me that I can achieve many things if I put the work in.

Receiving my American Degree is a dream I’ve had since my freshman year of high school. Walking across the stage at the National FFA Convention and Expo meant so much to me because it was the last “hoorah” to close out the past five years of hard work, determination, memories, and experiences.

 


Caudill awarded American FFA Degree

Written by:
Mallary Caudill 
sophomore
agricultural communication

Receiving my American FFA Degree will mark the end of my time as a member of FFA. My FFA experience can be summed up in the word fundamental.

Since my freshman year of high school, I was able to find and build upon a foundation that has carried me into college and will continue to help me as I begin my professional career.

I am a 3rd generation FFA member and will be the first in my family to receive the American FFA Degree. This award is a testament to the foundation and investment my parents and grandparents have poured into me in helping me reach achievements, such as this, and I am so excited to share this moment with them. It is an honor to represent my family, and my chapter, and my state with over 450 recipients from Ohio!

Elliott awarded American FFA Degree

Written by:
Alexis Elliott
sophomore
agricultural communication

FFA is an organization that allowed me to explore the world around me through engaging and thought-provoking service learning projects. FFA furthered my passion for agriculture while helping me identify a need for effective communication within the agricultural sector.

FFA and the Career Development Events within FFA helped me choose my future career path as an agricultural communicator.

Crossing the stage at Lucas Oil Stadium to receive my American FFA Degree is the final act I will do while wearing my blue jacket. The degree represents the years I spent working hard raising my animals and working on my family’s farm. I am proud to be able to honor my family, who helped me with my projects by receiving this degree.

As I transition from wearing my blue corduroy jacket to becoming a member of the FFA Alumni Association, I look forward to making future FFA members’ time in FFA one they will remember for the rest of their life.


Evans Awarded American Degree

Haley Evans
junior
agriscience education

 

Haley Evans, a junior studying agriscience education was awarded her American FFA Degree at the 91st National FFA Convention. Here is what she had to say:

 

“Receiving my American Degree means closing a 6 year chapter of my life. Throughout these 6 years I had many SAE projects including market goats, dairy beef feeder calfs, and multiple job placements. I also gained leadership experiences, life long friendships, participated in many CDE’s, and made many memories that I am thankful for. What I am most thankful for throughout my time in FFA is that it lead me to choose my career path as a future Agricultural Educator.”

Evans with her American Degree.

Buchenroth Awarded American Degree

Kolt Buchenroth
sophomore
agricultural communication

Thanks to the support of my family, friends, Kenton City Schools, Ohio Hi-Point Career Center, my advisor Mrs. Shalie Logan, and great members of the Hardin County community, I am extremely thankful to have received my American FFA Degree at the 91st National FFA Convention & Expo. I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in Agricultural Education courses in high school, and become a member of the FFA. The organization has not only opened a number of doors for me, but has also provided me with skills and knowledge that can’t be learned anywhere else.

Kolt (pictured with American Degree) and his family.

Kaitlyn Evans awarded American Degree

Kaitlyn Evans
junior
agriscience education

Evans received her American Degree at the 91st National FFA Convention.

My FFA Experience was with the Shelby FFA. Throughout FFA, I was involved as the chapter Treasurer for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school year, and I attended Ohio Leadership Camp for three years. I participated in multiple Career Development Events including parliamentary procedure, nature interpretation, soil judging, and more.  I had multiple Supervised Agricultural Experience projects in the areas of animal systems, communications, and food processing systems.

Receiving my American Degree means that everything I have done in FFA for the last six years has been recognized. My American Degree means that I have worked hard over the last six years and am in the top 1% of all FFA members. It especially means a lot to me as an Agriscience Education major that wants to teach high school agriculture one day. Receiving my degree ended my FFA membership with the highest honor and started a new chapter in my life as an alumni. I am excited to begin this new journey and be a role model for future FFA members to achieve their American Degree.

Eggleton awarded American Degree

Makayla Eggleton
sophomore
agriscience education

Eggleton with her advisor.

Our days are numbered- to conquer our fears, make an impact, and influence others in our blue corduroy jackets . 4 years in the classroom; 1,460 days that we as FFA members get to zip up our corduroy jackets, to break the boundaries of our comfort zones, and to better ourselves as leaders. As I reflect on my time in the Miami Trace FFA Chapter, I recognize all the opportunities I was given and I realized all the opportunities I did not take advantage of. I recognize my participation in several CDEs- 2 at a national level, the lives impacted through community service and interaction, and my leadership positions of community development officer and president. I realize the classes, CDEs, and opportunities I missed out on to diversify myself because of fear of failure.

Zipping up the jacket one last time embodied the achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists. The unity and tradition instilled within the organization and agriculture are not finalized. I now get to serve those — community members, progressive agriculturists, supporters, family members, friends, and agricultural educators— who made my involvement in FFA worthwhile. Additionally, I get to serve the next generations of agriculturists as they embark on their journey within the FFA in their jackets. As a preservice agricultural educator, I already find the joys and reward in aiding members in finding their passions. It takes just one — individual, community service activity, conference, convention, career development event, action, voice, etc. — to make an impact. Be the one.

Eggleton with other recipients.

Schaffter awarded American Degree

Paige Schaffter
sophomore
agriscience education

Schaffter with her American Degree

Simply put, my FFA experience has been incredible. The people I’ve met, the skills I have gained, and the fun that I’ve had are unlike any that another organization can provide students with. I had so much fun and wonderful experiences in FFA that I am a little sad to finally hang up my jacket, but I am excited to see what opportunities the FFA Alumni Association can provide me with, and what I can do for current members as an alum. Earning my American Degree really proves to me that I can accomplish anything that I set my mind to, and it is a huge honor to be proud of considering only 1% of FFA members receive the degree. It also makes me proud to be an Ohioan because we had the second most recipients compared to all other states. Additionally, the recipients of American Degrees at the 91st National Convention set a record for the most degrees awarded, so that is another thing to be proud of!

Schaffter with her family

Schaffter with her advisor

 

Schaffter with other American Degree Recipients