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FFA President gives motivational speech to students

December 9, 2018

Early in the school year, the national FFA president, Breanna Holbert, made an unprecedented visit to the vocational agriculture program. Holbert, 21, from Lodi, California, came to the school on September 3 and 4 to visit the agricultural program.

Holbert alongside various students toured many farms and agribusinesses in Middlesex County including Deerfield Farm, Forest City Farm, and Herd restaurant in Middletown- a restaurant that sources its ingredients from local farms. Holbert and students also visited Manes and Motion (a therapeutic riding center), Amberworks Florist, and Tractor Supply Co. They visited Lyman Orchards to pick apples — an activity Holbert had never participated in. Some of these agribusinesses were founded by alumni of the school’s agriculture program.

Amanda Thomson, Vo-Ag advisor and coordinator of this event, described the process in inviting Holbert. Thomson filled out the application to request a national officer visit in March of 2018. After the approval, there was many months of coordination with school administration, the national FFA, and students. Thomson said, “It was tough to pull off logistically, but it turned out to be awesome.”

Holbert met and greeted students, spoke in an assembly, held workshops on personal leadership development, and had lunch with students. During the assembly, she talked about how her background influenced the person she is today, including all the obstacles in her life and how she defeated them. She talked about how she achieved her dreams through learning to push herself.

Holbert told the audience about how she was a child of a homeless immigrant and raised by a single mom. Thomson said, “The fact that she overcame these obstacles to become the dynamic, successful leader that she is today is amazing.”

Keegan Eveland, senior and Co-President of the FFA district, saw the direct impact of Holbert’s visit on the students. She said, “What was happening clicked in their brain, I saw freshman going up to her, hugging her, and thanking her… It was an awesome opportunity for them to learn more about it [the agriculture program] and helped start their initiative to keep getting involved.”

Vo-Ag students were not the only audience present at the assembly. Student leaders, including sports team captains and club officers, attended. Rose Romano, a senior, was invited to this meeting through DECA. She said, “I was really ecstatic because of the energy given off from ag students…it was really inspirational to see someone so dedicated to something in high school and carry on with it.” These student leaders went on to have a luncheon with the FFA president.

Vo-Ag students worried that students from other clubs were not going to receive Holbert’s message well due to divisions between their program and the rest of the school that grew worse after last year’s incident when a Vo-Ag student brought a confederate flag to the school. Thomson said, “Because the ag center is attached to the school, we don’t always do a good job of letting everybody know what we’re about and what we do…I wanted our student leaders to learn how to network and collaborate with another leader, just starting that conversation bridges the gaps that exist between us.”

Thomson believed Holbert was a good candidate to visit the school because of the things she stood for. She said, “Some of the platforms that she has been representing in her presidency is really aligned with the program, initiatives and values that we have here at MHS, such as promoting diversity.” These morals and beliefs play a very important role in uniting students in such a diverse body.

Tara Hightower mentioned the fighting power that was brought out in the Vo-Ag program after the president’s visit. This force helped them push through the “slump” they entered after the controversial event of last year.

Holbert’s character helped achieve this force. Hightower said, “She [Holbert] is really big into connections with people, she doesn’t just want to meet someone and never talk to them again.”

Thomson described the first time she met Holbert, at the national FFA Convention and the impression she had made, “She made such a unique and lasting impression on the two of us that I felt she was someone I really wanted my students to meet and know.”

Holbert’s disposition and unifying spirit not only allowed students to come together, but allowed the school to be closer to the national FFA, especially when they are in need of assistance. Thomson said, “She went out of her way to make meaningful connections with every one of our students, the impact that she had on our school and community will last a lifetime to come.”

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