By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN “It’s been a personal goal of mine since I first joined FFA eight years ago,” said Sabrina Kieser about the possibility of becoming a national FFA officer.
Kieser, the daughter of Jason and Kim Kieser of Howard Lake and a 2011 graduate of Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School, has been elected to represent the Minnesota FFA Association as the national FFA officer candidate at the national convention in November.
Currently, Kieser will be a junior at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where she is majoring in agriculture education.
During the 2012-13 school year, she also served as the Minnesota state FFA secretary, which made her eligible to apply for national officer candidacy.
After going through a round of six interviews, Kieser was selected as the most qualified candidate of the four past Minnesota state FFA officers who applied for candidacy this year, she said.
“The idea of possibly being elected to serve as a national FFA officer this fall still almost seems unreal,” Kieser said, noting national officers travel across the country and world representing the organization on a national level.
National officers also interact with thousands of FFA members across the country at leadership conferences, conventions, and other large-scale events “sparking their interest and motivating them to reach their full potential,” Kieser said.
Another responsibility is to act as an ambassador for agriculture and agriculture education by interacting with the media, legislators, and others.
“It is the [national FFA officer’s] job to tell the story of the 557,318 FFA members that wear the blue corduroy jackets,” Kieser commented.
“Now that I have been selected, the next few months will be filled with practice interviews, widening my knowledge base, working with mentors, and perfecting my speaking and facilitation skills so I am prepared to do my best at interviews and ready to serve as a national officer if elected,” Kieser said.
Kieser’s road to success and future goals
Kieser admits she has benefitted from being a member of a FFA chapter that is incredibly successful and involved, and backed by a supportive community.
“Each time the community invested in our school district and the FFA chapter, they were actually investing in my future and the future of all students involved in agricultural education and FFA,” Kieser said.
She noted that she has been taught the importance of caring about all people and using her time and talents to better lives by participating in HLWW FFA events, such as food drives, raising money for Camp Courage through corn drives, informing consumers at Wright County’s Breakfast on the Farm, and teaching young students farm safety and agriculture.
During high school, Kieser was successful in the HLWW FFA, holding officer positions and making it to the national convention for career development events.
While a state officer, Kieser was responsible for advocating for the agricultural industry, agricultural education, and the national FFA organization; helping to organize leadership conferences and conventions across the state; and keeping communication lines open to make sure chapter needs are being met and students are having an exceptional experience through FFA and agricultural education.
Each leadership team sets a number of goals, and the goal of the 2012-13 leadership team was to advocate on all levels.
This was done by creating Youtube videos on a regular basis that reached thousands of viewers, working with different forms of media, meeting with legislators, and helping members develop their advocacy skills, Kieser said.
“Our team actually won a national advocacy challenge and were rewarded with a trip to Washington, DC., where our skills were put to the test,” Kieser added.
Increasing membership is always a goal, and by the end of the 2012-13 school year, FFA membership in Minnesota had grown to more than 10,000, which had not been accomplished in a couple of decades, Kieser noted.
“Learning time management was essential to being successful in all of these roles, and it is definitely a skill that I will cherish throughout my life,” Kieser said.
“Even though life as a state officer can get a little hectic at times, the impact it has had on the members I worked with and on my personal growth made it an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world,” she added.
One of the highlights of Kieser’s time as a state officer was traveling to Argentina in January, where she was able to learn about agriculture on an international level. The experience opened her mind to opportunities for service outside of the US, she noted.
“It helped me realize how much growth is going to happen within the agriculture industry in the coming years as we continue to provide the food, fuels, and fibers for the 7 billion-plus people on this planet,” she said.
Kieser noted the once-in-a-lifetime experience traveling to Argentina would not have been possible without the support of her local community, including HLWW FFA, Waverly Lions Club, Howard Lake Lions Club, Winsted Lions Club, Kubasch Excavating, Winsted Gentle Dental Care, and Midwest Machinery Company.
“Being founded on agriculture while focused on developing servant leadership, FFA helped me to discover my passions and how I can use my talents to benefit those around me,” Kieser said.
FFA offers individualized experience, yet an inclusive environment, where all members can create their own path to success, Kieser added.
“It is all of this, in addition to the mentors that have helped guide me, that has brought me to where I am today, and hopefully will bring me to my next goal being a national FFA officer,” Kieser said.
After college, Kieser plans to serve in the agriculture division of the Peace Corps for two years, which will allow her to live in an underdeveloped country to help establish sustainable methods of providing healthy food.
She then plans to come back to Minnesota to become an agricultural educator.
“I look forward to working with students to build a strong educational foundation, as well as providing them opportunities for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through FFA,” Kieser said.