From Alaska to Puerto Rico and Maine to Hawaii, diversity is an important part of the National FFA Organization. Although as FFA members we are diverse, we also share common ground in our core values of agriculture, agricultural education and a promise of a brighter future. Our differences and commonalities were celebrated at the 85th National FFA Convention & Expo during the “Somos FFA, We Are FFA” celebration.
On Thursday, Oct. 25, during a panel and roundtable discussion, FFA members and advisors expressed their concerns and addressed issues facing agricultural education for the more than 56,000 Hispanic/Latino FFA members. The goal of the discussion was to create a movement for FFA to educate everyone about Hispanic/Latino communities and agricultural education.
Members discussed and compiled a list of pressing issues facing Hispanic/Latino youth enrolled in agricultural education programs and FFA chapters. Translation of resources was one of the hot topics. Often, Spanish-speaking chapters translate official materials differently, which can cause problems when it comes to career development events, leadership contests or other activities.
The language barrier can be detrimental to members. During the discussion, there were some English-speaking members, some only speaking Spanish and a few bilingual members. It was sometimes difficult for the English-speaking members to communicate with the Spanish-speaking members without a translator.
“When they were speaking in Spanish, I felt left out. Now I know how they feel when everything is done in English. This must be frustrating for them because all of our papers are in English along with the convention guide and most FFA manuals,” said Madison Howard from the Alamosa FFA Chapter in Colorado.
Some of the other issues discussed included discrimination, bullying, parent concerns and a lack of available agricultural education programs and teachers.
An advisor from Nebraska explained why some Hispanic/Latino parents are skeptical of students joining FFA. “Some of the parents have had to work in the fields, and they want better for their children.”
Dr. Dexter Wakefield, the director of diversity and inclusion for the National FFA Organization, was extremely pleased with the turnout for the discussion.
“Hispanics and Latinos represent the nation’s largest-growing minority population and it’s important we recognize these accomplishments and value our differences as we strive to promote wholeness in our organization,” he said. “The term “Somos” says it all: We are FFA.”
The first national FFA president from Puerto Rico, Javier Moreno spoke about the possibilities for Hisptanic/Latino members. “I can’t tell you enough how important it is not to give up. When you stumble, get up. You are good enough.” His words of encouragement were meant to keep Hispanic/Latino members passionate about agriculture and to introduce more Hispanic/Latino members to FFA.
The members who attended this event had the opportunity to learn about how to be a leader in their communities and teach others about the Hispanic/Latino culture.
“Being Latino means being proud of who you are and where you come from,” said Diana Galvan, an FFA member from Austin, Texas.
“Somos FFA! We are FFA!”
The “Somos FFA, We Are FFA” celebration is sponsored by title sponsor STIHL and supporting sponsor Farm Credit as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.
Emily Walker is a senior at Michigan State University majoring in environmental studies and agriscience communications. This year, she’s reporting on the convention and expo as part of the National FFA Convention & Expo Newsroom Crew.