By: Jenna Rose Lee
Most of us are now in the full swing of school with midterms taking place and finals approaching. Our stress is through the roof. As I joke with Haley Warner that tractor driving class really can’t cause that much stress, she reminds me that she is stressed because she is studying for “the biggest final of her entire life.” It’s true; Haley Warner will be California’s national officer candidate at the National FFA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky October 23rd-31st.
Her preparation for running for national office started at the beginning of June. She says there has not been a day since that she hasn’t thought about running for national office. Preparation includes learning and studying a wide variety of information about the agriculture industry and agriculture education, while visiting student conferences up and down the state.
The first of the nine-step process is the lengthy application, listing every FFA event she has taken part in and explaining why it is she wants to be a National FFA officer. Once in Louisville, Haley must take two tests, one on general FFA knowledge, and the second, a timed test, where she must write about one of 10 topics National FFA has provided her. Then, the meat of the process: interviews.
Each interview round is different. Throughout the week, Haley will take part in a personal round, a round-robin, a stakeholder round where she’ll speak with sponsors and supporters of the organization, a “stand and deliver” round, a facilitation round, and finally the culminating second personal round. This is the last chance for them to truly get to know who she is, with and without the FFA jacket. Their decision will be made and the national officers will be announced during the final conference session in front of 55,000 members and guests (not to mention all who tune in for the live feed).
When I had the chance to sit down with Haley, I initially asked her how it felt to be in the unique position that she is in. She responded, “When I think about my journey through FFA and my experiences within this organization, I can’t help but think about what an honor it is to be at this level and know that I have support of not only the entire California FFA Association, but my mentors, my friends, my family to be in the role of a national officer. I am ecstatic, pumped, and I can’t wait to see what will happen in October.”
As determined and smart as Haley is, we all know that it takes a village. When Haley asked who have been her biggest supporters in this process, she thinks back to day one when she began thinking about running for national office.
“I think about my teammates. My five state officer teammates who have been there since the beginning of this process and are also going to be there at the end of this process which I think is really, really cool,” she said. “They [teammates] said, ‘Haley we think you are going to be the next California national FFA officer candidate, here you go, we don’t even have to worry about it.’ Knowing that they believed in me before I even believed in myself really has been such a motivation and a reminder of how blessed to be in this position and know that I am supported no matter what happens. My friends and family as well have been so supportive along with my teammates, mentors, and advisors. I definitely would not be the person I am today, nor in the position to be the California candidate for national officer without all of their support.”
While Haley’s passion for FFA runs deep in her veins, she hasn’t always known she would get to this place in her FFA career and life. She remembers her eager freshman self, and the first time her agriculture teacher at Bret Harte high school explained what National FFA Office was.
“It just goes to show that it doesn’t matter where you come from, it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter how big your program is, this organization provides opportunities for people as long as you are willing to work hard and believe in yourself and believe in the power of agriculture education and the agriculture industry, that you can get as far as you want. That is truly one of my favorite things about this organization. It provides opportunities for everyone to be successful,” Haley said.
When asked what makes her so passionate about FFA, she said her drive comes from the support and diversity of the organization.
“What inspires me the most about this organization is that no matter whether you want to show livestock, whether you love science, or whether you even like music, there is something for everybody,” she said. “There is such a close, tight-knit family atmosphere that gives everyone purpose and makes everyone feel like they matter. Sometimes that’s what people need. We get lost in this world of high school and this transition from high school to college and we forget that we have so much natural potential and so much natural ability, and this organization helps us to find that through ag education and through their knowledge in the classroom.”
There are a lot of people in my life that I look up to aspire to be more like, but I have never had a peer, let alone my best friend/roommate be that someone. Even as we were both sitting on my bed when doing this interview, I couldn’t help but think of how lucky the national FFA would be to have her on their team. The passion in her eyes and the way she speaks about FFA with such enthusiasm is moving to say the least.
“I will go into it and give one hundred percent of my effort and do everything that I can to become a national officer. In case it doesn’t happen, I don’t want it to be because I didn’t work hard enough. So from day one, I have realized that I have to put in the hours if I want the position as badly as I do.”
Haley Warner, you have the unending support and love of everyone here at Cal Poly. Go to Louisville and make us proud like we know you can!