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Leading the way ... Living to serve

WORTHINGTON -- Twenty-two schools in southwest Minnesota make up Region VI FFA, and of the nine-member officer team, two individuals hail from the Worthington FFA Chapter.

Even more impressive is that both of these females plan to one day pursue careers in agricultural education.

Cheyenne Marco, a WHS junior and FFA chapter vice president, serves as the Region VI secretary, while WHS senior and FFA chapter president Kaylee Williamson is the region's FFA reporter. They were elected to the posts by their peers last April.

A regional FFA office adds extra responsibilities to already busy schedules for teens like Marco and Williamson, but both are enjoying the challenge.

The two were encouraged to apply for the regional officer positions, a process that includes listing their involvement and accomplishments in the high school FFA program, presenting a short biographical speech and completing an interview with Region VI FFA delegates.

"You can request which office (you want), but at the region level, it really doesn't matter," said Marco. "It's just a collaboration of team thoughts."

The Region VI FFA officers are responsible for making visits to each school in the region to promote the FFA and encourage membership. They also host Greenhand Day for all incoming freshmen FFA members in September, plan a Region VI Ski Day at Mount Kato, which is slated for later this month, and coordinate the regional FFA banquet in April.

Williamson said the State FFA officers have created a challenge for all FFA chapters this year -- to become the Land of 10,000 Service Hours.

"Our FFA motto, the last line is 'Living to Serve,'" said Williamson. "I'm pretty sure we're way over 10,000 service hours already."

In the Worthington FFA Chapter, events such as the annual Corn Drive, road ditch clean-up, FFA food stand at the county fair and coordinating the Pet Show at Farm Bureau's Breakfast on the Farm all racked up service hours.

Following in footsteps

It seems kind of ironic that Williamson and Marco would be promoting the FFA organization to underclassmen around the region, considering they both joined as freshmen because their dads were involved in it.

Marco's dad, Damon, was in FFA all four of his high school years, while Williamson's dad, Jeff, was a chapter and region FFA officer before pursuing a career in ag education.

"I was forced to be in FFA as a freshman because my dad was a state officer," said Williamson. "So I joined, and FFA has kind of become my life. I spend most of my time doing this.

"As a freshman, I could see what the FFA could offer me. Most don't realize it until their junior year," she said.

"In my freshman year, I really found out how great this organization is," added Marco. "It's really helped me in my career choice. I want to pay this organization back."

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Marco is considering the University of Minnesota, South Dakota State University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, all of which offer a strong ag education program, she said.

Williamson, on the other hand, has taken college classes at Minnesota West Community and Technical College since the summer before her sophomore year in high school. During her senior year, she is in the post-secondary education option (PSEO) program, taking all of her classes at the college.

Williamson plans to attend Minnesota West for another year after high school. After that, she's looking to transfer to either the University of Minnesota or South Dakota State University.

Building leadership skills

Both Williamson and Marco point to FFA as the driving force behind their ability to lead not only their chapter officer team, but their regional team as well.

"My public speaking and social skills have really developed," said Williamson. "As a regional officer, you can't be soft-spoken and shy."

"Running for a region office was good for me," added Marco. "(FFA has) given me so many opportunities."

Among them was Marco's opportunity to compete at the National FFA Convention in extemporaneous speaking in 2007. In addition, she competes on the chapter's poultry judging team, helps assemble food with her fellow FFA members for the Community Christmas Basket program and teaches young students at Prairie Elementary about poultry during the chapter's annual Ag Day event.

"(We) show them what farming is, what agriculture is," said Marco of Ag Day, which is her favorite FFA activity. "I'm lucky to live on a non-traditional farm where we raise turkeys, so it's really great to show kids turkeys."

Marco said she enjoys seeing the kids react to the turkeys and also sharing information with them about agriculture.

"I encourage kids to take ag classes," she said. "These are the classes that teach you life lessons and how to be more efficient in the workforce."

The FFA also encourages setting goals, and Marco has her eyes set on a few before she graduates from high school. She hopes to be elected Chapter FFA president this spring, is considering another run at a Region VI FFA office and wants to one day earn her State FFA Degree. A possible state FFA officer title is also under her consideration.

Williamson said her enjoyment in helping others has propelled her to get involved in many of the activities the FFA chapter is involved in.

"If there's an activity, I'm probably there," she said. "I don't do it to stand out, I just want to help others."

Williamson was the chapter's Creed speaker as a freshman, and has competed on the floriculture CDE team all four of her years in the FFA. This year, she plans to try her hand at extemporaneous speaking.

As for her FFA goals, Williamson wants more than to follow in her father's footsteps.

"I've always wanted to exceed my dad in the FFA. He was a state officer and a region officer," she said. "I am running for Region VI president this year, and that would fulfill the duties of the state office."

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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