December 08, 2022

Excited young leaders elected to direct Illinois FFA

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Excitement levels were high as delegates to the 94th Illinois FFA State Convention elected five members to the state officer team during the Thursday morning session of the three-day convention.

Students elected to the 2022-2023 FFA officer team include: President Rachel Hood, Rushville-Industry Chapter; Vice President Derek Sample, Sesser-Valier Chapter; Reporter Levi Maierhofer, Seneca Chapter; Secretary Haley Bode, Waterloo Chapter; and Treasurer Kate Colgan, Princeville Chapter.

Meet The Team

President

“This is unbelievable, I never thought I’d be in this position,” said Rachel Hood, minutes after she was selected as the state FFA president. “But it’s so exciting and I’m truly honored.”

Leading the Illinois FFA organization was something that Hood decided she would like to do after attending the Ground Zero Conference earlier this year.

“I watched a group of kids become leaders,” she said. “Knowing I had an impact on them and they had an impact on me, I realized I wanted to do this for one more year.”

During her year as the FFA president, Hood plans to ensure agriculture stays prominent in the organization.

“I value leadership and being inclusive to everyone but our roots are in agriculture and I want to continue keeping them in agriculture,” she said.

Hood is the daughter of Steve and Linda Hood and the family farm includes about 1,000 acres of corn and soybean production.

“My mom is a hospice nurse so she has taught me how to love people,” she said. “My sister, Sidney, just graduated from Blackhawk East and she is a past FFA member.”

Advised by Sydney Riden, Hood’s FFA project is agricultural education.

“I’ve taught fifth-grade, eighth-grade and elementary students about all things agriculture and specifically where their food comes from,” she said.

After her year as FFA president, Hood plans to attend Kansas State University to study agricultural education to become a high school ag teacher.

“That’s one of those things I said I would never do, but that changed through my SAE,” she said. “I’m passionate about agriculture and I’m excited to serve other people.”

Vice President

“I’m still dreaming, but it’s a dream come true,” said Derek Sample, about his new FFA vice president position.

As a high school student, Sample thought that state officers were cool.

“I wanted to be like them some day,” he said. “And when I got serious about it, I realized it was reachable so I set that goal and followed through.”

The greenhand quiz bowl is Sample’s favorite FFA activity.

“That was my first and one of my all-time favorite contests,” said the FFA member who is advised by Martin Ward. “It really got me involved, as well as the agronomy and poultry contests.”

As a state officer, Sample said, he plans to help FFA members realize they will get out of FFA what they put into it.

“Coming from a small school, I didn’t always have the same opportunities that others had from bigger schools,” he said. “But I put in 100% and I want to teach kids about that motto.”

The FFA vice president lives on the farm that has been in his family since the 1800s.

“I have always helped my grandpa on the farm and in 2016, my dad and I started a Hereford herd of cattle that I have for my SAE,” said the son of Jason and Heather Sample.

Sample completed one year of college at Rend Lake College, where he studied ag business and ag production.

“I plan to transfer to Southern Illinois University for ag education,” he said. “I want to follow in my grandpa’s footsteps who was the ag teacher at Sesser-Valier for most of his career.”

Reporter

Levi Maierhofer already has experience as a FFA reporter, serving two years as a section reporter and one year as the reporter for the Seneca FFA Chapter.

“I’m so excited to be able to work with the members and also the media to share our story,” he said.

Maierhofer attended FFA Leadership Camp during the summer following his freshman year.

“I saw the section presidents were so uplifting for everyone and I wanted to do that,” he said. “And thinking back I don’t give enough credit to the extemporaneous public speaking CDE that taught me to think on my feet.”

For his FFA projects, the reporter grows corn and soybeans and for a brief time he sold pine cones that people used for decorating purposes.

“The last couple of years I have worked at the Mount Hope Cemetery where I did lawn care,” said the FFA member who is advised by Jeff Maierhofer and Kent Weber.

At one time, Maierhofer said, he looked up to state FFA officers as if they were on a pedestal.

“I want people to realize that the pedestal doesn’t exist,” he said. “It’s a step forward and I want to teach members about all the opportunities we have to connect with everyone in and outside of this organization.”

Maierhofer has completed one year of college at Joliet Junior College and is planning to attend Western Illinois University to major in sports broadcasting.

“I’m excited for a great year to meet a lot of great people,” said the son of Jeff and Jenna Maierhofer.

Secretary

“I remember sitting up in the mezzanine three years ago and my teacher asked if I wanted to be down there and I said absolutely not — no way, no how,” said Haley Bode. “But here I am, getting to serve the Illinois FFA that has given so much to me.”

The new state secretary admits she was really shy when she first became an FFA member.

“Then I started doing events like parliamentary procedure and public speaking and our student teacher, Harley Carlson, and Marissa Battin, who was my adviser for four years, showed me I had the capabilities if I just put my mind to it,” Bode said.

“They showed me how I could help people,” she said. “And how I can use my blue jacket for service, rather than just the cool, stylish look.”

Bode’s favorite FFA activity is parliamentary procedure.

“It’s the first one that sparked me, not only with being confident but being in FFA,” she said. “I was the chairperson for all four years and we grew as a team together.”

The daughter of Timothy and Laura Bode has several FFA projects including ag sales, poultry production, nursery operations, vegetable production placement and ag education.

“For ag education, I worked at the U of I Extension office to teach kids about ag during the summer,” she said. “It’s one of my favorite things to do.”

Bode plans to help FFA members find their place in the agricultural industry.

“I want to make sure everyone knows they have a place within agriculture, whether it is on their family farm or in their high school science lab, we can all be involved in agriculture,” she said.

After completing her year as state officer, Bode plans to attend Southern Illinois University to complete a double major in agricultural education and crop and soil production management with a career goal of becoming an ag teacher.

Treasurer

“This is a wild feeling,” said Kate Colgan, treasurer. “As a freshman I thought it would be pretty cool to be a state officer one day but I didn’t know if it would be possible for me.”

And then her FFA journey evolved from there.

“When I became a section president I saw the opportunity,” said Colgan, who is advised by Jacob Meisner. “It wasn’t until the Ground Zero Conference at WIU that I connected with some of the students and that made my mind up for me for what I was going to do.”

Colgan’s family operates a cattle farm near Laura.

“My family has been involved with agriculture for six generations,” said the daughter of Mark and Maria Colgan. “My SAEs involve beef cattle, I worked on my family’s cattle operation for my entrepreneurship book and I have a registered Red Angus herd and feeder cattle, as well.”

During her year as a state officer, Colgan plans to reach out to kids that come from different backgrounds.

“I want to connect their story with mine to make them feel everybody has the same vital part in the ag industry whether they realize it or not,” she said.

Next year, Colgan will attend Kansas State University to study agricultural education and beef nutrition.

“I’m not exactly sure of my career goal, but I’m hoping to put those two together,” she said.

For more information about the Illinois FFA State Convention, go to www.ilaged.org.

Martha Blum

Martha Blum

Field Editor