As the 95th Illinois FFA State Convention draws near, the Illinois FFA state officer team has been busy putting the finishing touches on the annual extravaganza.
President Rachel Hood of Industry, Vice President Derek Sample of Sesser, Reporter Levi Maierhofer of Seneca, Secretary Haley Bode of Waterloo and Treasurer Kate Colgan of Laura are nearing the end of their term as state officers and they are excited to showcase all of Illinois FFA’s top accomplishments during their final event in their blue corduroy FFA jackets.
This year’s convention, to be held June 13-15 at the Bank of Springfield Center in the Prairie State’s capital city, is expected to break record attendance, already surpassing preregistration numbers from previous years.
FFA members who attend this year’s celebration will have several opportunities to learn and grow over the three-day span.
Several Career Development Events and Leadership Development Events, informally known as FFA contests, will be held around the convention, including ag communications, ag issues, extemporaneous speaking, quiz bowl, job interview, prepared speaking, FFA creed speaking and the first-ever Illinois FFA Spanish creed speaking contest.
Attendees will have the chance to participate in many workshops, put on by past state officers, visiting officers, college ambassadors and other leaders in Illinois agricultural education.
There is also a college and career fair with a record number of exhibitors for the students to walk around and learn about several future opportunities within agriculture.
When the music fills the BOS Center and the spotlights brighten the stage, it will be time for the convention sessions to kick off.
At the beginning of each session, the section presidents and major state officers enter the convention hall in grand fashion, running from the back of the hall through a sea of FFA members.
Once the president taps the gavel, the session officially commences, followed by a series of awards, speeches, videos and skits put on by the state officers and other FFA supporters.
Session 1 — A Little “Friendly” Competition: On Tuesday, June 13, the convention hall will light up for the first time during the First General Session at 1 p.m.
Haley Bode and Derek Sample will be entertaining FFA members with some onstage competition as the chairs of the session, during which they will also help recognize the Sam Taylor Memorial Scholarship winners, new and rechartered FFA chapters, Harvest for All winning chapters, top chapter and section presidents, CDE and LDE winners, FFA board members, section presidents’ parents and advisors, new and retiring teachers and National Chapter Award winners in the areas of Growing Leaders and Building Communities.
Kate Colgan will also be presenting her retiring address, titled “Excuses We Make.”
Session 2 — Duet No. 2 in FFA Major: That evening, the Second General Session will begin at 6:30 p.m., chaired by Rachel Hood and Levi Maierhofer.
This musically-inspired session will highlight the Growmark Essay Contest winners, outstanding chapter and section reporters, supervised occupational experience award winners, major state officers’ FFA advisers and high school administrators, a keynote speech from the National FFA eastern region vice president and Macomb FFA alumnus Gracie Murphy, American FFA Degree and American FFA Star candidates, National Chapter Award winners in the area of Strengthening Agriculture and National Chapter Award Bronze, Silver and Gold award recipients.
Finally, State Secretary Haley Bode will be providing her retiring address, “Opportunity By Chance, Attitude By Choice.”
Session 3 — Blue Ribbons to Blue Jackets: Rachel Hood and Derek Sample will relive their favorite memories from their summers at their local county fairs during the Third General Session, set to begin at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, June 14.
This session will feature the state proficiency winners — the top individuals in each of the 48 Supervised Agricultural Experience categories — and the State Agriscience winners.
Members and guests will also hear the retiring address of State Reporter Levi Maierhofer, entitled “This is Hof, Signing Off.”
Session 4 — Going for Gold: The Fourth General Session, beginning at 2 p.m. that Wednesday, will bring Kate Colgan and Levi Maierhofer to the stage once again, this time to feature the Illinois FFA Alumni, Foundation, sponsors, major state officers’ parents, Honorary State Degree recipients, State FFA Stars and Discovery Stars in Agriscience, Ag Business, Ag Placement and Star Farmer, and the 559 recipients of the golden pin of the State FFA Degree.
During this session, State FFA Vice President Derek Sample will give his retiring address, titled “(Rough) Country Again.”
Election Session: The most nerve-wracking session will commence at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 15, when the 10 finalists for 2023-2024 Illinois FFA Major State Office will present their speeches to the crowd of voting delegates.
After listening to the candidates’ speeches, the delegates will vote for their top pick for the State FFA president, followed by more speeches and votes for vice president, reporter, secretary and treasurer, respectively.
The five individuals elected to major state office will take an educational gap year from college to travel around the Land of Lincoln, presenting workshops and speeches to FFA members and advocating for agriculture and agricultural education.
Session 5 — AFV / FFA Edition: The convention will conclude with the Fifth General Session on Thursday afternoon at 1 p.m., to be chaired by Haley Bode and Kate Colgan.
The session will spotlight more CDE and LDE winners, National Chapter Award finalists, the State Premier Chapter Award winners and the installation of the 2023-2024 section presidents and major state officers, along with the retiring address of State FFA President Rachel Hood, “Fillin’ My Cup.”
If you’re not able to attend this year’s convention in person, be sure to check out the state convention page on the ilaged.org website to catch each of the sessions live-streamed along with more information about this year’s award recipients and the convention agenda.
When the final gavel hits and the five new officers have been installed, the 2022-2023 team will return to school to continue their academics.
Both Rachel Hood and Kate Colgan will be attending Kansas State University. Hood will major in agricultural education; Colgan in beef nutrition.
Derek Sample will return to Rend Lake College for one year before continuing to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where he will join Haley Bode as an agricultural education major.
Levi Maierhofer will be pursuing a sports broadcasting major at Western Illinois University in the fall.
Last June, the Illinois FFA officers picked “Electrify” as the state theme for their year, with hopes of sparking fulfillment, wisdom, energy, passion and strength in the now-over 41,000 Illinois FFA members and the team feels they have done just that.
We’ve had an incredible year, from the lives we impacted during our six weeks of chapter visits back in the fall to the laughs we shared in our cubicles in our office in Springfield.
We’ve seen the best of the FFA through our experiences and we are all certain that agriculture has a bright future with dedicated FFA members at the helm.
What really made the year special, amid all the hands shaken and miles traveled, was the team that I got to share it with.
We’re a very diverse group — geographically, demographically, agriculturally — and those different perspectives are what made us successful.
I’m so thankful to them and to all of the Illinois FFA Center staff for the opportunities we’ve had as the 2022-2023 Illinois FFA major state officers.
Levi Maierhofer from the Seneca FFA Chapter is the 2022-2023 Illinois Association FFA state reporter.