Building future leaders


With a focus on agriculture and leadership, a national club with a long history looks to blaze new paths for future generations of students at Hickory Ridge High School

I think it’s important to preface this column with a little background about my upbringing.

I grew up in rural Orange County, just a few miles outside of Chapel Hill, but worlds away from the academia and politics that drive a university town.

Hillsborough, much like Harrisburg, is a small town. It was founded, like so many places, on farming. 

While I wasn’t a member myself — which nearly put me in the minority — I always thought very highly of my high school’s FFA club.

To me, FFA was the Future Farmers of America. I learned this week that the official named was dropped in 1988 and only the acronym was kept as the group sought more diversity than just “farmers.”

Lots of kids (about a third of the student body, if memory serves correctly) were active in my high school club, which promoted both the appreciation of and dedication to careers in agricultural-related fields.

The school hosted an annual event highlighting the club and the farming culture. It was an opportunity to learn, but also a great deal of fun.

It’s been a few years since I’ve thought about the FFA club, but those memories came rushing back when I sat down with members of Hickory Ridge’s club. 

I was immediately struck by the level of maturity, respect and work ethic these club members showed. It was a great tribute to the club at Hickory Ridge, but also to the greater purpose of FFA and its dedication to building strong leaders, successful and career-oriented individuals.

Times are certainly changing and farming is seemingly becoming less of a way of life for many. But agriculture will always play an important role in daily living, clubs like FFA will always have a place, and the well-rounded young men and women that those clubs produce will certainly be active, contributing members of society for many years to come. 

Early indications are that many such leaders will come from Hickory Ridge’s FFA club.

Jonathan E. Coleman

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