It seems that just yesterday I was beginning my summer internship here at Illinois Farm Bureau. In early May and I was given a list of all the fun events I would get to attend this summer. I was warned that one of my biggest tasks for the summer is to be a chaperone on the Heritage and Coop trip to D.C. I was a bit overwhelmed at first, I won’t lie. The thought of 77 FFA kids and just a few adults startled me. Or maybe it was more the fact that I was going to have a bus of 38 kids to myself….yes that was it! But shortly into the trip I realized that my job wasn’t going to be as stressful as I thought!
As soon as we hit the road and the State FFA officers onboard my bus began ice breakers and singalongs, I suddenly remembered what it was like to be one of those FFA kids. They were well-behaved, well-mannered, and independent. I really didn’t have any worries! Within the first hour of the bus ride those 38 individual kids had become groups of new friends. Soon enough, there was not a single stranger left on board. That’s when it came to me….my fondest memory of my FFA years: making countless new friends everywhere I went. You see, in the FFA organization, we all have a common interest…agriculture. In my mind, there is no industry that provides a stronger, more substantial peer network than agriculture. By the end of our five-day journey, those 38 kids had built a peer network bigger than they ever expected in such a short amount of time. Even the most shy people who walked onto that bus walked off with a handful of new friends and one amazing experience.
We gave the students a short evaluation form to complete on the last stretch of our drive home. After reviewing all 77 evaluations I found one thing immediately in common. The question was:
Please indicate what you liked best about the week:
- “Meeting new people”
- “Making new friends”
- “Fun group time”
- “Meeting people from diverse places”
…and the list goes on, you get the hint!
In just a short amount of time our two charter buses covered over 1,500 miles of American soil. To be brief, here is a list of the places that we visited:
- Gettysburg Museum & Battlegrounds
- Air & Space Museum
- Mt. Vernon, home of George Washington
- Ford’s Theater
- Holocaust Museum
- Night Tour of D.C.
- International Spy Museum
- Smithsonian Museum of American history
- Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
- Library of Congress
- Arlington Cemetary
As you can see, we were mighty busy! By the end of that Thursday afternoon our feet were sore, bodies exhausted, sweating from the heat trapped in those corduroy jackets, and our minds full of information.
Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY!
Does it make me miss wearing my blue jacket? ABSOLUTELY!
A big thanks to all of the FFA chapters in the state that completed a Heritage or Cooperative Program. Your hard work truly pays off!
Also, another big thanks to the newly elected State Officers and 4-H Reps for their amazing contributions to the trip. There were lots of comments on the evaluations about the energy and fun that you brought to the table. Good luck on your upcoming year!
More to come from my next adventure!