May 12, 2023 at 1:08 p.m.
Making chapter members heard
Holly Schmitt’s heart beat fast as the Chicago Bulls’ theme song pulsed through the air at the 95th Iowa FFA Leadership Conference in mid-April in Ames. In what Schmitt described as one of the coolest moments of her life, she realized she was once again named a state FFA officer, this time as president.
Being elected was a surreal moment for Schmitt, who said it was only after she began getting emails with work to be done that the role began to settle in.
Schmitt grew up as a dairy farmer in northeast Iowa. Her parents, Greg and Sara, milk Holstein cows on their farm near St. Lucas alongside Schmitt’s uncle, cousins and extended family.
As FFA president, Schmitt will be lead the state officer team, help plan the annual leadership conference, attend leadership training and make chapter visits.
Schmitt is currently finishing her freshman year at Iowa State University where she double majors in agriculture education and event management. Because she has another busy year of FFA work ahead, Schmitt will be pushing her graduation date back. With her desire to build connections, she is OK with slowing down.
“If you can just make one student feel heard and feel wanted, that makes all the sacrifices you put in over the year worth it,” she said.
Schmitt, who was a member of the South Winneshiek FFA Chapter, plans to focus on keeping the Iowa FFA Association driven by its chapters.
“Something I really want to focus on this year is just making sure that we stay member focused,” Schmitt said. “Really the heart of FFA is at the chapter level. That’s where most memories are made. That’s where members learn skills, where they gain that passion for agriculture and learn about whatever aspects they want to.”
Schmitt said part of what makes FFA members special is their ability to communicate and have conversations. Little things such as knowing names of students at chapter events is something she wants to do to make sure students feel recognized for their accomplishments.
With a focus on members, two of Schmitt’s goals for this year include conducting chapter visits and connecting chapters together to facilitate idea sharing.
Schmitt recognizes that growing up on a dairy farm gives her a unique background as a state officer. Last year as state secretary, she said many of her officer teammates knew very little about the dairy community.
“I’m really proud to come from a dairy farm because there’s not a lot of people who can say that anymore,” Schmitt said.
On her family’s dairy farm, one of Schmitt’s favorite memories comes from bedding calves. She and her siblings worked together, and soon, the family would gather in their calf barn with portions of straw bales getting the calves comfortable.
Schmitt’s parents have been supportive of her state officer journey. Schmitt is the first generation in her family to be part of FFA.
Schmitt said FFA helps keep farm kids involved in the agricultural community.
“FFA is doing a good job of informing members and giving them the tools to inform others and keep producing good products for our country,” she said.
Schmitt said she has grown through her time with FFA in confidence, public speaking and time management. This year as president, she is looking to grow in her team leadership and delegation skills. She also is excited to build relationships within her officer team.
“That connection you have with your teammates is irreplaceable,” Schmitt said. “I’m excited … to get eight new best friends.”
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