WILMINGTON — Future Farmers of America — better known as FFA — has changed a great deal since 1928 when 33 young men from 18 states gathered in Kansas City, Missouri to form an organization that would offer farm boys, “a greater opportunity for self-expression for the development of leadership.” One that would allow young men to, “develop confidence in their own ability and pride in the fact that they are farm boys.”
While the letters FFA will forever be a part of the organization’s history and heritage, FFA is no long just for boys who want to be farmers.
Today, the FFA organization consists of young men and women who aspire to pursue careers in agriculture, education, medicine, science, business, and beyond.
Today’s National FFA organization is committed working with individual students by “providing a path to achievement in premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.”
The FFA organization mentors and empowers the next generation to meet challenges by helping members develop their own unique talents and explore interests in a broad range of agricultural career pathways.
For Wilmington High School freshman, Rachael Billups, who placed first at the district level and ninth at the state level in the “Beginning Creed” speech competition, public speaking is one of those unique talents.
According to Billups, the FFA Creed consists of five simple paragraphs that apply to different areas of life and shows how farming is a national tradition. It is the same Creed that everyone who has ever been in FFA has recited at some point.
“A bulk of the Creed can be interpreted however it fits in your life,” said Billups, “as it talks about the importance of giving and not just taking for yourself all the time.”
It is the final paragraph of the Creed that creates a feeling of promise in the sense that American Agriculture is an integral part of our country and always will be that is most inspiring to Billups.
After being selected by chapter officers to represent WHS in the Creed competition, Billups spent time practicing the speech and answering questions.
Following an acceptable performance at the sub-district competition, Billups was excited that she qualified for the next round of competition but disappointed in her final score.
At this point, Billups reached out to several different teachers from several different content areas who met with Billups after school where she practiced her speech again and again until every step and pause had a purpose, and everything came more naturally.
Billups said that following the first round of the district competition, she was happy with her performance and would not have been upset if she did not move forward because she knew she had given it her all.
When it was announced that Billups would move on to the next round of competition, she remembers thinking she, “was ready to go again and have more fun and not get nervous or worry about placings.”
She believes that if she hadn’t been having so much fun, she would have been much more nervous and may have forgotten some of the lines of the Creed, as was the case with some of the other competitors.
When the announcement was made that Billups had won first place and would move on to compete at the state level, she knew her hard work and using the “having fun method” had paid off.
Billups says she is grateful for the opportunity to participate in the “Beginning Creed” competition and because of the support of the Wilmington High School community she is a stronger, more confident, and more comfortable public speaker.
Outside of the FFA classroom, she is also a member of the WHS and Clinton County swim teams. She is also a nine-year member of 4-H and actively competes in Clinton County Fair events.
She is the daughter of Rick and Julie Billups.
Information for this article was provided by Diana Miller, who coordinates communications for several area schools.