By Lauren Schwab, National FFA Convention & Expo Newsroom Reporter
For the first time in 15 years, FFA members from the U.S. Virgin Islands showed their blue jackets at the National FFA Convention & Expo.
Dr. Eddie Williams, Virgin Islands FFA advisor, organized the trip to Louisville, Ky., for 40 students and 10 adults.
“The Virgin Islands FFA was strong at one time. We have not been able to be strong participants because for our students to travel, they have to fly,” Williams said. “We have not been able to attend national convention because we have not had the finances to do so.”
The Virgin Islands legislature recently gave $300,000 to strengthen and grow FFA among the islands. Williams is thankful to the Career and Technical Education Board for sponsoring their trip.
“We are thankful for the parents support, for the first time in history we have seventh and eighth graders here at convention. This is the first time they have ever traveled out of the Virgin Islands and are excited about it,” said Williams.
Four FFA chapters from the U.S. territory came to the 86th National FFA Convention & Expo representing the three islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John: John H. Woodson Jr. High School, Elena Christian Jr. High School, Ivanna Eudora Kean High School and Charlotte Amalie High School.
Karian Acevedo Sanes, Elena Christian FFA chapter secretary, took time to tell other members about the Virgin Islands.
“I sat down with girls from Missouri who asked me all types of questions. I told them a little about what Saint Croix is like. It is the second largest island to Saint Thomas, if you come you will have experiences you will never forget. The climate is very different and every day I feel like I need to go to the beach,” said Sanes.
Ajani Gordon, John H. Woodson FFA reporter enjoys many cultures coming together at convention.
“I have learned people don’t know a lot about us or where the Virgin Islands are. We are in a different time zone and have different food. It’s neat to see different cultures come together here. Everyone coming together means they really love agriculture and want to participate in this event,” said Gordon.
In addition to a new cultural experience, the members are excited to learn and develop their leadership skills. Ricardo Rivera, John H. Woodson FFA treasurer aspires to be a leader.
“I wanted to come to convention because I want to step up and become an officer,” Rivera said. “The National FFA Officers are inspiring to all of us. When I go home I can share memories and inspire others to come to convention.”
Students were selected to come who excel, can articulate and speak. Edward Smith, Ivanna Eudora Kean FFA vice president, encourages other students to strive for excellence and appreciate being at convention.
“I plan to meet new people, learn as much as I can and be productive. This is a wonderful experience and I am glad we could come because this really is a once in a lifetime opportunity I wish more students got to experience,” Smith said.
Williams sees the potential of FFA in the Virgin Islands.
“Our students are fired up to go back and start other chapters going. We hope to strengthen our programs and have them for seventh and eighth grade in all our public schools,” said Williams. “We have the programs and the curriculum, but we need teachers. We would like funds to start our alumni, a foundation and to give out scholarships. We hope to have national officers and supporters of the FFA to come to the Virgin Islands and support us.”
Lauren Schwab is a former FFA member from Somerville, Ohio. She is a graduate of Miami University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and Master of Science in family studies. She currently works full-time on her family farm. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.