FFA members celebrate leadership at campWritten by Natasha Wheeler
Lander – A smiling, bald man with a horseshoe mustache pops his head out from behind his camera and tells you to strike a “thinking” pose. This is one of the first things every new and returning camper experiences upon arriving at Wyoming FFA Leadership Camp.
Court Schilt, who has served the camp for over 30 years, is the camp’s primary photographer. He receives the first look at the young, green campers as they arrive at camp on Lander Mountain. Over the course of the week, he watches campers through the lens of his camera as they ripen and grow through leadership workshops and group activities.
Seventy-seven FFA members attended the first session of camp, held this year on June 9-13. Each camper had their own reason for attending the event
“While I was at state convention, I hardly knew anyone,” says Ben Campbell, president of the Casper FFA. “My first thought was, this will be a great way to meet people.”
Rebecca Meisner, a member of the Sundance FFA, says, “I wanted to learn more about FFA and how to be a leader.”
Campbell was a first time camper this year, while Meisner returned for her second year at camp.
One of the most anticipated, yet also feared, activities takes place on the first full day of camp. Coming in, campers either love or hate the public speaking workshop.
For Briana Grant of the Cheyenne Frontier FFA, she is firmly in the former group.
“My favorite part of camp was the public speaking and the interview workshops,” Grant says. “It helped myself and others get more comfortable with talking in front of a crowd.”
During the roughly two-hour workshop, each and every camper receives the opportunity to give at least two short speeches. Afterwards, the speaker receives positive and constructive feedback from their peers to help improve their public speaking skills.
Regardless of how they felt going in, nearly every member subsequently reports that the workshop was well worth the effort.
Workshops like public speaking and job interview are often mentioned when members come back to their chapter. However, the seldom heard about, yet most beloved, activity to almost every camper is something that takes place every single night at FFA camp.
In small groups of no more than about 10, members gather each night with the same counselors and other campers. Core Group, as it is known, is a safe place for campers to talk about what is going on in their lives.
The counselors loosely follow a curriculum for this time but usually allow group members to take the discussion in the direction they need. While at camp, Core Group is family. Campers know that they can trust these people with anything.
Members often keep in contact with their group peers for many years after they first meet.
For nearly everycamper, this is the most memorable part of FFA camp.
For both Meisner and Campbell, this is most certainly the case.
“My favorite part of camp was Core Group. It was a group at the end of the day, and I could just talk about the day and unwind without being judged,” says Meisner.
Campbell echoes her words, commenting, “I’d have to say that the Core Group was the best part. It was great being in a group with a few members from around the state sharing ideas. In that week, my Core Group became the closest group I’ve been in. It showed me the true potential of the FFA members. I gained so many new friends from Core Group that it’s unbelievable.”
Taking it home
After a week of FFA Camp, the fresh, young FFA members who arrived on Lander Mountain at the beginning of the week are well on their way to becoming confident and outgoing leaders, ready to take their new skills back to their home chapters to help build up and mentor their fellow members.
When looking at how FFA changed her life, Grant mentions, “FFA camp has changed my life by teaching me that every single person in this world has something special to offer the world. I can achieve any dream I may have if I put in 110 percent and go that extra mile.”