This year’s Kentucky State FFA Convention will be held completely online, from June 30 through July 2. This will be a historic first for Kentucky FFA, which has hosted an in-person state convention every year since 1930. Last year approximately 2,800 students, teachers and supporters attended.
When state leaders realized an in-person convention was not going to be possible because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they immediately started looking for alternative ways to give Kentucky FFA members opportunities to gather virtually, compete, and receive recognition.
“We have a convention to recognize our members,” said Brandon Davis, state agricultural education specialist and the Kentucky state FFA advisor. “We have thousands of young people who have dedicated this year and numerous years to their goals – whether that’s been competing on an ag sales team, working on their SAE, or running for state office. We want to do everything we can to provide them a platform to reach those goals.”
This year’s state convention will be a pre-recorded, produced event that will kick off at 7:30 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, June 30th, and will continue each evening through July 2nd. According to Davis, there will be student recognition for winners of career development events, agriscience fair, speaking events, and middle school events. Other highlights include recognition of regional stars in agriculture, naming of the 2020 state stars, and presentation of state FFA officers for the upcoming year.
There will even be an online concert via social media on the Wednesday of convention, with rising country music star Tyler Booth, a former Wolfe County FFA member. Booth will perform songs requested by FFA members and host a Q&A event.
Organizers are also planning a virtual career expo that will allow convention participants to interact with companies and universities who may be interested in recruiting FFA members.
“We want these sessions to be engaging,” said Davis. “We’ll have online activities and events leading up to the convention – opportunities for people to submit pictures and videos that will be used during the event, and ways to win prizes. This can’t have exactly the same look and feel as every convention before it, but we definitely want it to be meaningful.”
The fact that FFA has decided to host a virtual state convention means that as most students are wrapping up their NTI assignments and putting away their Chromebooks for the summer, FFA members are still engaged in projects and are hard at work preparing to participate in state-level speech contests, career development events, and more via a variety of online platforms.
“It takes a whole different level of commitment and work to be willing to do this,” said Davis. “There’s not a single FFA member who paid their FFA dues in August who thought this was what the end of the school year would look like. We see our members saying that ‘Just because things are different, my commitment to the goals I’ve set hasn’t changed. Maybe this isn’t the easiest way to be involved, but I’m going to make it work.’ That’s going to be one of our biggest bright spots when this whole thing is over.”
Volunteers and Sponsors Needed for Convention
Kentucky FFA is currently seeking volunteers to serve as judges for the upcoming state competitions associated with the convention. Volunteers might judge speeches via an online platform like ZOOM or Microsoft Teams, or they may help score career development events in which students are virtually participating. Events will take place between June 19th and June 26th. If you are interested in serving as a judge for this year’s convention, you can fill out an interest form at https://forms.gle/B91Cru2MX2oPQJMt6.
Additionally, because FFA members will still be receiving recognition and awards for their efforts, sponsors are still needed for the state FFA convention.
“Students will still receive prize and participation money, and are still going to be able to compete at the national level in the fall,” said Sheldon McKinney, the executive director of the Kentucky FFA Foundation. “If you’ve been on the fence about committing to a sponsorship, please know that we’re still at work, and students will still be rewarded.”
McKinney said that sponsors will be recognized during convention through video spotlights and social media shoutouts.
“Students will be in their homes, watching with their families,” said McKinney. “I believe we’re going to have thousands of more eyes on convention than we typically do. We’re working really hard to make it an excellent, top notch event.”
Looking beyond FFA’s state convention, McKinney also said that a plan is being formulated to try and deliver content that students will miss because FFA camp has been cancelled this summer.
“We’re so sad that we’ve had to cancel FFA camp for summer,” she said, “but we’re working on delivering leadership content throughout the summer as well as virtual officer training.”
The Kentucky FFA Foundation cultivates partnerships which support the FFA vision to grow leaders, build communities, and strengthen agriculture. Kentucky FFA Foundation initiatives impact nearly 14,000 FFA members in 158 FFA chapters across Kentucky.