Joining clubs and organizations for the very first time can sometimes be nerve-wracking, but usually after you’ve conquered doing it once, it’s something you look forward to doing over and over.
I first got involved by joining West Carroll’s FFA chapter when I started high school in 2009. This was definitely intimidating because I was a freshman among a large group of sophomores, juniors, and seniors (our FFA was one of the largest in Northern Illinois). But what kept me going was my drive to learn about agriculture, attend contests, and get to know others with similar interests.
FFA, formerly known as Future Farmers of America, is an organization designed to promote agricultural education, as well as leadership skills and personal growth. I feel like I can easily say that joining FFA helped me obtain leadership skills and it certainly helped me grow as an individual. I became the President of the freshman class, which had a huge impact on my leadership abilities. Being the President of my class, I had to set good examples and be as active in the chapter as possible. Of course, as a freshman, the opportunities for involvement are nearly endless. My class got involved in parliamentary procedure (where I was voted the secretary because of my good handwriting), dairy foods judging, weeds & seeds contests, soil judging, proficiency awards, and creed speaking just to name a few. These were all contests that I attended to not only get me out of my shell as a newbie in the world of high school, but also to help me meet other students with who shared the same interests.
Attending conferences was another great way I was able to get involved and make new friends. I stayed active in FFA all four years of high school, as the opportunities for attending contests and conferences continued.
Aside from staying active in FFA, I also joined my home town 4-H club in 2010. 4-H is a worldwide system of youth organizations designed to promote personal growth, development, and leadership. These characteristics are built through community service activities, public speaking, working with diverse backgrounds, creating projects, presenting at the fair, and many more.
I spent my whole first year learning about the club and what types of activities they do. My club actively participated in clean-up events, which was an eye-opening experience. Playing a part in these clean-up activities taught me a much greater respect for our earth and wanting to do my part in preserving what we’ve been given. On top of volunteering my time doing community service, I engaged in the activities that happened during the county fair. My first project was a poster about how to groom a horse, where I took home a blue ribbon, because of course, everyone is a winner.
After being an active member for a year, I decided to run for the office of President. Luckily, I was elected to this position, even though I ran against four other long time members. This gave me the opportunity to take charge and do my part to make this organization the best that I could. I was in charge of going over our agenda, passing motions, encouraging discussion among the group, and helping the younger members in their development.
I thoroughly enjoyed being a role model for the younger kids in our club. So many of them were afraid to get up in front of our group and present about their fair projects, but I enjoyed helping them to learn confidence and how to speak through their fears. Some of these members grew out of their shell to where they were always volunteering to lead our group in the pledge.
“I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world.”
One of my favorite parts about being in 4-H was getting to interact with the other local clubs, one in particular. Gordon Jones was a unique neighboring club, as its members were all living in a group home, due to special needs or mental disabilities. This is something that is very near and dear to my heart, as I’ve grown up with a sister who has special needs. The few times a year that we engaged with this 4-H club brought me such great happiness, as these are the types of people in this world that see nothing but the positives. I always loved doing arts & crafts projects with them, as it was very evident that doing so was the highlight of their day. I’m particularly grateful for this experience, because it opened the eyes of many of the younger members in my own club. I grew up with a sister just like these wonderful people, but most of these kids did not. It was a learning opportunity for them, to show them to treat everyone with respect, regardless of our differences.
4-H was such a major part of my life in more ways than one, including showing my horse at the county fair. This taught me responsibility, as I practiced almost daily and did chores routinely. Many days were spent in the hot sun, trying to perfect my walk, trot, and canter. The practice and hard work led me to have pretty decent show performances. But that wasn’t always the case, as many other 4-H’ers know too well. Regardless of the hours spent practicing, sometimes you don’t always come out with the grand champion ribbon. Showing in the county fairs not only taught me to work on my personal confidence, but how to pick my head up and keep going, even when I didn’t win.
Being a member of the Savanna Smiles for about five years was a great opportunity for me to enhance my public speaking abilities, organization skills, leadership abilities, and many more. If I could change one thing, I would have become active at a much younger age.
In continuing my involvement in organizations in college, I made the decision to join Sigma Alpha, a professional agricultural sorority. This is an excellent way for girls with an agricultural interest to network with one another and create a sisterhood that will last well beyond college.
I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would ever say I was part of a sorority, because that was never the type of person that I was. But Sigma Alpha isn’t a typical college sorority, they are professional and promote scholarship, leadership, service and fellowship among its members. When I first joined, I was a membership candidate. Throughout this process, I took weekly quizzes to learn the history of the sorority, interviewed the active members to get to know them, participated in highway cleanup, and took part in our fundraising. While a membership candidate, I got a “mom” and a “dad.” A Sigma Alpha mom is someone who you can look to for help or advice, in which I have been very fortunate, as my “mom” has become one of my best friends at Western.
Sigma Alpha has helped me to network with other girls, as well as with employers. It is amazing how many women in the agricultural field were part of this sorority during their college days. Aside from meeting so many new faces, this is a great opportunity to improve scholarship and professional skills. Sigma Alpha takes pride in the fact that their members are good scholars who maintain a respectable GPA. Being professional is also an important aspect of this organization, as members always present a positive and reputable image. I am proud to say that I am part of Sigma Alpha, as I have not only met so many wonderful girls, but I have also gained skills that will stick with me beyond my college years.
My name is Kylie Beaston and I am a senior at Western Illinois University. I am working towards my Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Business with a minor in Agronomy. I graduated from Highland Community College in Freeport, Illinois with an Associate of Science. My last semester on campus is busy as I am actively involved with the Agronomy club and Sigma Alpha. I have a passion for Agriculture and staying actively involved in the organizations that promote it.