For many high school seniors attending the National FFA Convention this week in Indianapolis, the event marks the culmination of a fruitful four years in the world’s largest agricultural youth organization. But most seniors might not realize they don’t have to retire the blue corduroy jacket after graduation.
“As cliché as it may sound, it’s an opportunity to give back. When participating in your high school FFA chapter, you are stretched and sharpened in ways that you may not have been otherwise,” said Marie Bucko, a science policy analyst with the FDA and an FFA alumni member. “Giving is an incredible opportunity to show the gratitude you have towards the lifelong experiences you had from fellow members, advisors, and even Alumni members.”
FFA has been a pivotal part of Bucko’s life. A former state officer in the Wisconsin FFA chapter, Bucko found the FFA Alumni program complimented her career path in agriculture. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in animal science and nutrition from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and a master’s degree in food safety, agriculture policy, and infectious disease from Michigan State University, Bucko served as a legislative and public affairs specialist with the USDA and a Food Safety Modernization Act fellow before taking her current position with the FDA. Throughout her education and career journey, Bucko has remained active in the FFA Alumni Program.
“As an alumni member, my career has been strengthened through consistently refining my strategic leadership skills as well as developing and maintaining networking relationships,” Bucko said. “The agriculture community is a close-knit one, and making new relationships with those in the same sector or perhaps even another sector of agriculture you may not be as familiar with, you have an opportunity to broaden your knowledge, make a new friend, and most of all help FFA members during opportunities where they may be looking for employment, mentoring, or a new experience.”
This year the National FFA Alumni membership exploded with 225,891 members, growing from 62,705 in 2015. Graduating high school seniors now automatically received alumni membership.
The 2015-2016 National FFA officer team helped to develop a grant to boost alumni chapters and to spread the message that you don’t have to be a past member to join the alumni program, but just have a deep appreciation for what FFA does for students and an eagerness to help out.
Bucko’s mother is a perfect example of this type of membership.
“She never went to school where there was an FFA program established, but when she saw the impactful experiences I had when I joined our local FFA chapter, she wanted to participate in supporting my fellow FFA members and I,” Bucko said. “As an Alumni member she had the opportunity to do so through raising funds for chapter activities and scholarships, assisting at FFA leadership camps and conferences, etc. National FFA Alumni membership is open to anyone interested in supporting FFA, agricultural education, agriculture or volunteerism through their gifts of time, talent and financial resources.”
Bucko said she wouldn’t be where she is today without the support of Alumni members and she hopes to continue that cycle of encouragement in agricultural education.
“The biggest benefit that we can receive is knowing that our service truly makes a difference in the lives of students. After all, isn’t that why we are here?” Bucko said. “Alumni members volunteer to help students evolve and find their passion in agriculture which then allows them to evolve into better people because of those experiences.”
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