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No glass ceiling holding back Oregon FFA President

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Agriculture has been a part of Kourtney Lehman’s life since the day she was born. FFA was a family legacy she continued. But becoming Oregon State FFA President was a personal goal Lehman just had to fulfill.

“When I decided to run for a state office this year, I found myself constantly thinking about the impact the state officers had left on my life,” Lehman said. “I knew that I wanted to give back to the association that had molded me into the person I am today, but I especially hoped to uplift the lives of members as had been done for me.”

Growing up in a dairy business first and then later a custom farming operation in Oregon, and coming from a strong FFA family, it was only natural for Lehman to join the organization. However it was her first time meeting an Oregon FFA State Officer that helped the Baker High School student find a voice in FFA.

Courtesy of Kourtney Lehman

“At the time, I was a sophomore in high school and was in the process of preparing to compete in Sophomore Public Speaking. Two of the state officers had come to town and were staying at my house.  As soon as they heard that I was competing in a speech, they encouraged me to practice presenting my speech with them,” Lehman said. “Palms sweaty and feeling weak in the knees, I did my very best to present a flawless speech. Of course, my nerves overwhelmed me and I faced awkward moments where my mind worked to grasp the next line of my speech and I stood in uncomfortable silence. Nonetheless, upon finally making it through my speech I was greeted with words of encouragement and constructive criticism.”

Lehman knew she had made several mistakes but at that moment felt the potential to be successful. After excessive practicing, she captured the state Prepared Public Speaking event title.

“Had it not been for those state officers, I probably would not have found the courage to continue to work on my public speaking capabilities,” Lehman said. “It is my goal as a state officer to help members find confidence in their authenticity as well as the many skills they possess.”

Upon getting elected as president, everyone immediately congratulated Lehman on “breaking the streak.” As the first female president in 10 years, Lehman hope that her time in office will serve as an inspiration for her fellow female FFA members that women can be strong leaders just as well as men.

Courtesy of Kourtney Lehman

“Neither our gender nor title defines us, but rather we should all strive to be known by our character,” Lehman said. “I hope to represent Oregon FFA with dignity and grace and show female members that the only glass ceiling holding us back is the one we allow to be there.”

With a diverse portfolio of products, Oregon’s agriculture industry is the perfect setting for FFA students. From hazelnuts to Christmas trees, Oregon is a specialty-crop state with over two hundred recognized commodities.

With all that in their backyard, Lehman hopes to challenge members to embrace their authenticity.

“It is my firm belief that each of us offer a unique skillset. When we learn to embrace that originality, and find confidence in who we are, our program will be equipped with an array of talents,” Lehman said. “With such a variety of skillsets and determination, anything can be accomplished.”

Her advice for other state officer candidates is to enjoy the process … even amongst all the stress.

“Win or lose, the amount of personal growth you experience through just running for office is something that will carry with you throughout life,” Lehman said. “Always remember that a state officer is meant to serve the members, so even if you are not elected, you still have the opportunity to spend your life as a servant leader giving back to your community.”

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