Leaders of Tomorrow
Have you ever heard the roar of thousands of people waiting to explore a floor full of university and industry professionals? If your answer is NO, you have never been to the National FFA convention. The largest gathering of high school students interested in agriculture and natural resources in the United States.
University and Career Opportunities
My name is Tai Pleasant, Undergraduate Recruiter for the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This is my third year on the job and 2nd time at the National FFA Convention. The ability to communicate plants and landscape systems to future generations is an incredible opportunity. Every interaction is unique in its way, but I still manage to throw in my love for community gardens and the impact they have on local communities.
As a recruiter at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, I see the opportunity to sell the future generation of leaders to the great state of Nebraska. There are over 300 jobs that deal directly with Agriculture and Natural resources. This position gives me a daily chance to introduce people to the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture and all the significant career pathways available to someone who loves plants and landscape systems. The 94th Annual convention was the perfect place to find students that fit that description.
FFA students are brought up to become the leaders of tomorrow. These aren't your typical high school students. Many of these students are from rural towns that have a dedicated agriculture education teacher, which is unlike a biology and chemistry teacher. Many times, these teachers serve as the advisor to the school's FFA chapter. These advisors play a critical role in developing students from their first year of high school through their senior year. They begin exploring different sectors of the economy early in their high school careers.
At this year's convention, I got the opportunity to hear from advisors who had students interested in the horticulture industry. This was different from my experience at the 2019 FFA convention. I think the boom in house plants during COVID-19 led to an uptick in youth interested in careers related to the art and science of plants. Youth want hands-on jobs that avoid sitting at a desk for 8-9 hours a day. A plant career allows precisely that, so this year I enjoyed conversations with youth who mentioned the idea of starting their own landscaping business when they get older.
Seed Your Future
Although I got the opportunity to engage with numerous youth interested in horticulture and other plant careers, I did not have any hands-on activities with physical plant items. It was okay because the new executive director of Seed Your Future was there with a cool seed matching activity. Not only did that game help engage youth, but it also served another purpose: it allowed Seed Your Future to share their story. It lets students know about scholarship options - including those outside of university scholarships. Ultimately, access to more funds to make school accessible is what future students want. I thank Seed Your Future for all they do to raise awareness of Horticulture nationally!
Tai Pleasant is the Undergraduate Recruiter for the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Follow him on Instagram at Tai Pleasant. Learn more about the UNL Department of Agronomy and Horticulture here.
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