Hope, Joy & Community

Hope, Joy & Community

Hope, joy, and community. These are three values that South Africa upholds. As we traveled throughout South Africa, I couldn’t help but observe in awe at all the sights we saw and the people we met. Throughout all these experiences, hope, joy, and community were evident.


One of the strongest lessons of hope was experienced at Robben Island prison when we saw the cell Nelson Mandela was held in for 18 years. Mandela was arrested as a “political prisoner” because he rebelled against an unjust government. As I looked at the cell, all I could think was “What would drive a man to be willing to sleep on a concrete floor, live almost completely alone, and perform manual labor for 18 years?” The answer came from our tour guide who actually was a past political prisoner like Mandela. He explained that fellow political prisoners decided to use the chance of all being together in prison to discuss how to make South Africa racially equal. They deemed the prison as a school and did everything they could to learn.

Being sentenced to prison for unfair reasons would be a hard experience. It would be easy to give up hope. However, Mandela and other political prisoners knew better. They had hope that one day they would be released, and had the wisdom to understand their country would need their leadership when that day came. By having hope, they were able to end racial segregation.



Often in our lives we become so obsessed with all the things that go wrong, we forget to be grateful for all the things that go right. I learned what it means to find joy in all situations when we visited the township of Kayamandi. Kayamandi is a shanty town which means most of the people residing there live in poverty. Many people live in homes constructed out of metal sheets and wood scraps. When it rains in Kayamandi the road conditions near homes cause flooding. Imagining all this, a pretty desolate and sad place comes to mind. However, Kayamandi is quite the opposite. Upon arriving in town, we were greeted with warm smiles and open arms. Walking down the streets, you could hear music playing and children laughing. We met our tour guide’s family, and as we sat in her home made of metal sheets, all I could feel I was an immense sense of love. The people of Kayamandi know something that we often forget: you don’t find the happy life, you make it. And the only thing you really need to have a happy life is love. By expressing love and gratitude, the people of Kayamandi taught us to find joy no matter the circumstances.




When we landed in South Africa and walked to the baggage claim area, I already knew we were in a special place. There was a welcoming atmosphere and a sense of community that was excitingly unfamiliar. Strangers would greet you and wave as you walked by. Having a conversation with a stranger is normal in South Africa, and I think there is a lot we can learn from that.

We even further experienced community visiting a high school with an agriculture program. Immediately students at the school were very open to conversations with us. They were casual enough to ask us about American traditions like prom, yet honest enough to share their thoughts on issues currently facing South Africa. By the end of our visit, it felt like we had made lots of new friends. By constantly expressing genuine interest in others and building a welcoming culture, South Africa has become more than just a country, it has become a community of beautifully genuine people.


South Africa is a country that embodies love. You can sense it walking down the city streets, feel it in the welcoming attitudes of people you meet, and see love’s influence on their culture. As we try to build lives that are led with love, let us all support our communities, have hope for a brighter future, and most of all find joy in the every part of the journey.

With gratitude,


The Joyful Journey


There are some things in life that we only experience once. The 98 days we got to spend traveling the whole state of Oregon, and more, were times we will never get to replicate. These last couple of months have taught us to truly enjoy the journey we are on, and the places it will take us. As our journey comes to a close, we wanted to share some of the last moments of our tour through a little twist on a holiday story.


It twas the night before our last class visit when all through the Willamette Valley

not a State Officer was sleeping not even a little;

Our official dress was hung high in the back of our trucks with care

In hopes that we could make a difference in Oregon FFA come March at the Deschutes County Fair;

The members were all nestled in their beds

While visions of fun and exciting workshops played through their heads;

And Mackenzie dressed in her favorite Christmas sweater, and Sundee answering all her Snapchats,

Had all the streaks been answered they could finally hit the sack,


When at our great homestays the animals arose such a happy clatter,

Devin and Dylan sprang from their beds to see what was the matter.

Away to the kitchen they went like a flash,

To find that their host family had made breakfast alas.

The roads had no new-fallen snow

That gave Andrew and Holly a clear path to school with the roads below,

When, what to their eyes would appear,

But a school full of students, ready to take on the new year,


With a little hard work and a lot of fun, so much so, we would never quit,

That we knew it must be close to our last visit.

More crazy and faster than we thought they would go by,

We would never say this was goodbye.


There were so many fun and exciting things that we got to experience on tour this year, and it was all thanks to every member and chapter across the state. Whether it was playing tag on hay bales, going bowling, playing laser tag, or sitting around a campfire roasting some marshmallows, it was all amazing and worth it. There will always be fun times but it’s the times where we got to see who we were actually doing all this for that made this tour so much more memorable and exciting. We truly enjoyed our journey and everyone within it, until next time Happy Holidays from our family to yours.      





Thankful (adjective): Expressing gratitude or relief.

What are you thankful for? This past month we, as state officers, have traveled across the state, from Joseph to Grants Pass and from Hillsboro to Jordan Valley. We are fully submerged in what could be considered the biggest part of state office: leadership tour. From the beginning of September to the end of December, my team visits every school in Oregon that has an agriculture program. In pairs of two, we teach leadership workshops to all students enrolled in an ag class and travel all across the state. In total, we visit over 110 schools and interact with almost 15,000 students.

We are officially halfway through leadership tour and I’m constantly asking myself why? Why take a year off from college, why devote myself to a life on the road, why stay in a different bed every night? For the first half of leadership tour, these questions bothered me. I found myself questioning my decisions and felt myself stuck between what I have done in the past and what I will be doing in the future. But what about now?

After spending a week in Indianapolis surrounded by a sea of blue jackets totaling in over 65,000 I discovered my why. At National Convention this year, I served as a delegate for Oregon FFA. I was given a voice in representing Oregon on the national level, and for that I am thankful. Thankful for these life-changing opportunities, thankful to make connections with new individuals, and thankful to represent an association so dedicated and unified as Oregon FFA. National Convention has been the most enlightening week of State Office yet, opening my eyes to the opportunities I have before me.

Returning from National Convention, we were given a day to gather our bearings, switch over supplies and belongings as we got new tour partners, and travel across the state from Corvallis to Pendleton for yet another school visit. As you might imagine, this day was hectic. The Dylan before National Convention would have been stressed, on edge, and felt pressured for time. But I discovered my why. I took a year off college to meet new people, impact lives, and leave pieces of my heart in every town I visit. I am devoted to a life on the road to see parts of Oregon I was blind to before and sleep in a different bed every night simply for the adventure of it all. On this hectic day, I was on cloud nine.

I visit a new school every day both for the die-hard FFA members who are counting down the days for a state officer visit and for the agriculture students who have no idea who we are, who don’t think they belong in FFA. I visit a new school every day to help the outgoing student hone in on their skills and to help the introverted student in the back of the class volunteer an answer for the first time. I visit a new school every day to get feedback on my facilitation skills from seasoned teachers so I too can grow and improve.

Sometimes as state officers we get caught up on seeing change immediately. If we don’t see a student grow in the period of one leadership camp or one school visit, we feel as if we aren’t doing our job right. We feel as if we are losing sight of our why. And I’ll admit I’m no stranger to this feeling, I have been right there in the first part of leadership tour. But then I remember back to April. Past State Vice President Emma Rooker, dubbed my “mom” pulled me aside, handed me a package of sunflower seeds, and gave me some advice I will never forget.

“It’s all about planting seeds in gardens you won’t have to water yourself.”

She told me to trust in my abilities and the connections I am making. I won’t always see results immediately and it can be disheartening, but trust that the seeds I am planting are seeds that will cultivate into something amazing in the future. This simple five minute interaction has impacted my year of service greater than I could have ever imagined back in April. Whenever I find myself losing sight of my why, these are the words I fall back on.

So I ask again, what are you thankful for? I am thankful for the opportunity to serve, represent, and grow. I am thankful to serve on a team with five other dedicated souls who consistently push me to go the extra mile. I am thankful to represent Oregon agriculture and the FFA. I am thankful to grow every single day in the classroom and on the road.

Oregon FFA, find what you’re thankful for and capitalize on it. Spread gratitude, push limits, and grow exponentially as we close out 2018 and open a new year full of endless opportunities.

Forever Blue,

Dylan J. Westfall

Oregon FFA State Vice President

Show Day to Homestay

As the final few days of State Fair came to a wrap, the team was on the road attending leadership camps and chapter visits on the first month of Leadership Tour! September was a busy month for the team, and I’m happy to retell some of our experiences.

The bulk of our leadership camps and conferences were this month, and they were all unique and incredibly memorable.

Umpqua District camp showed us the value in stepping out of comfort zones when it came to students giving speeches, presenting introductions or delivering flag ceremonies. The camp was filled with fun, puzzle boxes, and an AWESOME dance.


Strawberry Mountain & Snake River Camp was an absolute blast. Upon arriving and discovering that there was no cell service, we knew we were in for a treat. From watermelon eating contests to mini-bus push contests, there was never a dull moment at this camp.


The Upper Willamette Camp was full of educational opportunities, hilarious skits, and all around awesome members. The camp is hosted next to an equine & farrier post-secondary education center, and we all had the chance to tour the facility during camp. It was a great chance to learn more about some of the opportunities after we shed the blue jacket for the last time.


Capital District camp was a chance for us to ‘leave our legacy’ and ‘take the bull by the horns’ as we launched right into tons of fun workshops, bonding activities within chapters, and some of the best skits we’ve witnessed. Towards the end of camp, the district officer team also stepped up to the challenge and sat on the platform of a dunk tank as members of their officer group tried to knock them down by hitting a target.


Lower Willamette District Leadership Camp was a jam-packed day full of excitement and energy. In the morning we heard from guest speaker Rhett Laubach about the importance of developing good habits and skills through FFA. We moved on to favoriting workshops on a rotation system and having great conversations at lunch with our officer groups about what’s going good in our chapter, and what we could use some help with. We wrapped up with another speech from Mr. Laubach, and we left the conference that day feeling inspired by the members within this district


Blue Mountain’s camp was full of swing dancing, opportunities for leadership growth, and chances to spark a connection with fellow members. The team had the experience of being auctioned off to the highest bidder, and also being engaged in extremely competitive ping pong, foosball, and carpetball games. Overall, this was a great camp that we won’t soon forget.


Along with camps, our team had the opportunity to visit 15 FFA chapters this month as part of Leadership Tour.

  • North Clackamas
  • Dayton
  • Perrydale
  • Sherman County
  • Culver
  • Sandy
  • Crook County
  • Dufur
  • Molalla
  • Cascade
  • Central
  • Dallas
  • Yamhill-Carlton
  • Sherwood
  • Hood River Valley


Chapter visits are a great way for us to connect with members on a more personal level, and to teach leadership and life skills through classroom workshops. Sundee and I personally visited 8 different chapters in September while on tour, and each program was unique and memorable in its own way. After visiting a few schools, we could honestly say that we missed school lunches too.


As leadership tour continues, our team is excited for the future. We can’t wait to see what connections we will make, and we hope to see you soon on the road!


Andrew Gmirkin

2018-2019 State President


Summer Time Show Time


“Fair Season”, a time of year described as the most stressful, hot and memorable part of the year. From the months of June to September, members find themselves out of school and in the barns with the projects that they have raised. They spend countless hours preparing to perform with them at their county and state fairs.


Spending time raising and training livestock or growing products to display at county fairs teaches young people the definition of hard work. They find pride in their work by showing and competing in the ring against other students. The Oregon FFA Association enjoys rewarding students with great herdsmanship, showmanship and quality animals at shows because it amplifies the dedication that the students have for the agricultural industry. This also allows students to put their knowledge, acquired from the classroom, to the test. County and state fair are the pinnacle for students to display their pride for their animals, their organization and the agriculture industry.  


The Oregon FFA State Officers were able to spend time at county fairs around Oregon and cheer on the students that they serve.  I, myself, was able to meet and help students at the Deschutes and Crook County fairs. Watching them prepare and show their animals was extremely enjoyable. There is something that I will never forget after competing at my county fair for over 11 years: there is no such thing as losing at a county fair. You either win or you learn from the experience. Being able to even go out into the ring with an animal is a success in itself. Being a good role model, sportsman and herdsman is just the beginning of the definition of being a good showman inside and out of the ring. Seeing students exemplify this definition and share it with younger members brings pride to their counties and this organization.


The Oregon State Fair begins in the middle of August and ends in the beginning of September. The State Officer Team attended the fair for over 16 days. We completed tasks such as setting up registration booths, making pens for animals and clerking livestock shows. We were able to watch and cheer on students in the show ring and track their scores. From small animal to livestock judging, students at the top of their counties were able to compete for the title of state champion in their divisions. After all the shows and the FFA animals moved out, we helped with the open shows and talked to the public. The desk in the metal art tent was our main station for the last few days. We would direct the public to the restroom, educate people on the Oregon FFA Association and show people the awesome metal and state exhibits that students brought in for competition. We chatted with some wise FFA alumni and learned a lot of new card games to pass the time. Meeting the members showing at the fair was by far my teammates and I’s favorite part of the Oregon State Fair. Their passion for the agriculture industry and the livestock that they have raised is unmatched.


At the end of the day, fair season is just like any other season. The burning heat and tired children… just like winter break, right? Waiting all year to show animals and exhibit at fair is always worth it in the end. The showman that show up in and out of the ring bring pride to the Oregon FFA Association.

With excitement,

Holly Silvey

2018-2019 Oregon FFA State Sentinel