Nine Franklin County Technical School students embraced last week’s national FFA Convention and Expo as an invaluable opportunity to connect with agriculturally inclined youth from all over the country.
FFA, which originally stood for “Future Farmers of America” before broadening in scope, annually hosts an event where tens of thousands of middle and high schoolers participate in leadership trainings, community service activities and competitions related to agricultural disciplines, such as farming, landscaping and veterinary science. This year’s convention, held in Indianapolis, Indiana from Nov. 1 to Nov. 4, was attended by 72,954 FFA members and guests from as far away as Hawaii and Puerto Rico, according to Amanda Mattison, a landscaping and horticulture instructor and advisor for Franklin County’s FFA chapter.
“It’s the one time where we’re all the same and we all share something,” said sophomore Dani Chagnon, FFA junior chapter president at Franklin Tech. “No matter who you are, FFA is just an amazing organization and it just brings everyone together.”
The school’s group was the first pool of students from Franklin Tech to go to nationals since 2016, having performed well at consecutive springtime state competitions. Chagnon, for example, was the first-place winner in Massachusetts’ “creed speaking” competition in 2023.
“I was incredibly impressed with the dedication they showed,” said Mattison, who formerly served as a state officer for the Massachusetts FFA Association. “They put in an incredible amount of work to push us to nationals.”
“I was blown away by how well these guys did,” added Sara Dugas, another FFA advisor at Franklin Tech.
Senior and Chapter President Aidan Bailey, who has participated in FFA events throughout his four years of high school, said what students brought to nationals was the highest level of investment he’s ever seen from Franklin Tech’s FFA members. The school’s engagement holds added weight when considering that Massachusetts has few enough participatory schools to count on two hands, the advisors and members emphasized. There are more than 850,000 FFA members, ages 12 to 21, in 8,995 chapters across all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, according to the FFA website. All wear official uniforms when attending functions.
“When you look back and you see a sea of blue coats, you feel like you’re definitely there and part of it,” Bailey said, calling Franklin Tech’s participation on the national level a “small but mighty story.”