INDIANAPOLIS (Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013/National FFA Organization) – As a freshman at University of Alabama, Jackson Harris sought one of about 30 spots in the University Fellows Experience, a program that fuses high academic standards with a passion for community service.
He was asked during the interview process to identify his strengths that he would be able to bring to the group over his four years in college. His answer? “Well,” he said. “I restore antique tractors.”
After a polite exchange of quiet smiles and chuckles, Harris explained about his experience in FFA. He told the panel that despite the fact that he didn’t grow up on a farm, through FFA he learned the difference between an alternator and a radiator, and much more. He shared times that he and his 10-member tractor team would spend countless hours in the school’s shop restoring every inch of machines that were manufactured and used in American fields decades before he and his teammates were born.
The passion that he conveyed to the panel was overwhelming. “Looking back, I wouldn’t change the answer I gave that day,” Harris said. “From that little tractor restoration team, I found within myself an ability to see things not as they are but as they can be.”
Harris was elected to the 2013-14 National FFA Officer team as Southern Region vice president at the 86th National FFA Convention & Expo.
Other members of the 2013-14 National FFA Officer team are Brian Walsh of Virginia as president, Mitch Baker of Tennessee as secretary, Steven Brockshus of Iowa as Central Region vice president, Wes Davis of West Virginia as Eastern Region vice president and Jason Wetzler of Oregon as Western Region vice president.
Originally from Eufaula, Ala., and a community development major at the University of Alabama, Harris served his Eufaula FFA chapter as secretary and president. He was state vice president of the Alabama FFA Association. Harris won several honors as a member of his chapter FFA string band and quartet at district and state level competitions.
In 2008, his team was named national grand champion of the Delo Tractor Restoration Competition, an honor that opened the door to represent Chevron Delo Lubricants as a promoter at the World Ag Expo in California later in his high school career.
The Eagle Scout was also involved in Student Government Association at Eufaula High School.
“I’ve had my share of leadership roles and happily played supporting roles,” he said. “I’ve been approved and denied. I’ve been acclaimed and corrected and have been right and wrong. Through it all I have had hope. I have always been able to see an opportunity for growth, polish and betterment within myself – all because a group of grease- and dirt-covered friends once told me to look a little deeper and work a little harder.”
Each year at the National FFA Convention & Expo, six students are elected by delegates to represent the organization as National FFA officers. Delegates elect a president, secretary and vice presidents representing the central, southern, eastern and western regions of the country.
National officers commit to a year of service to the National FFA Organization. Each travels more than 100,000 national and international miles to interact with business and industry leaders, thousands of FFA members and teachers, corporate sponsors, government and education officials, state FFA leaders, the general public and more. The team will lead personal growth and leadership training seminars for FFA members throughout the country and help set policies that will guide the future of FFA and promote agricultural literacy.
After graduation from University of Alabama, Harris hopes to stay in his home state and serve Alabama citizens – especially those living in poverty – by equipping rural communities with opportunities for economic and creative growth.
“I hope to promote premier leadership, personal growth and career success as a national officer at conventions and conferences across the country,” he said. “I look forward to welcoming members and encouraging them to share their passions and experiences for agriculture.”
The National FFA Organization provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education to 579,678 student members in grades seven through 12 who belong to one of 7,570 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.