My name is Kaity Spangler, and I am a junior at the University of Illinois majoring in Agricultural Education. Growing up in a farm family from western Illinois, I have always been involved in agriculture. I grew up riding in tractors and sharing a Cherry Coke or two with my grandpa, and some of my fondest memories include riding in the semi with my dad and having McDonalds "picnics" complete with orange drink or Diet Pepsi. I started attending livestock shows at a young age to watch my cousins - my hand-me-down t-shirt collection was full of shirts with 4-H clovers on them, and it was a big deal when I turned 8 years old because that meant I was finally able to join 4-H. I was a member of the Checkrow Volunteers 4-H Club in Fulton County for 11 years and had the privilege of serving on the Illinois 4-H State Youth Leadership Team from 2014-2016. In 2015, my family had the honor of receiving Illinois 4-H Family of the Year.
In 1984, my dad served as the Section 11 FFA President. Ever since I can remember, every couple of years he would get out his old president briefcase, blow off the dust, and relive some of his fondest memories. Whenever he talked about the FFA and what it did in his life, his eyes lit up. I knew that if there was an organization that was important to my dad so many years later, I had to check it out for myself. When I started high school, I had no idea how much of an impact that organization would have on me.
Like my dad, I was a member of the Bushnell-Prairie City FFA chapter. My freshman year of high school, I took advantage of an opportunity and was selected to be the chairperson of the Greenhand Parliamentary Procedure team. That was a shining moment in my FFA career. I worked so hard to be the best chairperson I could be. My hard work eventually paid off and I received first place chairperson at the Section 11 contest. That first recognition pushed me to do my best at every contest and to take advantage of every opportunity within the FFA. That included continuing my involvement in FFA after high school and receiving my American FFA Degree this year at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. For me, that success is still a daily reminder that hard work and dedication can truly lead to something great. Taking advantage of an opportunity sets off a spark, and that spark can have a huge impact on your future. Parliamentary Procedure not only taught me the correct way a business meeting should be conducted, but also how to be an effective leader.
4-H and the FFA truly changed my life and set me on the right path because I was provided with such incredibly opportunities. My work ethic, drive, and determination have been developed because I took advantage of the opportunities within these youth organizations, and had individuals there to guide me along every step of the journey. Without people like my Ag Advisor, my parents, and the people I looked up to within the FFA organization and 4-H, my experiences would have been totally different.
My passion for being a leader has evolved over the years, and now, at the University of Illinois, I have been able to experience the fruits of my hard work and dedication. I was elected to serve as the State Illinois PAS (Post-Secondary Agriculture Students) 2nd Vice President in 2014. I am also very involved with the Collegiate Farm Bureau, Agricultural Education Club, Collegiate FFA, and served as the intern for the Chief of Staff for the Illinois Student Senate in 2014. Furthermore, I am serving as a member of the Explore ACES Planning Committee, planning the 2016 U of I FFA Greenhand Conference, and coordinated the first ever U of I Agricultural Education Day.
4-H and the FFA prepared me professionally and helped mold me into who I am today, and I strongly urge students to become members. If I could give them any advice, it would be that the 4-H clover and FFA emblem are symbols of opportunity; but not just opportunity, they are symbols of students taking advantage of that opportunity. Each of us has our own strengths and weaknesses, our own talents and backgrounds. We all have something that we can bring to the table. When we all come together as a team, our special talents and skills are combined to create something great. Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. Every day we all have a choice about what our attitude will be for that day and we each have the opportunity to make out day a success. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the way people act. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is take advantage of opportunities and continue to have a positive outlook on life. We are all in charge of our attitudes and how we react to what life throws at us. Each of us has the power to achieve what we want in this lifetime. Seize the opportunity today, so that you can impact a life tomorrow.