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Why I Believe in Leadership Contests for Youth

Put kids under fire and see how they react. It's great training for the future.

My background is in working with youth, especially in FFA and 4-H. One of my favorite activities to coach or judge is parliamentary procedure. In simple terms, it's a contest which helps students learn how to run a meeting properly and efficiently.

If you've suffered through ag meetings where you are a member and they ran on until midnight because the president just let things drag on, or decisions were made and you didn't feel you had adequate input, then you already know the value of learning how to run meetings properly.

Hopefully, many of these young people who participate in chapter meeting contests now will be leaders in their ag communities in the future. If a group tries to spend money without passing a motion to make it official and get it in the minutes – yes, it's happened – they will speak up and make sure it is handled correctly.

Related: I Blame The FFA For Changes In Rural YouthThe other side benefit of these contests is that it puts students to the test. They enter a room, do opening ceremonies and open the meeting, then deal with a series of five to seven motions or parliamentary actions they had no idea to expect before they walked into the room.

The contest requires knowledge beforehand, and the ability to think on your feet during the meeting. It's also a setting which gives students a chance to show how they can be passionate and discuss the pros and cons of a proposal, even if it only exists within the context of that meeting and is no longer real once they walk out the room.

The lessons they learn are real. It was my privilege to judge two section-level contests recently. The top two teams out of six competing at each section go to the state finals held at Purdue University during the Indiana FFA State Convention in June.

Ask the sharp young lady who forgot her opening ceremonies part what she learned. She's likely given that part a hundred times perfectly. But under fire and with thoughts of motions and other distractions, her mind blanked out – the words stopped coming. She recovered later in the meeting. You can bet she will know to relax and get through the contest one piece at a time when she is in a similar situation.

Related: FFA: Developing Our Future Leaders In Agriculture

Ask the young lady on another team who realized the president had made an error and corrected it by making a motion before the meeting adjourned what quick thinking can do. Without her action, her team would not have been competitive.

About 125 students in all paraded before me as I judged those two contests. Each one is better and a bit stronger for having backed down the butterflies and came into that room with strangers as judges than if they had not competed at all. They are all winners. And they're all just a bit better prepared to get up and make a comment to express their opinion, or to comment if a meeting isn't running properly in the future.

You can't help but feel encouraged about the future of agriculture after you see that kind of talent and dedication on display.

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