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FFA 1996

Surviving high school in a blue corduroy jacket

Happy #NationalFFAWeek

The Blue corduroy Jacket, surviving high school, and thriving, because of heroes.

It only seems fitting to kick off my “hero series” this National FFA week.

When I was in high school, and even middle school, our home was fueled with a little too much anger and addiction. I, like many 16-year-olds, was desperately searching for me, but ill-equipped to find me. As I wandered a little aimlessly, and sometimes even disruptively, around the halls of North Harford High School, I landed in an ag class, and that section of North Harford High School would become a 2nd home for me over the next four years.

The two Ag teachers were more than teachers, they were more than FFA Advisors.  They are true reflections of an organization that continues to expertly grow the next generation of excellence. So, when they encouraged me to join FFA, and it wasn’t long before they encouraged me to participate in contests, off I went. Prepared public speaking, horse judging, floral design and even nursery landscape. I studied, learned, prepared, and competed from local and regional contests, to the dream team that won the Maryland State Horse Judging contest and went on to Nationals in Kansas City. Other than growing up in the country and riding horses, I wasn’t a farm kid.

I can look back and say those four years flew by. I can also look back and say those four years changed my life. And most importantly, I can look back and say without a doubt those two teachers are the reason. Two teachers that didn’t have to put in the hours, materials, travel or resources. Two teachers who taught, but more importantly, coached, educated, provided therapy, and fueled greatness. Two teachers who are my heroes.

Those of us in FFA at North Harford High School learned how to do things. We learned skills, professionalism, negotiation, event planning, communication, consequences, and sacrifice, and along the way, we had a lot of fun. We learned how to travel, how to study, how to shake hands, make eye contact, and ultimately how to live. These two teachers coached me through some of the toughest years of my journey. They opened the door that said I could go to college. These two teachers coached me through the FFA Career Fair to meet college representatives, coached me through filling out college paperwork, and then moved me from Harford County, Maryland to Bowling Green Kentucky into Western Kentucky University.

There have been a lot of years between August 1996, and today.  The years between moving to WKU, surviving, and thriving, to earn an Ag degree, to earning my first job and on to a career over 20 years deep in animal health. Wow, what a ride.

I can stand here and look at this blue corduroy FFA jacket with awards at the state and national levels, I see nursery operations, horticulture, public speaking, and horse proficiency. There’s a pin from the 68th National FFA convention in 1995 sponsored by Upjohn Animal Health. A pin denoting my position as the Treasurer of the North Harford High School FFA hangs by my name, but at the end of the day this jacket represents so much more. This jacket represents the experiences, the relationships, the friendships, and the skills that have given me everything that I have needed to create, survive, and celebrate this life God had planned for me. This blue corduroy jacket has given me a story to tell. This jacket has led me to this moment, this season, that after 20 years in Animal Health, I am saying I have more to share. All that was poured into me is celebrated when I look at this blue jacket.

As I venture out on my own to speak LIFE into young people pursuing careers in ag and equine, as I build JodiSpeaksLIFE, it’s the 1995 me that drives me. It’s the two high school ag teachers and FFA advisors at North Harford High School that poured confidence and courage into me that inspire me. They fueled a spark that is now JodiSpeaksLIFE. LIFE ~ Living, Inspired, Fulfilled, and Empowered.

To these two heroes, Mr. and Mrs. Adkins, I’ve said it before, and will keep saying it, thank you isn’t enough. You have inspired countless young people, whether we went on to pursue careers in agriculture or otherwise, you are the reason some of us survived our high school years. You are the reason we can interview, speak, shake hands, communicate, and above all, contribute.

This week, we celebrate National FFA week. As always, National FFA week means I celebrate you, Mark and Terry Adkins. Thank you.



Speaker of heart, hustle, heroes and life 

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