Last November, Mamie Hertel of Moore, Mont. became the first female national FFA officer from Montana when she was installed as the National FFA Central Region Vice President. Her term started immediately after the convention as her and her team began to serve the over 700,000 FFA members across the country.
However, with COVID-19 limiting travel and large gatherings like FFA conventions, this dramatically altered the way her officer team had to operate. Instead of traveling to conventions, Hertel has been at her home in Montana, delivering content and making connections with members and supporters virtually.
As she has had to stay adaptable, Hertel notes, “We all still have the same mission, even though our method has changed. Our mission as national officers is to connect with members, make an impact, and serve this organization and that has not changed, will not change, but our method of that has.”
Although her year of service looks a lot different than what she anticipated, Hertel is thankful for the time to reflect and still serve FFA members. She explains, “It’s really made me realize how rooted I am in my purpose.” She says her personal mission is “More To It All,” meaning there’s more opportunities, stories, and meaning to everything than what people might realize. Hertel and her team have been using social media platforms to encourage members to continue to serve their communities and find their purpose as well.
The team of six national officers has been spending more time at home, but they’re still hard at work. With this extra time, Hertel believes they’ve been able to grow closer, saying “I think that it’s been a cool opportunity that we’ve gotten to grow as a team, probably more than a lot of other national officer teams in ways because they’re so busy on the road that they maybe don’t have the time to slow down and call and chat with a teammate for two hours, whereas I get to do that almost every single day.”
Hertel has been using these unique circumstances as an opportunity to reach FFA members in new ways. Each week, Hertel prepares and posts a blog and a video centered around her personal motto, “More To It All,” where she shares positivity and highlights FFA members from across the country. Her teammates are producing similar content and they release it throughout the week on National FFA’s social media platforms.
Additionally, Hertel and her teammates are connecting with chapters and sponsors over video calls. About these virtual events, she explains, “Our goal with those is still the same and even though we’re not able to meet in person, we try to engage in the best way possible by having meaningful conversations and seeing how FFA can still provide opportunities to members in this time.”
In their roles as national officers, Hertel and her team are working to support the teams of state officers across the country adapt to these changes as well. Despite many state conventions and other FFA events being canceled across the country, state officers are still using this time to connect with members, especially through virtual FFA conventions or unique workshops. For example, state officers from across the country have been able to facilitate workshops together, like when officers from Kansas, Montana, and Alabama were able to virtually reach members across the country.
State officers have also been able to share some positive stories by highlighting examples of service projects chapters are doing in their states to serve their community. Hertel explains, “I think that this is a unique opportunity to serve our communities in lots of different ways that we probably wouldn’t normally have. I just think that it’s incredible that this isn’t just a time for people to slow down and get through, they’re pretty much making the most of everything they’re doing, taking this time to really make an impact because there is an incredible opportunity.”
FFA members across the country are still “Living to Serve,” like the Montana FFA member who was sewing masks during the pandemic, the Florida FFA member who is helping farmers harvest their produce, or the Indiana FFA chapter that has raised over $6,000 for their local food bank. FFA members are using this challenging time to make a positive impact.
Even though Hertel and her teammates aren’t experiencing a traditional year as National FFA Officers, they are adapting well and creating value for FFA members across the country. “The opportunities that have erupted because of all of this are just unprecedented and I think that our year looks a lot different, but when we look back and reflect on what it is we did, I think we can be proud of the fact that we were able to adapt and change and make the most out of it,” she says.