A 20-year-old Nebraskan is setting her sights on becoming Nebraska’s 15th-ever representative on the National FFA Organization officer team this week.
Elizabeth “Libby” Wilkins will travel to Indianapolis to the FFA headquarters as the Nebraska state representative Nov. 1-4 to compete against 34 finalists from across the country for six spots on the 2024 national officer team. The 35 finalists will undergo intensive interviews, cuts and on-the-spot presentations until the 2024 national officers are selected.
Wilkins, originally from Ainsworth, served as a vice president for the 2022 Nebraska state FFA office. At the end of her term, she competed against her state officer peers to represent the state nationally. Each state is only allowed to nominate one representative to compete each November. After several interviews in Nebraska, Wilkins was selected late this summer and began training for the national competition.
Fourteen Nebraskans have served as national officers which ranks Nebraska in the top 50 percent. Ohio and Texas are the highest ranked with 34 and 30 national officers selected from the state, respectively. States such as Hawaii and New York have just one out of 564 total national officers since its start in 1928.
“It’s time for Nebraska to be announced as a national officer,” said Nebraska State FFA Advisor Sarah Heideman from Wahoo.
The last national officer from the state was in 2012. Just over a decade later, Wilkins is ready for the job.
“Libby’s kind heart and her ability to make connections with all sorts of people are her most shining characteristics,” Heideman said.
Once nominated, Wilkins dedicated herself to learning how to best prepare herself for national officer interviews. She spends several hours each week meeting industry professionals, studying areas with which she is unfamiliar and gaining new insights into her reason for applying.
“I feel called to serve other people – that’s what a national officer does. For a year, you have the ability to affect younger students,” Wilkins said.
Wilkins’ “why” behind running stems back to lessons she wishes she had heard as a young student in her Ainsworth FFA chapter.
“Libby, your value is not in your success; it is in who you are,” Wilkins said. “If I can speak that into just one person’s life, that would be amazing.”
Wilkins departs to compete at the 96th National FFA Convention and Expo on Nov. 1 in Indianapolis. There, she will compete against the 34 other finalists in a rigorous interview process to vie for six spots on the national officer team. Interview questions range from personal passions to industry knowledge.
Around 950,000 students participate in FFA – 12,000 of which are members of the 214 Nebraska chapters. The job of a national officer is to visit as many high school student participants as possible. National officers attend state conventions, present at individual chapter meetings and attend events at the request of state advisors.
“Agriculture is the backbone of our state,” Conference and Event Coordinator of Nebraska FFA Association Amanda Hoffmann said.
Hoffmann has assisted Wilkins in her training for several rounds of interviews.
Once in Indianapolis, Wilkins will meet, once as a group and with each interviewer individually, nine current students from across the country selected for the nominating committee. She will also perform an extemporaneous speech.
After those meetings, the top 50 percent from each region and the top 50 percent overall will complete more interviews concerning how each candidate plans to serve the agriculture community across the nation. National officers hold their positions for a calendar year and are selected at the national convention each year.
“Libby has the right mindset and heart for service,” Hoffmann said. “She’s gone above and beyond, constantly wanting to be coached to better herself.”
Regardless of the outcome, Wilkins said she has made many connections that will serve her throughout her lifetime. In her preparations, Wilkins said she has connected with prominent leaders in the agriculture industry including CEO of Akrs Equipment Kevin Clark. Connections she hopes will assist her in her dream of helping under-developed communities internationally with agriculture practices.
Heideman said FFA is a great way for students to start their post-high school experience.
The selected national officers will start training for their positions in Indianapolis, creating presentations and learning more about their responsibilities. The six officers then travel to different FFA chapters across the nation to state conventions and for chapter visits. National officers have also served as spokespeople for agriculture legislation.
Wilkins is an Agriculture leadership, education and communication sophomore at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
You can watch Wilkins and the other candidates live on Nov. 4 as the newest officer team is announced.