The seven state officers stand on stage at PBA for the NE State FFA Convention
Emily Kuss and her teammates take the stage for the opening session of the 94th Nebraska State FFA Convention. Photo courtesy of Nebraska FFA Foundation.

Pinnacle Bank Arena was filled with blue FFA jackets for April 6-8 as the 94th Nebraska FFA convention was back in person for the first time since 2019. 

And Emma Kuss was in the thick of the action. 

Kuss and her six Nebraska FFA Officer teammates were busy leading sessions recognizing students, thanking sponsors and celebrating the previous year in Nebraska FFA.

For Kuss, a freshman at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from Seward studying horticulture, the event was the culmination of a hectic yet satisfying year. 

Nebraska FFA officers are members who are in their freshman or sophomore year of college. They are elected from chapters across the state to serve for one year: meeting members, connecting with sponsors, leading events and finally, hosting the state convention.

As a senior in high school, Kuss went through two rounds of days-long interviews for a spot on the 2021-2022 Nebraska FFA officer team. She was elected on Zoom during the virtual state convention in April 2021 as the state secretary. She knew there was a risk her entire year would also be online.

“It’s something I’m so passionate about I knew I had to do it anyway,” Kuss said.

Kuss started her year with Zoom meetings, but it was quickly transformed back into an all in-person experience. She and her teammates hosted chapter officer leadership training, where chapter officers come to Aurora, Nebraska, for workshops and activities hosted by the state officers to learn about serving their chapters across the state. 

IMG 6484 300x200 - UNL student and her team help Nebraska FFA convention return to in-person event
The 2021-2022 Nebraska State Officer Team includes Victoria Ference, Bailey Robinson, Gracie Schneider, Emily Martindale, Jaya Nelson, Ellie Wanek and Emma Kuss. Photo by Nebraska FFA.

The team met business and industry leaders and sponsors in agriculture. They traveled to Indianapolis for the National FFA Convention and attended and hosted many Nebraska FFA events throughout the year, all while being full-time college students.

“Half of your time is trying to do school and stay on top of classes and communicate with professors and then also, the other half, you’re focused on being with FFA members and giving it your all for your state officer year,” Kuss said.

Nebraska’s state convention hasn’t been in person since 2019, so for many schools, only a handful of their seniors had attended before. Nebraska FFA has over 11,000 members, and as Kuss announced at each general session, there were 6,007 members and numerous guests present at convention this year. Sarah Heideman, Nebraska FFA adviser, estimates there were 7,500 people at the last general session, which included guests and parents. 

“There’s this human element that can’t be replaced over the screen,” Heideman said. “Everyone was very eager to be back in person.”

Heideman said that many of the pre-registered items available to students to chapters, such as workshops and tours, sold out in minutes. With this growth and demand at state convention, Heideman said they plan to have more programming and venue space next year. 

For state officers like Kuss, Heideman said that state convention is a celebration of the past year they’ve had. 

“When everyone is all together, you can truly see the size and scope of the people you’re impacting.”

Senior Journalism major from Elgin, Nebraska. Minoring in agricultural communications and currently interning at Vivayic.