TIFTON — Andy Paul called it “the most thrilling moment of my life.” It was indeed a minute in time the 19-year-old sophomore at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College will remember, the day he was named National FFA President.
“Two people from the South Region had just been named, and I started shaking my head,” Paul, an agricultural education major from Lexington, said. “I told myself this just isn’t my year. Then I heard ‘from the state of Georgia,’ and I threw my hands in the air. The retiring president grabbed me by the back of my jacket, and we sprinted to the stage.”
Forty-two students were in the running for six national officer positions at the recent National FFA convention in Louisville, Ky. Vice-presidents selected were Stephen McBride from Tennessee, Kristen Schmidt from Colorado, Ruth Ann Myers from Kentucky, and Caleb Gustin from New Mexico. Victoria Maloch from Arkansas will serve as secretary.
“It’s definitely an SEC-dominated officers’ team,” Paul said with a grin. “We’ll get to know each other really well because we’ll spend the entire year traveling together.”
Ah, the travel. Once he finishes his fall semester classes at ABAC at Thanksgiving, Paul takes a plane to Indianapolis, Ind., to the National FFA Center. He’ll spend a month there for speech training, facilitation training, and learning how to be the most effective national officer he can be.
Then it’s home for a Christmas week with his parents, Jeff and Marsha Paul, and his sister, Sarah. After that, the whirlwind schedule really begins.
“We’ll return to Indianapolis, and then we’re off to Idaho for an ‘experience week,’” Paul said. “We’re going to Japan in late January and then on to about 20 different states the rest of the year.”
Paul will celebrate his 20th birthday in Japan on his first international trip ever. In fact, he just submitted all the information for his passport.
“We’ll learn about Japanese agriculture and meet with future farmers in Japan,” Paul said. “That visit will give us a more global view of agriculture. Ag plays a part in everything we do. We’ve got to find a way to feed nine billion people in this world by 2050.”
Not that he plans to accomplish that task all by himself. He will have plenty of help when he meets as many of the 610,240 members of FFA in the United States as possible. He also hopes to spend time speaking at some of the 7,665 chapters as well as with state and national officials.
“FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students,” Paul said. “I am really looking forward to this chance to interact with people and share with them the importance of agriculture.”
A 2013 graduate of Oglethorpe County High School, Paul had heard about ABAC all his life but took advantage of a Stallion Day in November, 2012 to visit the campus. Fate intervened.
“They drew a number for a free meal plan, and I won,” Paul said. “I took that as a sign that I needed to come to ABAC. I love it. I love the people here, and all the professors are very helpful.”
Paul is the first ABAC student to ever be elected National FFA President. When he was serving as the Georgia State FFA President in 2013-14, he and his team of officers traveled the state. Six of those state officers chose ABAC as their college destination.
While enjoying his moment in the sun now, Paul is already looking ahead to the time that he pursues a career as a middle school FFA advisor or works for an agricultural company in public relations to strengthen ties with farmers.
The young man from the small town just outside of Athens has come a long way from the day in the first grade when he showed his first pig, “Little Bit,” at a livestock show.
Did he ever think he would be traveling the world for FFA?
“I told myself that I would be a national officer one day,” Paul said. “But it was more bark than bite. I never would have imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be the National President.”
Courtesy ABAC Office Of Public Relations