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Nelson elected FFA state secretary

On June 13, Paige Nelson of the Ellsworth FFA was elected to be the Wisconsin FFA state secretary. It was a momentous occasion as the Ellsworth FFA has not had a state officer in 50 years.

Nelson is a UW-River Falls student majoring in agricultural education and minoring in dairy science. She hopes to one day be an agricultural educator and FFA advisor. She grew up on her family's hobby farm with three younger siblings. Her passion for dairy and agriculture started at a young age on her grandparents farm.

Nelson's dream to be a Wisconsin state officer started her sophomore year of high school.

"(I was) sitting in an auditorium full of FFA members in their official dress ranging in age from middle school to high school," she explained. "It was after hearing the state officers speak and the national officer with her sweet southern accent share her message about service and leadership that I decided I wanted to serve members across the state once I completed high school."

Katie Christenson, the Ellsworth FFA advisor and Ellsworth agricultural education instructor, enjoyed having Nelson as a student.

"Paige has always had a passion for agriculture and is a bright young lady," she said. "She worked very hard while here at EHS and has since while attending the University of Wisconsin-River Falls."

Christenson knew Nelson had the potential to be a state officer.

"I have known for several years that Paige had all of the abilities and characteristics to become a state FFA officer," Christenson said. "Knowing our members as well as I do, I have a good insight on which members would like to be officers and which will make great officers. Being a state officer takes a special kind of person."

Nelson described the process to become a state officer as a journey — one that began in that auditorium as a high school sophomore. The years between that sectional leadership workshop and convention this year was spent preparing. She became more confident in her speaking abilities by participating in leadership development events and took time to practice dairy judging.

In April, she sent an application and resume to the state FFA center. Over the course of the winter and spring, she prepared for state office by meeting with past state officers at River Falls, her advisor and other mentors. From there, she arrived at state convention a day early to complete four interviews: a personal interview, a resume and application interview, a situational interview, and a group interview. The following day she participated in a writing activity and an exam about ag education, FFA and general ag facts. The interview scores were averaged and then added to the scores she received for the writing and exam to determine the top-two candidates from the section, who move onto the delegate round.

The two candidates then take turns appearing before two delegates from each school in the section. Each candidate is given a two-minute introduction speech on why they want to be a state FFA officer, draw an ag-issued topic and speak on that for three minutes, draw an FFA program topic to speak on for three minutes, an extemporaneous speech for two minutes, and answer one question picked from all the delegates. The delegates make the final decision of who they want to represent the section."

After six years of hard work, Nelson is excited for the coming busy year.

"I am incredibly excited to serve the members who selected me as well as their advisors and the many other members and advisors throughout the state," Nelson said. "I will be very busy with FFA this year and want to make it my priority so I can make sure I am serving others to the best of my ability as well as allowing myself the time to take in all the little moments that I won't be able to replicate.

"I hope by ending the 50-year drought, I have inspired members in the Ellsworth FFA chapter to chase their goals and to get back up and try again after not quite reaching their goals the first time."