FFA and CALS provide network of lifelong friendships to students
By Teresa Suits, agricultural education and communication master’s student (BS ’17)
Family has always been important to agricultural education and communication (AEC) freshman Kyle Garner. The close-knit, family-like atmosphere that FFA and the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences brought him have shaped Garner’s leadership style and career aspirations.
Surrounded by agriculture teachers since birth, Garner always had the desire to be an involved FFA member who would one day attend the University of Florida. As a shy, quiet sixth grader, Garner never imagined he would one day serve as the Florida FFA president. Through FFA, Garner grew into an organized, people-oriented leader while creating lifelong friendships. He fondly remembers the day his hard-work paid off when he was elected to state office.
The experiences Garner gained as the state FFA president from 2017-2018 helped him realize his passion and career aspirations. In middle school, Garner wanted to follow in his family’s footsteps and coach an FFA chapter. While serving in state office, Garner realized he enjoyed communicating with the public about agriculture. He developed a passion for lobbying while advocating for funding for FFA, and decided to make it a future career. CALS was the perfect fit as the next step in Garner’s education with curriculum focused on communicating current agricultural issues topics.
FFA set the foundation for Garner’s successful college career as a CALS student. As an FFA member, Garner discovered his leadership style, which enhances his roles in campus organizations today. Within his first semester of college, Garner joined the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, found employment as a student assistant in the CALS Den’s Office, and was elected a CALS senator for UF Student Government. Although Garner has retired his blue and gold jacket, he still fulfills the servant leadership mission of FFA through his involvement on campus and in the community.
Both FFA and CALS extend a family bond and have “similar focuses, values and a foundation of servant leadership,” according to Garner. “CALS offers the same feeling of family that I found in FFA.”
In fact, Garner’s roommate, Stephen Singleton, is also a previous state officer and current CALS Ambassador. “FFA brought us together and now it extends into college,” Garner said. Although Stephen is two years older than Kyle, their FFA friendship has developed into a strong bond as college peers.“FFA and CALS connect people no matter the age difference.”
The 2018 National FFA Convention has ended, but the familial connection between FFA and CALS will continue on well into the future.