"Living to Serve" in Washington, D.C.

"Living to Serve" in Washington, D.C.

Jul 9
Jacob Dickey, Senior in Agricultural Science Education

As a student enrolled in agricultural education in the College of ACES, I find myself loving the time I spend with students ranging in age from pre-kindergarten to high school.  In my time studying agricultural science education, I’ve discovered that my true passion lies in the overlap between agriculture and youth.  This summer I am living the dream in Washington, D.C., doing exactly what I love.  Each week I spend over 100 hours as a facilitator for the National FFA Organization’s Washington Leadership Conference.  The conference challenges students to become engaged citizens and committed, especially to the last line of the FFA Motto, “Living to Serve.”

Over five days, students explore citizenship, discover their strengths, passions and purpose, check out the power of ‘we’, take action and serve those in need in the District of Columbia.  They do so under the dome of the U.S. Capitol, beneath the shadow of the Washington Monument, and within the watchful eyes of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Thomas Jefferson.  The final day of the week is spent packing over 55,000 meals for the District of Columbia Food Bank. These packaged meals are used the following week at the food bank.

While this conference definitely shifts students’ perceptions and changes lives, it has absolutely changed my life more and proved to me that I am where I need to be.  I sit here in D.C., ready for yet another week of 340 students to come through, but I am anxious to get back to the place that made it all possible for me—the University of Illinois.  The College of ACES and the agricultural education program have challenged and inspired me to continue to grow as a facilitator and an educator.  I know that I wouldn’t be living my dream in our nation’s capital today without the help of the professors and faculty who have invested so much into me.  Before long, I’ll find myself in their shoes through student teaching and beginning my career within the confines of agricultural education—helping youth learn, grow, and achieve, much like the educators I look up to have done for me.

Jacob's "selfie" with a few FFA members and the Capitol in the background.