Crane student heading for national FFA convention

CRANE All of Taylor Villarreal’s hard work has culminated with her selection as a Texas voting delegate at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Ind.

A Crane High School senior, Villarreal will head to the Midwestern city Oct. 27-30. A variety of venues will be used for the event.

While there, she will attend some meetings and vote on some matters, including new national officers.

Jolee Seabourn, the agriculture teacher who leads the Crane FFA program, said national champions also are awarded that week.

FFA has three different seasons, Seabourn said.

“You have your LDEs, which is your leadership development events, and you have your CDEs; that’s your career development events; and then you have your speaking events. So the kids that have made it out of their state level and made it to nationals, they’re all going to be competing that week and going to be trying to be national champions.

Crane is in Area 2 FFA, which encompasses the largest land mass in Texas.

“I was a chapter officer first my freshman year. My sophomore and my junior year, I was a district officer for the Big Bend District. And my junior going into my senior year, I decided that I wanted to be an area officer and you go through a series of questions and interview one-on- one with 10 different people that are also in FFA. You have a stand-and-deliver topic and you have to speak to other fellow FFA members and they will rate you. Then at the end, you come up with a speech and you express your feelings for FFA and say why you would like to be an area officer in front of Area 2 and they vote you in,” Villarreal said.

The 17-year-old (who will be 18 this month) has been in FFA all four years of high school.

A big part of her interest in the organization comes from her dad. Along with her sister, she also has a step brother.

“He was very big on ag, and then once my sister got into high school, she joined FFA,” Villarreal said.

Going to the national convention, she noted, is a big honor, especially for a small school in Crane.

“You really get to show out to everyone and just be on your best behavior and I’m one of the very few from Texas going, so we have to honor Texas over there, too,” Villarreal said.

She added that there are also students attending from Seminole, Sweetwater and Wall.

“I’m going to be a voting delegate. … I am voting the new national officers into place,” she said.

If they have any changes in the constitution, or the national rules of any contest, they will put that before in parliamentary procedure and vote on it, Seabourn said. All the delegates have a vote.

Villarreal has to spend a lot of time formally dressed. On a recent Tuesday, she wore her official dress — an FFA jacket, long-sleeved white shirt, a scarf, slacks or panty hose and solid black shoes.

“When you go to the national convention, or any convention, it’s really hard to keep up with your children because they all look the same. They all just blend in, but it’s cool because that kind of gets them out of their shell,” Seabourn said.

Something Villarreal is looking forward to is seeing the different names on the back of the FFA jackets members are wearing.

“… I’ll show you the back of mine. It says Texas in the Area 2 citation,” Villarreal said.

Seabourn said every FFA jacket nationwide says where they’re from.

“Most of them are basic and say Crane, Texas. Once you get the honor of being an area officer, your Texas gets moved up to the top and then it has your area association,” Seabourn added.

You can tell their level based on their jackets and pins.

“Fun fact,” Villarreal said, “I actually have a chapter, district and area jacket.”

The last person that went to the national convention from Crane was Villarreal’s sister, Ashleigh, who is now attending West Texas A&M University in Canyon. Taylor said Ashleigh plans to become an agriculture teacher.

Formed in 2015, the Crane FFA chapter has 35 members, Seabourn said.

Villarreal said she is honored to be following in her sister’s footsteps.

“She definitely has led me in the right direction in life and I’ve always looked up to her,” Villarreal said.

She added that she, too, wants to become an agriculture teacher, but she’s not sure where she’s going to school yet.

Villarreal said she enjoys FFA because she likes connecting with people and has picked up a lot of leadership skills.

“… I have learned so much through FFA that I don’t think I would have ever learned without it,” she said.

She added that she shows pigs, but won’t be participating in the Permian Basin Fair.

“I don’t do summer pigs … especially this summer because I was always at something for FFA. I did not have time for an animal, but I will be doing it later in the fall,” she said.

Going to Indianapolis doesn’t just mean packing for a trip. It involves a lot of preparation.

“There’s actually a lot that goes into it,” Villarreal said. “A lot of studying; I would say knowing who you’re going for, especially with how they talk, how their mannerisms are so we know who we’re choosing and who is right.”

She said they look for someone who will represent them well throughout the whole journey, like the national level, and just making sure they’re going to take good care of us as well.”

Villarreal is looking forward to participating in the convention because she knows there are others who want to go, but aren’t able to.

“… I’m excited to go so I can show others what it’s like. I plan on taking lots of pictures and videos so I can show my home chapter when I come back and let them know how it was,” Villarreal said.

Seabourn said she’s very proud of Villarreal because she knows how hard it is just to become a district officer, let alone moving up to the higher ranks.

“It’s pretty much icing on the cake for Taylor. She definitely deserves it. She’s worked very hard. She participates in giving back at all levels, so she’s done great for our chapter here in Crane and was a great president to the Big Bend District last year and is an excellent vice president this year to the area officers; a lot of enthusiasm and general love for the FFA,” Seabourn added.

Villarreal said she would tell others to get involved in the organization.

“I would say I talk about it … daily at least three times,” she added.

Seabourn was raised in Crane and involved in 4-H. She went to Tarleton State University, got into collegiate FFA and became a teacher.

“I actually didn’t want to be an ag teacher at first. Then … one of my professors offered me a grant, so I got my master’s and became an ag teacher and then moved back home,” Seabourn said.

“… I’m glad to be back home and I am excited to grow the program and be successful,” she added.

COVID hurt the chapter in 2019-2020 because it hit right around when competitions were starting. But Seabourn said she expects more students to get involved this year.

“… Now this year, we finally get to compete and be together. At the end of last year, we finally got to travel and compete like the sports did so I think that helped with almost doubling our numbers,” Seabourn said.

She added that having Villarreal going to nationals could draw more students, as well.

“… A lot of the kids in Crane have never traveled outside of Crane, other than maybe to Odessa to get groceries every now and then. But a lot of them definitely have never been out of the state and hopefully it encourages them to think outside the box and get involved,” Seabourn said.