- Posted byon October 10, 2012 at 1:42 PM EDT
Jacob Dickey is being honored as a Champion of Change for his efforts in 4-H and Future Farmers of America.
Growing up, my family always stressed the importance and value of a quality education. Before my grandfather passed away, I often remember him asking how school was going, what I was learning, and how I would apply it to my life. I could always answer the first two questions, but the last one never failed to make me ponder. After a swift chuckle, each time he reminded me to pursue rigorous coursework in Math, Science and English. However, I always remember him stressing to take vocational courses. I never fully understood the importance of his words until I began to pursue agricultural education and became a member of FFA.
Agricultural Education has done more for me than my core academic subjects could have ever done. While I appreciate the knowledge I gained from my calculus and physics classes, none of these courses developed my skills in premier leadership, personal growth and career success. These three skills are the foundation of all agricultural education programs in the United States.
Throughout my years in agriculture education, I have learned about various topics in agriculture- from crop sciences to animal production to business management and more. I have also cultivated the ability to stand up for something I felt passionate about and learned to share my views in front of thousands of people. I developed crucial skills in networking, problem solving, public speaking, leadership and organization. My agricultural education has provided me with an abundance of experiences, from visiting with high school students who have found passion and purpose in agriculture, to traveling to Europe and observing the differences in education and agriculture.
I am forever grateful that I took my grandfather’s wisdom to heart. Each year, FFA and agricultural education give over 520,000 of my fellow students the opportunity to define their future by planting individual seeds of leadership, passion and opportunity. It gives students the chance to apply what they learned into real world situations, and inspires students to go above and beyond in ways many of them have never dreamed. The one thing I will always appreciate the most about agricultural education is the value it places on the world and making a positive difference in the lives of others.
Finding unique and innovative ways to bring agricultural students together with civic organizations was something I felt immensely passionate about. In order to foster growth amongst the members I served, I knew it was important to get students excited to make a difference in the lives of others while inspiring themselves through the process. With the connections I made myself as an FFA member, I brought together businesses and civic organizations in my state, including the Coca Cola Bottlers Association, the Illinois Special Olympics, and numerous local groups and organizations. I started a service campaign dedicated to the Special Olympics, revolving around the last three words of the FFA motto, “Living to Serve.” Once just an idea, the concept turned into a full blown campaign that reached over one-thousand students in schools across Central Illinois. Personally, whenever I think of education, life and serving others, I always think of the quote “go the extra mile; it’s never crowded.”
Reflecting back, I realize that giving the students the chance to make a difference through interacting with those in the community is more powerful than any classroom curriculum. That’s why I believe in the FFA and its ability to shape young teens into powerful leaders of the upcoming generations. The FFA leaves students with a sturdy foundation to go out and achieve dreams, accomplish goals and change the world. The FFA gives students the chance to believe in something larger than their own lives. The FFA inspires students to step up in their schools, their communities and their world, striving for a better tomorrow. The FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of others through premier leadership, personal growth, and career success.
To the FFA members out there reading this, remember at the end of the day that you extend your own life by contributing to something that will outlast you. That's why the FFA is so special. And that's why, when you hang up that blue jacket for the final time, you should continue to love it, to give to it, and to make sure that the opportunities you have been given-the education you have been given- is maintained. You should treat the organization you grew in like a jewel in your life and in your heart because of what it did for you. Regardless of where we go in life after wearing the blue and gold, those of us who wore that corduroy jacket have been bonded by agriculture, inspired to make a difference, and cultivated into the next generation of leaders. We are now, and will always be, forever blue.
Jacob E. Dickey is a sophomore studying Agricultural Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
- Posted byon October 10, 2012 at 1:19 PM EDT
Ridge Howell is being honored as a Champion of Change for her efforts in 4-H and Future Farmers of America.
What a fantastic surprise to be chosen as a Champion of Change and to represent the Philadelphia FFA and WB Saul high school of Agricultural Sciences in Philadelphia, PA. Not an obvious location for one of the nation’s largest FFA chapters, Philadelphia is home to fourteen agricultural educators making strides in horticulture, animal science, natural resource management, food science, and agricultural production. As one of the head FFA advisors, I am responsible for trip coordination, Career Development Events, Leadership Conferences, and FFA activities throughout the high school. Saul boasts four Pennsylvania State FFA officers and currently one National FFA candidate. Needless to say, Saul has the best FFA chapter tee shirts around!
I teach Advanced Placement Environmental Science, AgroEcoogy, and Urban Gardening. With Saul’s agricultural uniqueness I have had the privilege to help found, coordinate, and facilitate the Henry Got Crops! Community Supported Agricultural Partnership between Saul High School, Weavers Way Cooperative, and Fairmount Park. This fantastic CSA allows students to have a true hands on working perspective of agricultural vegetable production, compost production, and currently, a native berry/fruit tree nursery. Henry Got Crops! serves as an example of true community partnership that supports students, their learning and their own personal growth. Appropriately named by an AgroEcology student for Saul’s location on Henry Avenue, Henry Got Crops! demonstrates the challenges and successes of farming without chemicals and enables students to see the value in sustainable crop production.
At Saul and within the Philadelphia FFA Chapter, I am also responsible for the coordination of the Outward Bound programming, the World Food Prize Programming, the Students Run Philly Style Marathon Training Program, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Engineers without Borders programming. I also co-facilitate the Mentally Gifted Program and work with a wonderful scientist through the Scientists as Teachers - Teachers as Scientists program. Most importantly, ecology speaking, I have facilitated the entire school’s recycling efforts. Through contamination, inappropriate receptacles and questionable collection methods, Saul can now safely say that it is recycling to the best of its ability and that the amount of recyclable waste entering landfills has been dramatically diminished.
Never did I think that Mr. Smokers faith in a little organization called It’s Our World Too or Mom’s relentless work in the small “truck” garden would land me a space as a Champion of Change. I hope that I am able to empower my students in such a manner and to create more agents of change within Philadelphia communities.
Jessica Naugle McAtamney is an agricultural educator at W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
- Posted byon October 10, 2012 at 12:03 PM EDT
Ridge Howell is being honored as a Champion of Change for his efforts in 4-H and Future Farmers of America.
Let me start by saying how honored I am to be chosen as a White House Champion of Change. I find it incredible to be recognized for something that I enjoy doing. I believe making a difference starts at home through a willingness to embrace change. While sometimes viewed as negative, change is often a really positive thing. Our future depends on change that will be sparked by the youth of our country, one family, one community, one state, one country at a time. In order to really champion change, American youth need to be encouraged to lead and to serve. My goal is to spark this desire in other youth in my hometown and to spread this desire to create change around the country.
I was first inspired about four years ago after my first Oklahoma State FFA Convention. The primary theme of the convention was to create positive change in our own communities. I learned that I had the opportunities to impact change if I would just seize those opportunities. Upon returning from the convention I immediately started planning how I could practice making positive changes in my community. I decided to throw myself into community work; this would provide the best opportunity to champion change. Over the next three years, I became involved in every aspect of the community. I found that there are always new and better ways to do things and began seeking out opportunities to make a difference. The first event that I really had a hand in improving was the annual Senior Citizens’ Prom hosted by the Checotah High School Student Council. This project is exactly what it sounds like, a prom for the senior citizens of my community (and yes they do wear tuxedos and formal dresses, and the lady’s always have their hair done). This was a great way to involve many students in a fun way, and it naturally made me want to come up with more and more community service projects!
I helped orchestrate and work a town wide “trash off day” where my fellow FFA members and I hauled off about nineteen tons of trash and debris that had accumulated following two severe ice storms. One of my longest term community service projects is the Senior Citizens’ Lawn Mowing Program. I helped my agriculture education instructor create this program a little over three years ago. Each week during the summer, my fellow FFA members and I go to the local senior citizens’ center and draw two names. These two individuals are the recipients of a free lawn mowing service and sometimes other types of assistance around their homes. The best part of this program is the time spent with these elderly citizens, listening to the stories they tell while we are working. I have learned so many valuable life lessons from their knowledge and wisdom, beyond what I could ever learn in a classroom setting.
The project I’m most proud of was developed within the last year, following a grant application submitted by my agriculture education teacher. At the end of the 2011-2012 school year, my FFA chapter was selected for a National FFA “Food for All” grant. This grant gave my FFA chapter $2,500 dollars to plant a community garden. As the incoming chapter FFA president, I was able to help build this program from the ground up. To date we have picked over 1,680 pounds of produce including vegetables such as squash, zucchini, tomatoes, green beans, jalapeno peppers, and eggplant. Through many hours of hard work the garden is still producing today. The produce is taken to our local senior citizen center and distributed to the citizens there. This is another great chance to gain knowledge and wisdom from the elders of my community and to learn more history about my community and my Native American culture.
I’m so thankful for the honor being bestowed upon me and realize I would have never had this opportunity had it not been for the continual support of my agriculture education teacher, Jason McPeak. This man is an example of community service and inspires me to be a service oriented citizen. If I could leave you with one thought, it would be a quote from Aristotle that says: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Ridge Howell is a high school senior in Checotah, Oklahoma.
- Posted byon October 7, 2012 at 9:13 AM EDT
This year in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month at the White House visitors to the East Wing will enjoy select artworks from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Collection of Latino Art from September 15, 2012 to October 15, 2012.
President Obama stated in his National Hispanic Heritage Month Proclamation that Hispanics “have enriched every aspect of our national identity with traditions that stretch across centuries and reflect the many ancestries that comprise the Hispanic community.” Through the use of different mediums, these featured pieces have enriched the art community by portraying the spirit of Latino neighborhoods and residents. These pieces, “Los Privados,” “El Fireboy y El Mingo,” Joseph Rodriguez’s untitled photograph, “La Rumba Supermarket,” and “Innocent Age” are unique and are prominently featured at the White House and exhibit the Latino culture in America.
Pedro Cervantez’s painting, Los Privados, depicts a humble structure seen within the rural landscape. Through this visual, Cervantez portrays how immigrant groups transform the look of their adopted home.
Gilbert “Magu” Lujan was an activist, artist, and one of the pioneers in Chicano art in Los Angeles. Lujan’s piece, El Fireboy y El Mingo, invites the viewer to see a glimpse of Lujan’s imagination. This piece depicts Lujan as a cartoon character with fiery hair, and as a dog with humanistic features. His humor was considered to be his secret ingredient in his works.
Through the use of realism Rodríguez’s photograph extends an arm, and welcomes the viewer into Rodriguez’s perspective of New York overlooking his neighborhood.
Sanchez identified with his adopted city of New York that he would often refer to himself as a “New Yorker from Camagüey.” In the 1980s, the artist turned to the urban landscape of Latino neighborhoods where commercial establishments like bodegas, or corner stores, were named after places, people and things from the Caribbean.
In the screenprint, Innocent Age, Kathy Vargas manipulates existing photographs to call attention to the rich memories they bear. It is a tribute to the late Texas state senator, Gregory Luna, who championed the education of all children. Luna once said: "Take care of the children of this state. They are the future of Texas."
Julie Rodriguez is the Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement
- Posted byon October 5, 2012 at 5:13 PM EDT
Today, the Obama Administration announced nearly $2 million in competitive grants to Tribal Education Agencies (TEAs) under the State-Tribal Education Partnership – or STEP – program. During the Department of Education’s 2010 regional tribal consultations, tribal officials consistently expressed concerns about the lack of opportunities for Tribes to meaningfully participate in the education of their own children. The STEP Program is, in part, a response to those concerns, and provides funding intended to elevate the role of Tribal Education Agencies in providing a complete and competitive education to Native American students – in tribal schools as well as in public schools.
Under the STEP Program, for the first time ever, the Department is awarding competitive grants to foster greater involvement of Tribal Education Agencies in the education of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students attending public schools. The great majority, some 92 percent, of American Indian and Alaska Native students attend public schools that fall under the jurisdiction of pertinent State and local educational authorities. The STEP Program will provide several Tribes with opportunities to meaningfully participate in the education of their children through increased formal collaboration with States.
- Posted byon October 5, 2012 at 12:27 PM EDT
"Last evening I participated in the 'Lone Sailor Awards', an annual event that recognizes a distinguished American with ties to the U.S. Navy. The evening’s primary honoree was Everett Alvarez, a perfect way to kick-off Hispanic Heritage Month.
Ev Alvarez's incredible story embodies the core values of Hispanic America: faith, family, patriotism. This product of California's San Joaquin's Valley was a young naval aviator, piloting A-4 Skyhawks from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS CONSTELLATION in 1964, during the engagement that would come to be known as the Gulf of Tonkin, and recognized as the kick-off to the Vietnam War. When enemy anti-aircraft artillery hit his aircraft, he was forced to eject over Vietnam. Captured, he would go on to spend the next 8 1/2 years in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton." Enduring intense physical torture, long periods of solitary confinement, and psychological punishment, Alvarez remains the longest held Prisoner of War in American history.
Only his faith borne by a Catholic upbringing, his commitment to see his family once again, and a patriotism that steeled him during those brutal torture sessions, allowed him to "Return with Honor." Commander Alvarez would physically rehabilitate, and re-qualify in the aircraft. After his naval service, Alvarez would go on to serve as the Deputy Director of the Peace Corps, and a senior leader at the Veteran's Administration.
Today students who attend Everett Alvarez High School in Salinas, California, or use the Post Office named in his honor, and thousands of others inspired by his courage, follow his footsteps, and in the great American tradition, seek to earn a place at the national table through service to the country. They seek to earn a place at that table through their sweat, their work, and in some cases their blood. They use a GI Bill to attend college, a VA Loan to purchase a home, or hang out a shingle and start a small business. It's America at it's best.
President Obama's commitment and support for the 9-11 GI Bill, which for the first time builds on this iconic program by making the benefit transferable to a spouse or the children of a veteran, serves to extend that great tradition to the next generation."
Juan M. Garcia is the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (M&RA)
- Posted byon October 5, 2012 at 10:16 AM EDT
Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the International Trade Administration Blog.
Violence. Narco-trafficking. Illegal Immigration. A place of great insecurity. Listen to the national media and these are the images they would have you believe define and characterize the U.S.-Mexico Border. It’s true, Mexico is confronting serious security challenges and is working hard to tackle them, making progress each day in part with the assistance of the United States. But the benefits derived from scale and magnitude of our economic partnership with Mexico—still one of the best performing and fastest growing economies in the G20 and OECD—literally dwarf those challenges. And that’s a story that’s well worth remembering.
That’s why earlier this week in Tempe, Arizona, I convened and, together with Arizona State University’s Center for Trans-border Studies, co-hosted a bi-national conference focused on the commercial importance of the border region. The conference, entitled “Realizing the Economic Strength of Our 21st Century Border: Trade, Education, and Jobs,” brought together a diverse and distinguished group of leaders from academia, the private and public sector leaders, and members of civil society from throughout the border region. Our goal was two-fold: to identify and share strategies that will promote economic growth and job creation through increased trade; and to raise awareness and build consensus concerning the economic contribution of the border region to the U.S. and Mexican economies. In short, the conference was about changing the narrative about the U.S.-Mexico border by telling the full story about how and why the border region is a key driver of our global competitiveness and shared prosperity. As evidenced in a recent Arizona Republic editorial highlighting the conference, our efforts are already paying off.
I’ve previously written extensively about how the border region is vital to the U.S.-Mexico commercial relationship, which is one of the most dynamic economic partnerships in the world. In 2011, two way trade in goods and services between the U.S. and Mexico exceeded a staggering half trillion dollars. U.S. exports to Mexico totaled close to $200 billion, exceeding our exports to Brazil, Russia, India and China combined! According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, approximately 6 million U.S. jobs depend on trade with our southern neighbor. Six million jobs!
And what happens on the border doesn’t solely affect border towns and border states. More than 20 U.S. states count Mexico as their first or second largest export market, and 28 states did more than $1 billion in trade with Mexico in 2011.
Manufacturers in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and throughout America depend on integrated U.S.-Mexico supply chains to bring components, supplies and finished goods back and forth across the border every day, sustaining millions of jobs in factories around the country. And this doesn’t even get to the nearly 13.5 million Mexican tourists who traveled to the U.S. in 2011 and spent $9.2 billion supporting the U.S. economy.
Given the importance of this powerful relationship, the Obama Administration launched the Border Export Strategy to highlight the significance of the U.S.-Mexico trade relationship and, more specifically, the vibrant, diverse, and talented communities that make up the border region. This week’s conference, which was attended by more than 250 leaders from both countries, is a key element of that strategy, which in turn supports the President’s National Export Initiative, the aim of which is to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014.
The conference also advanced the 2010 joint declaration by Presidents Obama and Calderon on 21st Century Border Management, which is designed to enhance economic competitiveness while augmenting our nation’s security and public safety by supporting a bilateral border master plan process for infrastructure projects in order to increase capacity; expand trusted traveler and shipper programs; and explore opportunities for pre-clearance, pre-inspection, and pre-screening processes for commercial goods and travelers.
The conference agenda was packed with substantive discussions and industry-focused breakout panels; it also included important fora where U.S. and Mexican border mayors, members of congress, governors and industry leaders came together to talk about how the border economy is driving growth throughout the region. As co-host, I delivered a keynote address and helped facilitate a discussion concerning the Obama Administration’s 21st Century Border Management Initiative with counterparts from Mexico, Customs and Border Patrol, and the State Department. We also had a chance to hear from representatives of Mexican President-Elect Peña-Nieto, who shared the incoming administration’s vision for the region.
My primary message at the conference was to convey that President Obama and his administration understand the value of border trade and the contributions that border communities make each and every day to our national wellbeing. I also emphasized that the United States and Mexico, together with Canada to the north, comprise one of the most competitive regional platforms in the world. With our open borders, low tariffs, strong protections for intellectual property, low energy costs, integrated supply chains, and, most importantly, our skilled work force, our nations are working cooperatively to bring jobs back from remote shores, which is one reason why, for the first time in a decade, U.S. manufacturing job growth is again on the rise. The border truly is a source of strength for both countries, and it is a region that merits investment, support and serious attention from Washington. I’m proud that the Obama Administration is telling that story.
Michael Camuñez is the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance
- Posted byon October 4, 2012 at 3:59 PM EDT
Gregory L. Jeffrey is being honored as a Champion of Change for leading annual trips to Central America to provide vital medical services to people in need.
I knew nothing about eyeglass missions when I traveled on my first mission trip in the mid ‘90s. The experience was unforgettable and very rewarding. Fitting glasses on a person’s face and seeing their reactions to clear vision is an experience you will never forget. Yes, you give your time and effort to go on an eye glass mission, but the rewards are many.
The success of our missions requires a total team effort for the year leading up to the trip. We collect more than 1,000 pairs of used glasses per month and store donated supplies and medical equipment in our warehouse. We collaborate with Lions clubs in the destination city as well as with hospitals and professionals within our community. Our missions provide life-changing opportunities for those we serve. The people we serve would not have their vision restored without our help. As Lions, we are part of an international community of volunteers. This project is just one of the many ways our clubs exemplify humanitarian work and demonstrate the power of working together across borders.
Gregory L. Jeffrey of North Webster, Ind., has been a member of the Fort Wayne Central Lions Club since 1985.