Leading our Agricultural Future: Q&A with 2022 Scholar Sydney Cure

5 students, 4 wearing blue FFA jackets, at the Colorado State Fair

2022 Boettcher Scholar Sydney Cure is from a small town of roughly 3,000 people on the eastern plains of Colorado. She attended the largest high school in her area which only consisted of approximately 200 students. After completing high school, Sydney was selected to be a FFA State Officer and took a gap year before attending Colorado State University to serve in this role. We asked Sydney about her experiences as a FFA State Officer and below are excerpts from our conversation. 

Can you tell me a little bit about your high school? 

I had the opportunity to take multiple college courses through our local community college, and I took agriculture classes from the time I was a freshman to now. The beauty of what we did in Burlington was that I am very used to classes being small and tailored to the students, it made everything feel like a community, and I am more than grateful for that today. 

Tell us a little bit about what you did during your gap year? 

During my gap year, I had the opportunity to serve on the Colorado FFA State Officer team. As a state officer, we serve agricultural leaders in over 142 high-school programs with almost 9,000 members to date. We teach leadership workshops and learn many leadership skills, as well as really just representing youth in agriculture. 

Walk me through what your most common day looked like as an FFA State Officer 

Every day was literally so different, but that question can kind of be broken down into our two most common types of days. If we were to have a chapter visit, we would typically be staying in or around the general vicinity of the program. Wake up, (I slept in a lot of hotel rooms) we would go and teach an entire workshop for a day on whatever the teacher had asked even though they were workshops we had created. The teacher would say “Hey I want my students to learn about goal setting, taking initiative, and how to advocate for agriculture” and then that is what we would plan our entire schedule on. We would really focus on more interactive workshops for freshman and sophomores while Juniors and Seniors could usually handle more cognitive, sit down, and think about it workshops. This took place anytime between November and May. We spent a lot of time doing this because we do have 142 programs. 

On days when we would wake up at Spur (one of the CSU system campuses with a laboratory, veterinary clinic, market, museum, art studio, classroom, garden, and innovation center that is staffed by FFA members) we would start work around 9am and went until 5pm. What we did depended a lot on the day, but we staffed the front desk, helped people navigate the brand-new buildings and answer questions that people had. We shared a little bit about what the buildings were about and helped the education team as much as possible which allowed me to learn a lot about VR and talk a little bit about the Dumb Friends League and what that was. 

The Spur Campus definitely got busier as the year went on and more buildings opened so I think that next years team will have a lot more opportunities to give tours and talk more about people who have a range of different agricultural backgrounds. Every day really was different but that is what the most typical days looked like. 

CSU’s Spur Campus is brand-new, what was it like living at the facility? 

Oh my gosh, it was a blast. I had a lot of favorite parts but absolutely loved the patio and rooftop greenhouse which were both beautiful. I sat in the greenhouse sometimes to just finish some work. Especially towards the end of the year when we were preparing for convention and I was writing my speech, there was a lot of brainstorming happening with all of these plants growing right in front of me. 

We as state officers had a whole corridor to ourselves and it was somewhat like a dorm hall but elevated and a little nicer. It was really fun but a little different coming from a small town and having a place of business right downstairs so you kind of had to be ready to go as soon as you got out your door. Our shared area with all of the Dumb Friends League was really cool and let us hang out with the veterinary students who would come down from CSU. We had a living room area and fully stocked kitchen with a full table. 

What motivated you to take a gap year? 

I was first motivated to take a gap year and become a state officer in my freshman year of high school. Up until that point, you couldn’t have paid me money to be involved in “going out to work” with my father every day. After watching the state officers my freshman year, I realized what I difference I could make in the program, and I pursued it. 

Whas there anything that challenged you as you were taking a gap year? 

There were plenty of challenges while taking this gap year, but they all helped me gain experiences and have made me feel exponentially more comfortable with continuing my learning journey here at CSU. Whether is was learning how to really delegate my time and talents, or just understanding how to live with a roommate…or I suppose nine other roommates, the life experiences I have gained in this past year will help me both in college and beyond. 

What is the biggest thing that you are taking away from your experience? 

The biggest thing that I was able to take out of my state officer year was the importance of meaningful connections. Whether it was with my nine other teammates, members of the organization throughout the state, or even the opportunity to meet so many amazing people here at CSU, meaningful connections really are instrumental to how we see the world. 

How are you taking the things you learned from your gap year into this school year? 

This school year, I really hope that I can be a positive mentor for someone else, just as so many had been for me this last year. I plan on using my experiences to help continue to create an inclusive environment in the College of Agricultural Sciences, and maybe just be a light in someones day. It’s truly amazing what one smile or a truly meant “How are you?” can do for others, because I know it was hugely helpful for me. 

Do you have any final thoughts to share or anything you want people to know? 

I really just want to say that I am extremely grateful for the experience and think that it has helped prepare me so much for this next year. I am so grateful that Boettcher let me do it but I am even more grateful that Colorado FFA members thought that I would be a good fit and it was a very very amazing year and I am very thankful for it. 

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