Starting in October 2015, the New York FFA Association has had a new Executive Secretary at the helm. Derek Hill has stepped into this new job with enthusiasm for challenges, changes, and pushing the New York FFA towards the future. In order for everyone to get to know Derek better, we took time to ask him 20 questions.
1) What is your story?
I am originally from western New York. I went to Cattaraugus Little Valley High School and was the FFA Chapter President. I grew up working on my grandparent’s dairy farm. I thought I was going to take over the farm, but one of my aunts beat me to it. So, I went to SUNY Morrisville with the intent of becoming a DEC officer since the outdoors is another passion of mine. However, while I was at Morrisville one of my advisors there suggested that I come to Cornell University to become an agriculture teacher and the rest is history.
2) Were you involved in the FFA?
I was involved with FFA growing up, but not so much with 4-H. I was a chapter officer and competed in several "Career Development Events". I was on the envirothon team and went to Oswegatchie for a winter weekend.
3) Any hobbies or interests outside of your professional career?
I am a big football fan, but I enjoy being outdoors and spending time with my family more.
4) What made you decide to be an Agricultural Educator?
It was really that Morrisville professor that made me aware of the teaching opportunity. That endorsement helped me in my career path substantially.
5) When and why did you decide to work with teenagers?
I thought that I could have a much bigger impact on agriculture if I helped to educate our youth. I am extremely grateful that I made that decision because working with our youth has been the most rewarding part of my career!
6) What is the one story that people would find most fascinating about you?
That I married my high school sweetheart, who also happened to be a foreign exchange student.
7) With all you have done in your life, what role has been the most important?
My role as a father is the most important. I have 2 beautiful boys that I love with all my heart. The next thing would be my role as an FFA advisor. The ability to connect with students because I am their FFA advisor and they know that they can count on me makes a difference in their lives.
8) What is your favorite place on earth?
Any place with my family!
9) What is your favorite part of New York?
I love all of New York State. I would really have a hard time picking just one area. I have been all around our great state and each area offers something different.
10) What is your favorite book or the best book you have ever read?
I really like the Last Lecture. I have never had a book bring out that much emotion in me before.
11) If you were going to drop everything today and go grow something in agriculture, what would it be?
I would probably raise beef cattle. I enjoy working with cattle, but I don’t want to have to milk them every day, which I did for almost 10 years. I have had beef cattle in the past and really enjoyed taking care of them. I will definitely have some animals for my two boys. I can’t think of a better way to teach children responsibility than for them to care for an animal.
12) Do you have a favorite quote?
There are many quotes that inspire me, but I have always believed in hard work and perseverance. “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing."
13) What do you think is the most important quality of a leader?
"Character", everything stems from your character.
14) What do you think is the best opportunity for a FFA member to experience while in school?
The ability for students to meet new people, discover new things, and grow individually while in FFA. If we are talking about a specific event that can make a huge impact, it is probably National Convention, but we also do many things on the local and state level that have just as big of an impact.
15) What is the best advice you would give to a new agricultural educator / FFA advisor starting out?
"Be prepared to put in the time." This is not a normal teaching position, and if you want your program to grow and succeed, you will have to work hard and put in the time.
16) What is the best advice you would give to a student in their senior year of high school getting ready for graduation?
Challenge yourself, but also make sure you are doing what you love and always remember that your friends and family are here for you!
17) One of the big trends in the last 15 years of agricultural education has been the large increase in female participation and fulfilling leadership roles. Why do you think that has happened?
I think female students mature sooner and want to challenge themselves more at an earlier age. Therefore, they are better prepared when leadership roles are available.
18) Do you think male participation is actually down or could be increased?
Yes, male participation is down and we need to figure out a way to increase their participation.
19) What do you think is the biggest opportunity the NYS FFA has to work with in the near future?
I think our continued growth and the number of schools that are interested in starting new programs is amazing and we need to capitalize on this.
20) What do you think is the biggest obstacle the NYS FFA has to overcome in the near future?
Our biggest obstacle is training enough teachers to keep our programs and chapters growing.
Foundation Executive Director
Hello New York FFA & Congratulations!
The 90th New York FFA Convention held in partnership this year with Morrisville State College was a opportunity to showcase the success of agricultural education within our state. Over three days, students competed, learned and experienced opportunities within agriculture. The reaction from partners and guests was clear: the work you do in your schools and communities matters. You are making an incredible difference in the lives of your students.
We will soon be sharing comprehensive CDE and award results as well as looking to provide access to the photos taken on site. This weekend would be incomplete, however, without taking time to give credit where credit is due.
Morrisville State College was an incredible partner for our convention. From lodging and meals to real-life settings for Career Development Events, workshops and tours, the facilities and support available to us made convention an incredible experience.
Chip Ax - always a devoted friend and selfless volunteer to FFA - led the charge to bring the convention to Morrisville and was a humble, hard-working servant leader. He connected us with the right partners, recruited a team of outstanding Morrisville student volunteers and slept very little over the last year. He introduced the idea of convention to key parties at Morrisville who worked diligently to make FFA feel welcome - and to exceed expectations on the delivery of every meal, facility and opportunity. Thank you to all of Morrisville's volunteers but especially President Rogers, Dean Nyberg, Diana Johnson, Sarah Mazza, faculty who opened their programs to us for competitions or workshops; and the maintenance and grounds departments.
Central NY is home to some outstanding agriculture programs and three chapters have been working diligently to help with this convention. Hamilton, Madison and Stockbridge Valley FFA chapters provided all of our judges, coordinated all off campus tours, provided buses, managed courtesy corps, designed t-shirts... The list goes on and on! Johanna Fox-Bossard, Julia Hudyncia, Erin McCaffrey and Patty Waldron volunteered to help with convention over a year ago and their students have been an awesome part of the planning process. The work they did on site was extremely valuable - but the efforts these programs put in in the months before convention cannot go unrecognized. Oh - and did you love the FFA Light Bright in the convention hall?? The Stockbridge Valley Ag students worked on that for WEEKS! I've seen so many pictures shared with that already - such a fun representation of the state officers' theme!
Veronique Krohn was a convention intern this year, working as a liaison between the convention and Morrisville. She worked with registration data, room requests, association needs AND volunteer management. We are so grateful for her leadership and commitment to the convention.
Terry Hughes served this year for the first time as the CDE coordinator at convention and it was clear that a combination of his focus, his state fair experience and Morrisville's facilities allowed competitions to succeed. Thank you to ALL of our cde event coordinators.
The FFA Foundation led convention's financial and registration efforts this year. Todd Lighthall, Robin Waite and Kate Downes were key to this effort. On top of this the Foundation held a VIP reception for Past State Officers. The reception was beautiful, professional and an opportunity to bring alumni back to the convention. The moving opening ceremonies with our reunion officers combined with personal donations to truly take this VIP event to the highest level I've seen it. Thank you and congratulations to the Foundation and its volunteers for that.
Convention isn't just for students and Shari Lighthall makes sure teachers are heard, supported and engaged during our three days on site. She does all this in addition to the planning and support she provides to the REST of the convention. We were able to provide insights into next year's venue, hear about key programs and even be visited by Dr. Case about the alumni through her efforts. Shari always has the priorities and needs of FFA and Ag Ed in focus and is a critical part of this convention.
Finally, our convention is an opportunity for students (present and recent alumni) to truly serve. Whether it was running a spotlight, delivering content on stage, teaching workshops, taking pictures, organizing lines of award recipients or developing audio and video packages, our convention is very largely student run - onstage and off. You should be proud of the talents of these young men and women who have very recently come out of YOUR classrooms. I am very proud of (and grateful for) them - but I think the moment I am the most proud of happened yesterday after the crowds left the convention hall. Students who previously had been in heels and under spotlights changed clothes and spent 4 hours helping the stage and equipment rental company tear down the stage and load it into the back of a few semi trucks. They were dirty, hot and exhausted by the end but not one of them complained or thought it wasn't their job. Great work developing young people who understand that leadership is service, not attention. This convention was yet again evidence of all you do, every day, to grow outstanding young people.
Thank you for doing it. We will see you next year at the OnCenter.
NY FFA Executive Secretary
The New York FFA Foundation
The NYSFFALTF, Inc., chartered in 1946 by the New York State Board of Regents, is a not-for-profit 501 (c)(3) charitable organization that provides businesses, associations, other foundations, and individuals the opportunity to contribute to the growth and success of our New York youth. Our mission is to build and maintain a financial base that will allow the New York FFA to generate well-educated and career focused productive citizens. Email our Director at firstname.lastname@example.org .