Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Meet the new Minnesota FFA president May 5, 2011

I AM PROUD, so, so proud, of my niece Hillary Kletscher of Vesta.

On Tuesday, she was named the 2011-2012 Minnesota Future Farmers of America president. (Click here to see the announcement.)

That selection speaks volumes to Hillary’s leadership skills, character and commitment to a stellar organization. She is among 9,100 FFA members from 175 Minnesota chapters. Her home chapter is my alma mater, Wabasso High School in Redwood County on the southwestern Minnesota prairie.

Nearly 40 years ago I became the first girl to join the WHS FFA, blazing the way in a previously male-dominated organization.

The 1973 - 1974 Wabasso High School FFA chapter consists of mostly male students. I am among the few females featured in this yearbook photo. I'm seated in the second row, third girl on the right.

For that reason I am particularly, personally, pleased that my niece now holds the highest office in Minnesota’s FFA.

It is an accomplishment that will open many doors for this WHS senior who has been serving as the Region V FFA president and as her chapter’s president. Hillary is a leader.

But it takes more than strong leadership skills to garner the top FFA spot in the state. Hillary and the other 15 candidates for state offices (selected by a nominating committee of their peers and adults) were evaluated in the areas of communication, team player, knowledge, organization, character, passion for success, influence and critical thinking.

Whew, simply reading that list posted on the Minnesota FFA website makes me realize that this is a daunting process that includes a written application, interviews, a written test, round robin issues conversations and more.

My niece, I am certain, can handle the responsibilities that will come with her new position.

Hillary is also an academically-gifted student and will graduate in a few weeks at the top of her class, 60 years after her paternal grandmother, Arlene (Bode) Kletscher, also graduated as the WHS valedictorian.

(I graduated in 1974 as the WHS salutatorian and my own daughter, Miranda, graduated as the Faribault High School valedictorian in 2006.)

Wabasso High School's winning T-shirt design, front and back.But back to Hillary. Her list of accomplishments in FFA, if I knew all of them, would be lengthy. She’s excelled in soil competition. And last year a T-shirt she designed won the National FFA T-shirt Contest. The winning slogan: “Who needs a license…When you can drive a tractor!”

I never came close to doing what Hillary has done in FFA. I won the Chapter Farmer Scholarship Award, and that’s about all I remember other than my first-female member status.

Hillary will have a busy year ahead of her as she juggles her freshman year of college at Iowa State University and trips back to Minnesota to carry out her FFA presidential duties. But if anyone can handle the stress, the pressure, the demands, it is my strong, determined niece.

She will continue to live the FFA motto:

Learning to Do

Doing to Learn

Earning To live

Living to Serve

© Text copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

T-shirt graphic courtesy of Hillary Kletscher

Hillary Kletscher photo by Matt Addington Photography and courtesy of Hillary Kletscher