A lot of high schoolers home on Easter Break might ignore a phone ringing at 7:30 a.m. on a Friday morning, but 17-year-old Austin Seeley picked it up on the second ring. Since being named state president of Future Farmers of America (FFA) at the 92ndannual convention last weekend, he’s gearing up for what will no doubt be a busy year.
Along with being the first FFA member from Wright to hold the distinction, the honor comes with a long list of responsibilities and lots of traveling. He’ll tour the state to visit other FFA chapters, take a trip to Washington D.C. for a leadership conference, attend the National Convention in Indianapolis, State FFA Camp and do a lot of organizing for the Wyoming State Fair, among other duties.
“I honestly don’t know what’s coming,” he said, “but I’m sure it’s something that will be a lot fun.”
That good-natured enthusiasm and can-do attitude are just a few of the many qualities that put Austin on the top of the list when it came time for choosing a state president out of the 2,000 members across 55 state-wide chapters.
It was a goal he’d had for years, ever since joining the group his freshman year.
“From the time I was first introduced to the state officers,” he said, “I knew it was a position I someday wanted to be in.”
Many of these past officers upon meeting Austin also predicted that he would one day hold office, according to Wright FFA Advisor Randall Haefele, who has fielded a lot of compliments over the years about the new president.
Austin wasn’t so sure, but was completely thrilled to hear his name called, followed immediately by his running to the stage. It had been a long weekend. Applying for the post had also meant undergoing a series of rigorous interviews and scenarios in front of the interview committee.
Building good communication skills, Austin said, is probably the best attribute he’s gained as a result of his experience with FFA. Before joining, he had decent communication skills, he admitted, but nothing like they are now. Back then, he’d talk to someone if they took the initiative but would never reach out himself, let alone be comfortable standing on a stage giving a speech in front of a bunch of people.
Now, not only is he comfortable talking to a large crowd, including judges, but he also has no problem approaching a roomful of strangers.
“It’s made me a better listener and problem solver,” he said of his experience with FFA.
He’s also picked up a lot of other skills and friendships along the way, and hanging out with his fellow members is probably what he appreciates most, as well as honing his leadership skills and learning about the agriculture industry.
Growing up on a small ranch 23 miles east of Wright, he’s spent a lot of time helping with chores and getting insight into the cattle industry. FFA has helped develop his education both on and off the ranch, including gaining skills in livestock judging and learning how to run a business.
The best part for him is all the friends he’s met and doing projects together as a group like community service. Every fall before Thanksgiving, he and his 30-plus fellow members go door-to-door collecting canned goods for the food drive benefiting local families.
“I really like the community side of service,” he said. “I like getting out there and meeting people and doing things to help.”
Along with FFA, his other love is fighting fires, and after graduation, he plans to go to Casper College to get a degree in fire science. His father, a volunteer firefighter, unintentionally introduced him to the profession after taking him along one night to fight a fire on a neighboring ranch when Austin was 12.
“He took me out there to scare me,” Austin laughed, “but it had the exact opposite effect. I saw a guy in his yellow jacket and green pants and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.”
After getting his degree in fire science, he thinks he might move to Montana to fight fires and maybe even become a smoke jumper out of Missoula. Then, he’d like to return home to do some ranching.
Who knows? Right now, just a few days shy of his 18th birthday, Austin’s got a long, bright future in front of him, beginning with his new FFA presidency.
Wright FFA Team Take Top Honors
Austin is quick to point out that his fellow members also helped put their hometown on the map at the 92ndannual convention last weekend. The Wright FFA team of Austin, Shelby Apodaca, Brandi Fuller, Kendal Seamands, Garrett Strohschein, and Grace Trandahl took fifth place in the Parliamentarian Procedure Contest. Other members including Grace Trandahl, Mikaela Easton, and Kinlee Priewe took fifth in the Marketing Plan Contest for their idea of improving the Southern Campbell County Ag Complex in Wright. Brandi Fuller also stunned the judges and won the prestigious State Star Farmer for her role in owning and operating Fuller Sisters Cattle Company with her sisters. Meanwhile, Wyatt Real took third place in the Extemporaneous Speaking Contest, in which he had 30 minutes to prepare a 4-6 minute speech with no prepared notes or additional help.