ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Respect doesn’t necessarily come with a position. It has to be earned.
Hillsboro High School senior Stephanie Loewen has earned that respect by climbing the leadership ladder to the height of FFA president.
“FFA is all about the people,” Loewen said. “It’s really about all of those people getting together and doing leadership things and being able to share similar stories.
“It’s about being able to grow in themselves and becoming a better person out of the whole experience,” she added. “There’s just a lot of leadership opportunities and chances to learn to be responsible.”
FFA sponsor Tim Kilgore, in his third year at HHS, said Loewen is the perfect person to lead the organization this year.
“Stephanie is an outstanding role model,” Kilgore said. “She’s done an outstanding job organizing and delegating.
“Stephanie is very organized, she gets things accomplished and she’s very goal oriented.”
Loewen’s interest in FFA four years ago was sparked by the experiences her father had in his high school days.
“My dad was a member of FFA when he was in high school,” she said. “It was always an exciting story because he won a trip to Hawaii his senior year.”
Loewen said her goals upon entering FFA as a freshman were to become an officer and attend the national convention in Louisville, Ky. Not surprisingly, Loewen has achieved those goals-and more.
“I probably would have wanted to be an officer my freshman year if that would have been possible, because I decided I really wanted to become involved,” she said.
“I’ve been an officer for three years-sophomore and junior years as vice-president and president this year- and I’ve also had the privilege of attending the national FFA convention all four years.
“Taking the trips to nationals was my favorite thing about FFA-it’s just a surreal experience.”
Kilgore said Loewen has performed her role as leader to the highest level.
“She’s been very valuable in her three years as an officer,” he said. “She’s really stepped up this year and took care of a lot of our activities and made sure they got done.”
Loewen has also been involved in livestock and horticulture competitions and has attended numerous leadership conferences.
Getting involved with community events is something the Hillsboro FFA strives to do.
“We want our members involved,” Loewen said. “We want the community to understand just what we do and how we can work together to accomplish our goals.”
Loewen said the FFA’s main project this year was to benefit Main Street Ministries.
“We did a food drive near Christmas where we collected food items in the community and in school for their benefit,” she said. “We also raffled off items at the basketball games to raise money for the benefit of Main Street as well.”
This past Saturday, Feb. 19, the FFA sponsored its annual community-appreciation breakfast.
“We’re really big into trying to do things for our community and getting people involved in our organization,” Loewen said.
“We want to provide members the opportunity to get involved and do something outside school that maybe someone can do that’s not involved in sports.”
Loewen describes herself as “kind and outgoing, caring about other people and ready to go out and have some fun and be happy.”
“People say I’m always smiling,” she said.
Kilgore said her self-assessment is accurate.
“She always cares about other people and she looks out for what others think,” he said. “She listens to other people’s opinions.”
Upon graduating this spring, Loewen plans to enroll at Wichita State University and major in nursing.
“I really hope to be a nurse practitioner some day,” she said. “I’m very interested in returning either to Hillsboro or to a similar-sized town to work in rural health care.”
Being part of FFA for four years has opened doors for Loewen.
“I’ve made a ton of friends that I will keep for the rest of my life through FFA,” she said.
“I’ve met other kids on trips but I’ve also met a lot of adults that might be good contacts for my future.”
Loewen said she’s thankful her father was an FFA member and peaked her curiosity.
“I think FFA has helped me grow as a person and become more confident in myself,” she said. “I realize I can accomplish whatever I set out to accomplish.
“I started out as a little scared freshman and I’ve emerged as a more confident senior and as a better person because of FFA.”