ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Leann Spinden embodies just about everything FFA represents. A senior at Peabody-Burns High School, Spinden isn’t an overachiever but simply a student who performs up to her potential.
“Leann is one of those special students that you have-I don’t know if I want to say once in a lifetime, but once in a great while,” adviser Sonya Roberts said. “She’s pretty much heart and soul dedicated to FFA. She’s a unique student.”
Spinden has served as the president of the Peabody-Burns chapter this school year.
“Last year I was vice-president and my sophomore year I was the reporter,” Spinden said.
Spinden said her association with FFA began when older brother Matt was involved with the program.
“He was president when I was a freshman,” she said. “He encouraged me to join and I’m really glad I did.
“When I joined FFA, what I thought it was going to be and what it means to me now are two very different things,” she added. “There’s a lot more to FFA and a lot more opportunities in FFA than kids realize.”
One of the main benefits of FFA, according to Spinden, is the opportunity to interact with students not only in her own school, but from across the region and country.
“I’ve gotten to travel to a lot of places like Washington, D.C., to the Washington Leadership Conference, which was a great opportunity,” she said. “I’d like to see others try FFA so they can see what opportunities it provides them.
“FFA students are very diverse.”
That Spinden meets new friends and interacts well comes as no surprise to either adviser Roberts or Spinden.
“Leann is an all-around nice and pleasant person,” Roberts said. “She’s a little quiet and reserved, but she’s a true genuine friend.”
“I’m pretty friendly and a nice person,” Spinden agreed with a bashful smile. “I get along with just about everybody.”
Spindens extra-curricular activities include her membership in the band as a flutist, the color guard, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the National Honor Society.
She maintains a 4.0 grade-point average, which has her on track to be named co-valedictorian of this year’s graduating class.
Outside of school, Spinden participates in 4-H and attends the Burns Methodist Church.
Spinden has combined her FFA experiences with 4-H to reach a goal she set four years ago.
“One of my goals was to get my state degree, and I just got it this year so that was pretty exciting,” she said. “It’s the supervised agricultural experience program that each of us are supposed to have.
“Mine was the steers that I show at the county fair.”
Another notable achievement by Spinden was her participation in a scholarship program through FFA.
“I did the National Job Interview Career Development event this year and I placed seventh in the nation, which won me a $750 scholarship,” she said. “I won the state event in Manhattan, which qualified me to compete at the national convention at Louisville, Ky.
“Each state has a participant and I made it into the finals.”
Spinden said it’s disappointing more students don’t participate in FFA.
“I don’t really know why there aren’t more people involved,” she said. “I think there are a lot of misconceptions about FFA-lots of kids think it’s just for farm kids, but that’s not the case at all.
“FFA is an amazing youth organization that promotes personal growth, premiere leadership and career success for students,” she added. “It enables students to have so much growth that allows them to become so successful as they continue through their life.”
Roberts said Spinden serves as a great ambassador for FFA.
“I think her love for FFA is something the other kids can see-that special place she has in her heart for the program,” Roberts said. “I would say Leann’s genuine concern and caring attitude for both FFA and other students sets her apart.”
With Spinden as president, the Peabody-Burns FFA has been active and visible, both in the nearby community and in south-central Kansas.
“We help with the Kiwanis pancake feed and the south-central district started doing community service days,” Spinden said. “Last year we helped out at the Sedgwick County Zoo, sweeping sidewalks.
“In November we packaged supplies for hurricane victims in Florida at the Kansas Coliseum along with all the other chapters in our district.”
Spinden’s aspirations have her looking toward a state FFA position.
“There are six state officers for Kansas that travel speaking at chapter banquets as well as going to the national convention and national leadership conferences,” she said. “There are about 30 candidates for these six positions.
“It begins with an interview process at the beginning of May at the state career events,” she said. “If you make it past that, you keep interviewing into the state convention, which is the end of May.
“If you get elected, you have a year of service where you’re kind of like an FFA ambassador,” she added. “I’d love to do it, but to be selected out of 30 kids is really tough.”
Spinden hopes to incorporate some of both her father’s agricultural background as a cow/calf operator and her mother’s occupation as an elementary music teacher into a career of her own.
“I’m going to Kansas State University next year and I’ll be majoring in agricultural education or agricultural communications,” she said. “I either want to be an ag-teacher or do something in the agricultural communications field, like public relations for an agricultural company.”
Whatever path Spinden follows, her days in FFA at PBHS will contribute to her success.
“I’ve had a lot of great experiences in FFA that have helped me grow as a person that I wouldn’t have gotten if I hadn’t been in FFA or through other organizations,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot of leadership skills in FFA that will help me in everything I do for the rest of my life.”