ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
After only a brief conversation with Centre High School’s Gloria Belton, it’s hard to imagine she’s just a sophomore.
With a maturity that belies her age, Belton uses FFA as one of many avenues to better herself and ensure a successful career in the not-so-distant future.
“Our objective in FFA is to improve leadership skills-skills you’ll need later in life no matter what you choose to do,” Belton said. “You need communication skills for things like job interviews. You need to be able to talk to people and feel comfortable talking with them.”
Belton has known since an early age that FFA was an organization she wanted to join.
“I have two older sisters (Emily and Colleen) and an older brother (Derek),” Belton said. “Both Emily and Derek were FFA members and they’d come home and tell me how much fun FFA was and how Mr. Granzow was such a good teacher.”
Both Emily and Derek served as district officers while Emily was state president in 1997-98.
“That was awesome for me, being just 7 or 8 years old, to see her as state president,” Belton said. “They both told me how much I could get out of FFA and I’ve found it’s all been true and more-and Mr. Granzow is a very good teacher, too.”
In this, her second year in FFA, Belton was elected secretary and hopes to one day follow her siblings’ footsteps into a district and possibly state office.
Granzow said her presence in the Centre organization is a definite plus.
“Gloria is a very fun person to be around,” he said. “She takes herself seriously when she needs to but when she makes a mistake, she’s able to laugh about it and just go on instead of whining-she laughs and learns.”
Belton agreed her personality has room for intellectual seriousness as well as fun.
“When things need to be done, or if we’re competing, I’m very serious, but when we have extra time, I like to have fun and make things more interesting,” she said. “I guess I kind of joke around in a fun way, and I like to play games like cards and things like that.”
Active in numerous school activities, Belton was a member of the volleyball and basketball teams and contributes to the band as a clarinet player.
An honor roll student, Belton also is a member of the National Honor Society.
Away from school, Belton is active in the Catholic Youth Organization and in 4-H.
“I’m in cooking and clothing in 4-H,” Belton said. “I cook a lot for my family and I like to bake. I don’t have any specialties, but I like to bake cookies for my grandma.”
Belton said the Centre FFA chapter works to keep active not only in the local communities, but in the southern part of Kansas.
“I’ve gone to the South Central District service activity for the past two years,” she said. “Last year we went to the Sedgwick County Zoo and did cleanup, and we collected items to send to Florida hurricane victims,” Belton said. “Our chapter also painted a house for an elderly local resident. That makes you feel really good.”
Granzow said that sort of spirit is typical of Belton.
“Gloria is a caring person,” he said. “She cares about her fellow students and really cares about whether they do well or not. It concerns her if they’re struggling. She has a good heart.”
Belton said she and six other chapter members are preparing for an Ag-Issue Forum on May 1 in Manhattan.
“You pick an issue related to agriculture, and we picked how the United States Department of Agriculture isn’t doing enough to protect the public from mad cow disease,” she said. “You have to present both sides of the issue and do it in a creative way.
“We made up a script like we’re trying a case in a court room and each of us got to pick what we would play. I’m a prosecution lawyer.”
Also involved in the presentation are Jackie Klenda, Alfonse Klenda, Savannah Forsberg, Alisha Barney, Joe Terwilliger and Brandi Kaiser.
Belton also occupies her time working on the chapter scrapbook and Web site.
“Next year I’m going to be taking a Web site design class in video production,” she said.
Even as a sophomore, Belton has her sights set on a career in agriculture.
“I’d like to maybe do something along the lines of ag-education or something related to that,” she said. “I’d like to go somewhere, and while I may not stay on a farm I’d like to remain active in agriculture.”
Getting others involved in FFA is also one of Belton’s goals.
“Having Gloria in our FFA chapter helps because she’s a leader,” Granzow said. “She can get others involved and excited about activities. She’s a promoter.”
Belton said FFA merits her promotional skills.
“Everyone needs the skills you learn in FFA later in life,” she said. “Even if you already have some of those skills, this organization can further them.
“It’s a learning opportunity, it’s a way to expand your leadership skills and you’re able to compete and still have fun.”
Granzow said he’s impressed with Belton’s willingness to experience new opportunities.
“The fact that Gloria is willing to try, it gets her out of her comfort zone,” he said. “A lot of kids aren’t willing to do that. But because Gloria does, it’s making her a better person.”
Belton said her FFA experiences have exceeded her expectations.
“Growing up, I was always told how much fun it would be and I just couldn’t wait to join,” she said. “But I’ve already learned it’s so much more than even they told me it would be.
“You just have to be in the organization to know all the wonderful things that can come out of it.”