Two from Jackson County elected as FFA state officers


Sixteen FFA members from around Indiana vied for state officer positions for 2021-22.

Seven candidates were submitted for the state officer slate a week ago during the 92nd Indiana FFA State Convention at the state fairgrounds in Indianapolis, and the next day, they were approved.

Two of the seven are from Jackson County chapters.

Seymour High School FFA member Kourtney Otte was chosen as president, and Brownstown Central High School FFA member Abby Stuckwisch was selected as southern region vice president. Both recently graduated from high school.

Otte is Seymour’s first state officer since Joe Rust served as southern region vice president in 2009-10.

“I still haven’t fully processed it,” Otte said Friday during an ice cream social on the SHS front lawn to celebrate her accomplishment.

“We were taking team pictures (Thursday) night before we left the fairgrounds, and I looked at everybody because they were way ahead of me and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! This is us. This is the team,'” Otte said. “I still haven’t fully grasped that I am president because I wasn’t planning on getting it.”

During the convention, her stepfather opened a letter that revealed the state officer slate.

“He was like, ‘I’m sorry, Kourtney’ and paused, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! I didn’t get anything,’ and he was like, ‘But you’re state president,'” Otte said. “I cried. … It was definitely a lot of emotions, and I’m still trying to process through that and figure out how I need to pack because we’re leaving Sunday.”

On Sunday, Otte, Stuckwisch and the five other officers moved into the Indiana FFA Leadership Center in Trafalgar, where they will be based for the next year.

Stuckwisch is the first FFA state officer from BCHS since Alicia Hill served as state reporter in 1996.

Taking the stage as a state officer last week was the most surreal feeling ever, Stuckwisch said.

“It was like this big feeling of relief had just washed off after the months of preparation and stress,” she said. “It’s just such a great opportunity, and knowing that the work that I’ve put into it has now allowed me this opportunity is just absolutely amazing. It’s totally surreal. … It’s kind of crazy to know that we are truly serving in that capacity now. It’s also very exciting to be able to.”

Indiana FFA members who have graduated from high school are eligible to apply to be a state officer.

At the beginning of the year, candidates submitted an application with a résumé, a listing of FFA activities, including supervised agricultural experience, and a biography about their FFA and personal career.

In April, they participated in state officer candidate weekend, during which they learned all about what it means to be a state officer.

From June 11 to 13, they went through officer rounds, where they were interviewed and put in different situations that they might experience as a state officer.

On June 16, the state nominating committee’s placings were announced. The next day, the slate was approved.

Otte said being an officer was a longtime goal.

“It has always been a dream since I was a little kid,” she said. “I remember going to my cousin’s banquets and seeing that state officer and being in complete awe of them. Then once I actually got into FFA, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s what that means to be a state officer.'”

Otte joined FFA late in her seventh grade year and later counseled different conferences, including Seeking Opportunities Achieving Results and Foundations in Reaching Excellence.

“Once I got to counsel those and meet those kids, I was like, ‘I cannot imagine my life without FFA,'” she said.

After hearing from state officers during a conference her sophomore year, Otte and a friend were lying on the ground outside and saw the North Star above the leadership center. They thought that was a sign to make it a goal of becoming a state officer, and then they saw shooting stars in the sky.

“We were like, ‘Yes, this is it,'” Otte said. “I called my sister, and I was like, ‘Hey, I’m running for state office, and I need your help,’ and she was like, ‘Whatever you need me to do, I’ve got you. Don’t worry about it.'”

Stuckwisch said she had thought about becoming a state officer since her freshman year. She, however, knew it would be a big deal to have to take a year off from school to do that.

“It wasn’t until probably December 2020 that I really decided that I was going to go for it,” she said. “This past year, I was able to see the true impact that the pandemic and virtual-type stuff had on students, and it had a big impact on me and had a big impact on a lot of members in my own chapter.”

Plus, during her junior and senior years, she spent a lot of time working with younger members on contest materials and planning activities.

“Truly being able to see the impact that I could have on members and understand the abilities that I had to truly help members and help FFA, I knew that it’s a position that I needed to take on to truly serve the membership of Indiana FFA,” Stuckwisch said.

During their tenure, the seven state officers will work at the Indiana State Fair, plan leadership conferences for grades 7 through 12, visit with businesses and industries to share the mission of FFA in hopes of gaining their support and make appearances at district competitions and chapter banquets.

“There are six other people that are so tremendous and have such bold and bright characters that I cannot wait to actually get to know them on a really personal level,” Otte said of living and working with her fellow officers. “I want to help push them toward their goals and make sure they are getting to where they want to be throughout this year.”

She also looks forward to seeing all of the FFA members.

“Our goal for this year is to get 12,750 members by the end of the year,” Otte said, as membership dropped to around 11,000 in the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I want to emphasize that and get to know as many members as I can. Other conventions always say they are proud to have over 12,500 members. It’s just kind of trying to bounce back from that COVID aspect.”

Stuckwisch expects it to be a very tiring and exhausting year, but at the same time, the experience will be unreal.

“Getting the opportunity to make so many connections within the ag industry gives me such a great opportunity to kind of help bridge the gap between consumers and producers and try to serve in the capacity that truly allows the ag industry to make a connection with the people that they are serving,” she said. “Just advocating for agriculture in general, that’s one of the biggest things that I’m excited for.”

Like Otte, Stuckwisch is excited to make personal connections with FFA members and show them state officer is something they are capable of pursuing.

“Just because we’re the leaders doesn’t mean that we’re any different from them,” Stuckwisch said. “We’re just another member, so definitely trying to serve in a capacity that members feel capable of taking on any role that they want to.”

Seymour FFA advisers Jeanna Eppley and Micah Dillman have been in their positions for 15 and six years, respectively, so Otte is their first member to become a state officer.

“It was a lot of excitement and joy and tears,” Eppley said. “Any time that we see that they are accomplishing those goals, it’s really rewarding as an adviser, and that’s why we continue to pour all of the hours and the time and the effort into doing things with kids.”

Dillman said Otte was one of her first members when Seymour Middle School decided to start an FFA chapter.

“It has been really cool to see her not only progress through high school, but we got to have her as a wee little middle school kid trying to figure out what she was interested in,” Dillman said. “She just started with FFA and stuck with it, and it’s really cool to see where she started and where she’s at now and how that journey has led her to the highest position you can have in Indiana FFA. It’s very rewarding and very exciting.”

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2021-22 Indiana FFA state officers

President: Kourtney Otte, Seymour High School

Northern region vice president: Tyler Kilmer, Tri-County High School

Southern region vice president: Abby Stuckwisch, Brownstown Central High School

Secretary: Nicholas Neuman, Rushville High School

Treasurer: Jordyn Wickard, Eastern Hancock High School

Reporter: Jeremiah Geise, Rushville High School

Sentinel: Madisen Carns, Mount Vernon (Fortville) High School


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