Braulick and Nienhaus spent the week under the guidance of professionals, counselors and FFA staff.

Thousands of FFA members from throughout the country are converging in Washington, D.C. this summer, to evaluate their personal skills and interests, develop leadership talent, and create service plans that will make a difference in their communities.

More than 2,300 students registered for the 2019 Washington Leadership Conference (WLC), the second-largest student experience that the National FFA Organization hosts each year. Created in 1969 and held annually, the conference began June 4 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel and a new group of members attends each week. Sleepy Eye FFA Members Maranda Braulick and Martina Nienhaus were two chapter leaders that attended July 16 to 21.

Braulick and Nienhaus spent the week under the guidance of professionals, counselors and FFA staff. In workshops, seminars, and small groups, members focused on identifying and developing their personal strengths and goals, while undergoing comprehensive leadership training that will help them guide their local FFA chapters. The capstone of the event was a civic engagement activity where participants applied what they learned to a hands-on activity.

Members analyzed the needs of their communities, began to develop wide-ranging and high-impact community service initiatives, and will implement their plans with the help of their FFA chapters in the upcoming year. Students in recent years have promoted agricultural literacy; brought attention to abuse; collected and distributed shoes to individuals in Haiti; created a hunger awareness plan and more.

FFA members, including Braulick and Nienhaus, experienced the history of the nation's capital and toured landmarks including the Washington Monument, Smithsonian museum, Lincoln Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the National Mall, Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Capitol, among others.

The 2019 Washington Leadership Conference is sponsored by title sponsors CSX and Farm Credit and weekly sponsors Bayer, Syngenta, General Mills, Merck Animal Health, Growth Energy, and Nutrien. Locally, the students received Minnesota FFA Alumni scholarships and Sleepy Eye FFA Booster support.

Sleepy Eye Chapter President, Maranda Braulick said, “Washington Leadership Conference was an amazing experience, not only to see our nation’s capital, but to also learn how to make a difference in my community. I met fellow FFA members from all over the country and built connections that will last a lifetime. I am so thankful to have had this opportunity to go to WLC.”

Martina Nienhaus said, “It was a great experience that really gets you out of your comfort zone and opens you up to a lot of opportunities you didn’t even know you had.”

The National FFA Organization provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education to 669,989 FFA members, aged 12-21, in 8,630 chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The organization is supported by 459,514 alumni members in 2,236 local FFA Alumni chapters throughout the U.S.