Sunday, June 26, 2016

IFAL: a life changing week

It is impossible to compose something that will magnify the beauty and power that was experienced this past week serving as a counselor for the Institute for Future Agricultural Leaders (IFAL).
I walked into camp with an extremely limited amount of knowledge about agriculture and I walked out with an understanding that I had imagined would've taken years for myself to develop. Every question that I had was answered with eagerness and excitement because of the passion that was possessed by every person I interacted with.

Additionally, the relationships and bonds that were formed this past week are insurmountable. Each individual has helped to mold me into a better person and for that I am beyond thankful. You never realize the impact that something so small can have on others until you are able to experience it for yourself.

Sunday started out with a brief counselor meeting that quickly developed into check-in for the campers. Familiar faces of siblings of friends and students from tours and other CAFE events blended evenly into the mix of unfamiliar and nervous faces. In a few short moments, students were given binders and room keys that would soon unlock a week of hardships, tears, laughs, memories, and life-long friendships.

The first moment my whole animal group, the Sea Dragons, was gathered together was a little frightening and extremely quiet. Little did I know that each of these 12 ladies and gentlemen would touch and enhance my life in wondrous ways. I spent endless hours watching these students overcome masses of struggles, whether it be conquering the high ropes course or talking to a new person or getting that last detail needed for discussion meet.

The Sea Dragons used Dragon Tales as our mantra and even went so far as finding a rock to deem as our dragon scale. That rock, hand-picked and signed by each student, was a signal of unification and development. For the first time, the Sea Dragons had something that tied each of them together and made them unique. Although our rock went missing on the third day and wasn't returned until the final day of camp, I was able to see a bond grow within the group much deeper than I ever imagined. All 12 campers searched tirelessly to find the inanimate object that developed the beginning of their friendships. In the end, we had a handful of false accusations and a plethora of good laughs.

My brief week at IFAL was nothing short of amazing. I watched a quiet and timid group of 12 Sea Dragons develop into strong, people-oriented, faithful leaders. Each of my 12 campers grew in ways that I would have never deemed possible. As a whole, 47 students grew into outstanding individuals this past week and I was so blessed to have had a hand in that growth. The future of agriculture is extremely bright because of these students. I wouldn't trade the short nights and sweaty days for anything in the world because without them, there wouldn't have been growth and development in youth.

As with all things, there is many thanks that need to be firmly given.

To the University of Kentucky- thank you. Your support, willingness and flexibility allowed a seamless and stress-free week.

To the parents and guardians of the 47 wonderful students from across Kentucky that I was blessed with the honor of working with- thank you. Your lives have molded each of these students into the amazing people that they are today. Each of them is talented, gifted and unique. They are well-behaved, polite and have an unwavering faith. Be proud of who they are and what they will accomplish.

To Kentucky Farm Bureau- thank you. You have created and developed a program that has allowed students from across Kentucky to not only showcase their talents and network with others, but to discover and enhance themselves. Without your funding and support, this program would not be- and its presence is vital to the future of agriculture.

To Jackson and Michael- thank you. You two are a perfect duo. You have worked long hours to give everything you have to a group of high-schoolers. The early mornings, late nights and tiny details did not go unnoticed. Your hard work, planning and preparation allowed for a perfect week.

To my wonderful counselors: Will, Jonathan, Anna and Rachel- thank you. Each of you worked hard to enhance and develop the lives of each student we had the opportunity of working with. Your guidance, constant support and friendship allowed for a smooth flowing, memorable week. You guys are amazing.

To the amazing 47 campers- thank you. Each and every one of you are phenomenal individuals with an amazing future ahead of you. Thank you for being an amazing group of students to work with. I have never seen such a large number of students be so supportive and encouraging of others. Be proud of the individual that you are and never forget where you came from. Amazing things are in store for your lives.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. -Psalms 107:1
In every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude. -Acts 24:3
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. -Matthew 6:21 

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