Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we give up our summers to work with students? Why do we spend countless days on the road, away from our families? Don't we know that others are out having summer fun? I know I have been asked these questions, or similar questions each time I head back to school for in-service and begin recounting the adventures of my summer. The answer to all these "WHY" questions is simple; we are passionate about student success.

There I was. Standing in a remodeled 100 year-old barn just outside of Bozeman, Montana. The speaker's voice was quivering, no doubt from the fear of speaking to the two hundred people packing the venue. As one boy handed the microphone to the next, the inexperienced speakers all suffered the same plight. The message was the story of the Twin Bridges FFA Chapter. The presenters were four young founding members and their advisor, speaking to an audience of FFA Alumni from all over the nation. The audience hung on every word as the story was relayed.

Twin Bridges was once one of the largest programs in Montana, but had lost the ag program and the FFA chapter 25 years ago. For four years, parents and students worked feverishly to get an ag program and FFA chapter for Twin Bridges. The day finally came, and six students, from 3 different schools were able to take online ag classes and form an FFA chapter. The advisor apologized for not having her students in official dress to make the presentation, but promised jackets were on the way, as soon as they had their first fundraiser. People on each side of the room had the same thought at the same time and four hats made their way around each table. By the time it was over, we presented Twin Bridges with over $1000 to start up their chapter. As we all realized the impact that would be made on these young students, there wasn't a dry eye in the room.

Throughout the week of the Alumni Development Conference I had the opportunity to see their passion for student success over and over. They worked from first thing in the morning until late into the evening because of their dedication to what we, as teachers do. I found this even more amazing when I realized that these people were there dedicating themselves to us, using up their vacation time and paying their own way.
I don't think that any of us would say we are begrudgingly giving up our summers or higher paying jobs to do what we do, just as the hundreds of FFA Alumni I met would never begrudgingly say they are giving up their vacation time and money to support us. The reason for this is the passion that we all share for student success, agriculture education, and FFA. You see, the reasons WHY are more important, and always drive WHAT we do.

As we start another school year stick tight to the reasons WHY. Focus on the passion you have for student success. With that at your core, WHAT you do will reap greater success. Have a great year!