KNOXVILLE — Reigning Marion County Fair Queen Mickayla McGill has been named the new president of the Iowa FFA.
Outgoing Iowa FFA President Chandler Jahner, a Pella High School graduate, made the announcement Thursday. McGill will lead the state organization for the 2020-2021 term.
“I was very shocked when I first heard the announcement,” says McGill. “It was something I really wanted to do these past couple of years getting involved in FFA, but it was such a high honor that I didn’t know if I would be able to accomplish it.”
A Knoxville High School graduate, McGill served as the South Central State Vice President for the 2019-2020 term before becoming president. In order to qualify as a candidate, an individual must first serve as a state officer.
Once a candidate’s application is reviewed, each candidate must undergo an intensive, five-part interview before a 12-member nominating committee. The interview process includes both basic and personal interview questions, a writing practicum, a five-minute speech, and a facilitation round, all supplemented with additional questions, impromptu planning and the facilitation of workshop activities.
“It’s kind of a scary, intimidating process, and there’s a lot that goes into it,” says McGill.
This year, the three candidates running for FFA president were faced with additional challenges due to COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing.
“We sat at a chair in the very front of the room, and the nominating committee was all spread six feet apart throughout the room, so that made things a little awkward,” says McGill. “It really affected the final facilitating workshop round, just because most of the activities we would do require [committee] members to sit next to each other and work with a partner or share materials. So not only were we coming up with a workshop out of thin air without much knowledge of what the topic was going to be, we also had to limit what we were able to do.”
The interview process typically takes place in April along with the Iowa FFA Leadership Conference, but it was pushed back this year due to COVID-19. The conference was also cancelled.
One of the main duties of the FFA president is to coordinate and plan events throughout the year, including a legislative symposium at the State Capitol, booths and events at the Iowa State Fair and the FFA state convention.
However, with the cancellation of the Iowa State Fair and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, the president’s duties are currently up in the air. McGill sees this as one of her biggest challenges.
“We may not be having as many duties as we thought, but hopefully we’ll be able to get back on the road again and get involved as much as possible,” says McGill. “It’s a very sad thing to see it [Iowa State Fair] cancelled because it’s a big promotional piece for us. It’s a huge part of our advocacy piece, but we understand the cancellation, because it’s a lot more important to protect the safety of others. We’re just going to have to get involved in a different caliber and adjust.”
Additionally, the FFA president and their team visit different schools throughout the state to engage FFA chapters in workshops. However, with restrictions and a different educational landscape, McGill and her team may not be able to engage students as usual.
“We’re going to have to change everything we do with them, like putting in social distancing standards, making sure our activities don’t require students to be closer than they need to be, and considering cross-contacting since we’d be traveling from school to school,” says McGill. “So a big challenge is being able to adapt to different changes that are put in place as schools return to learn and making sure we’re meeting the standards to protect the health and safety of students and our officers.”
Despite these unique challenges, McGill is looking forward to leaving an impact on her new team.
“Throughout FFA, I’ve been able to come out of my shell and really find my passion for leadership, and the state officers who have served before me really inspired me to take that next step to try to inspire others,” says McGill. “I just want other members throughout the state to realize their passion for agriculture and the different opportunities that FFA provides will take them so far in life.”
McGill is currently a student at Des Moines Area Community College and is studying under the Mark Pearson FFA Leadership Scholarship. She plans to attend Iowa State University to major in ag communications with a minor in criminology. She hopes to become an agriculture investigator for the United States Department of Agriculture through the Office of the Inspector General.