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4-For-4 Steves Elected State FFA Secretary
For the fourth consecutive year - just one shy of the state record - Escalon High School has seen an FFA member elected to statewide office.

Senior Mary Steves, a four-year FFA member in Escalon, was chosen as the State FFA Secretary at the organization's convention in Fresno. She was elected to the office on the final day of the conference, April 19.

For Steves, keeping the Escalon tradition of state officers going was a thrill. Her older sister, Kristen, began the string and was followed the next year by Jordan Lippincott, and last year by Lindsey Anderson.

"The entire process went from Friday (April 15) through Tuesday," an exhausted but happy Steves said. "I think I went through a total of 12 different interviews, all different types, there was a challenge round, a stakeholder round, I had to act as if the judges were a parent and persuade them why their child should be involved in FFA, also taking on the role of an ag lobbyist and what I thought was the number one issue facing California agriculture."

In that role, Steves said she drew on her own opinion, noting that the water crisis is front and center.

"It's the regulations on farmers, the regulations for water," she explained. "We have that water but allocating the water is costly."

Steves said she did a lot of preparation for the state competition, as there are several dozen applicants for the six available state officer positions. In the role of a state officer, she will spend a year with the team, traveling all over the state and meeting with school FFA groups, being an advocate for agriculture and agriculture education, as well as being an ambassador for the industry.

It also wasn't a decision she took lightly, knowing full well the sacrifices state officers go through to spend their year in service.

"I knew I wanted to make sure I was fully dedicated to it," Steves said. "It was my decision. Probably around December or January I realized it was something I really wanted to do."

For Escalon ag teacher and FFA advisor Jennifer Terpstra, seeing the fourth student in as many years from Escalon elected to state office was both overwhelming and exciting.

There were tears mixed with the hugs, she admitted.

"I think one of the things that is so important is that we encourage our students to be well rounded," Terpstra said. "During the interviews they are able to give examples of experiences in things like PIT (Peer Interaction Team), being a part of other clubs, being in sports and student government, they have that well-rounded experience."

Steves' work this year as the local chapter president also has provided her with an opportunity to work in leadership.

"When students work with advisors as chapter officers, they have more insight into the things we have to deal with," Terpstra agreed. "They have a little more they can speak on. I had a lot of faith in Mary, I just wasn't sure what the (selection) committee was going to think with another Escalon student there but Mary was super prepared."

Steves said she has gained valuable insight and owes a debt of gratitude to the entire ag team at Escalon High, including Terpstra and fellow FFA advisors and teachers Bruce Campbell and Stacy Ingalls.

"I know the state officers go through a lot, there will be some difficult times but the experience will be amazing," Steves said. "Once I started getting involved here, I did the creed, judging teams, was a chapter officer ... the advisors made such an impact and the rest of the kids in the class, the chapter officer team, they were all so supportive. I have just completely enjoyed it."

FFA has given Steves the chance to travel to places such as Indianapolis for the national FFA convention and to Washington, DC. She will join the new California state officer team shortly after graduation and has been in contact with officials at Chico State - where she plans to attend college - and had her entry deferred for a year.

"They are completely supportive," she said.

Also excited are her parents, Rob and Lisa Steves, older sister Kristen and younger brother Robbie, a sophomore at EHS. When she does go to college, she will major in ag education and animal science, with a minor in communications.

"I just want to go under the ag umbrella," Steves said of keeping her career options open.

She reports for state officer training and moves in to the state FFA officer headquarters on June 11. Steves said she had fellow EHS students, many she didn't even know, coming up to her to offer congratulations when she returned to school after attending the state convention in Fresno.

"It's still so surreal," she admitted. "Everyone is very supportive and very excited for me ... I feel so blessed."