Cole Snider once thought he would make the leap, as many young people do, directly from high school hallways to a college campus.
His path diverted, however, when 2,000 other teens tabbed him to be their leader.
Last May, nearing the conclusion of his senior year at Enumclaw High, Snider was elected president of the Washington State FFA, chosen from a handful of candidates by the throng of students who had gathered for the annual convention on the campus of Washington State University.
In a matter of moments, college plans took a back seat to the dizzying array of demands that come with the post.
Since his election, Snider has traveled throughout both the state and nation – along with a team of five other officers – representing FFA, touting the benefits of Career and Technical Education programs, promoting agriculture in general and honing their leadership skills. Early in his tenure came trips to Washington, D.C., and Indianapolis. Using family vehicles, Snider has hit the state's back roads to meet with students in all corners of the Evergreen State. Between them, Snider and the others in the state leadership team have visited approximately 160 Washington schools, preaching the gospel of vocational education.
A couple of weeks ago, Snider found himself in Olympia, meeting with Gov. Jay Inslee; at the nation's capitol, Snider and the student delegation met with Washington Congressman Doc Hastings.
"For me, it's been a dream come true," said Snider, who recently turned 19.
He has particularly enjoyed getting to know the diverse communities that dot the Washington map. Having grown up in Enumclaw, it was eye-opening to visit a school in Kahlotus – a tiny town in Franklin County – that is home to just a handful of high-school students.
"Every little town in Washington…it seems like I've been there,"
Snider said.When asked how many days he's been on the road since last May, Snider notes that it's much easier to count the limited number of days he's been home.
Snider's extensive Pacific Northwest travel – aside from being highly educational – has changed his college plans. A year ago he was considering Texas A&M or sticking closer to home and attending Walla Walls Community College before heading to Pullman and WSU. A trip to Big Sky Country has Snider thinking he'll attend Great Falls University in Montana. One dream that remains is to become a teacher and, ideally, an FFA adviser.
His hectic schedule will come to an end with the 2013 state FFA convention, when a new president will take the reins of the organization. As one of his final duties, Snider will deliver a final speech, one that shapes up to be highly motivational. He will draw from his own experience – a student who was not born and raised on a farm but, nonetheless, set a goal and achieved it. When he first attended the state FFA convention as a freshman, he realized he someday wanted to run for the top office.
"It's all about inner drive," he said. "'Impossible' is a word we use to convince ourselves to stop trying."
Fundraiser to help with travel costs
The FFA organization – known to earlier generations as Future Farmers of America – offers plenty of exciting opportunities for travel both outside the state of Washington and abroad. Snider has a short list of favored destinations that includes Puerto Rico and Mississippi.To help finance Snider's travel expenses, a fundraiser is planned for March 23 at the Buckley Eagles. The event runs from 4 to 8 p.m.To purchase $10 tickets for the spaghetti dinner and silent auction, or to donate to Snider's cause, contact Debbie Snider at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, tickets will be sold at the door.