The Ocoee resident will defer college for one year while she tours Florida promoting the youth leadership program that emphasizes agricultural education.
Hannah Wagner began her FFA career showing chickens as a seventh-grader at Ocoee Middle School. The following year, she showed her first beef heifer at the Central Florida Fair.
She served as secretary of the Ocoee High School FFA her freshman year and then spent the next three years as president of the OHS agricultural and leadership organization.
She was president of the Orange County FFA Federation, too, in her senior year.
So, what’s next for the recent Ocoee High honors graduate?
Wagner will spend the next year traveling around the state and the country as an official advocate for agriculture after being elected vice president of the Florida FFA Association’s District IV last month.
She is the first student from Ocoee High to screen through as a candidate for state officer. Wagner said her years of experience with extemporaneous speaking helped her in the screening process, which had multiple interviews.
After the campaign period — where candidates visited the schools in their district and spoke to agriculture classes and chapter programs — they presented their two-minute speeches in front of about 5,000 people at the Florida FFA Convention.
“Each candidate comes up with a theme for their campaign, and mine was Hope in Action, inspired by my sister, Hope,” Wagner said. “It meant everyone has wishes and hopes and dreams but you can’t simply wish for them to come true. With a little focus and dedication, you can put them into action and obtain those hopes.”
One of the best lines in her speech, she said, was this: “Hope feels the intangible, sees the invisible and accomplishes the impossible.”
She also quoted her favorite Bible verse, 1 Timothy 4:12: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young but set an example for the believers.”
“When I was able to see her speech that she gave at the convention, I couldn’t have been more proud of her,” said Laura Beusse, Ocoee High principal. “She’s so eloquent. … She’s really a great representative for our whole community, not just Ocoee High School, and our district. Her potential is limitless.”
The vice presidency is for one year and is considered a full-time job for the students. She is deferring college until next summer or fall, but when she does go, she and other members of the state officer team will have six credit hours from this experience.
She is receiving three scholarships through the program, as well as a fourth from the Central Florida Fair.
Her plan is to work in agriculture, so she is considering degrees in either beef-cattle genetics or ag communications.
Wagner said she initially joined FFA because of the livestock.
“I always loved animals, and so that drew me to FFA immediately that I would get to be around animals and learn about them,” she said. “It wasn’t until later in FFA that I learned it wasn’t just animals. One of the main aspects is actually leadership.”
In high school, Wagner started a poultry breeding program with Mille Fleur chickens. She bred, raised and sold them as part of her FFA experience.
This year, she purchased a market steer for showing. She sold him at the Central Florida Fair in March for $3 a pound. He weighed in at 1,232 pounds.
Wagner gives credit to her family, her mentors and her advisers for her success in the FFA program.
FFA adviser Amy Anderson has watched Wagner grow with the organization, first at Ocoee Middle and then at OHS. Peter Jordan, another adviser, has been with Wagner since her freshman year.
Amy Stotler, a friend and FFA advocate, has been a great mentor.
And Wagner’s parents and sister have helped with projects and at the land lab. It is because of their support that she is able to take on this new role.
Part of her responsibilities as a state officer is making time for travel. One of the biggest trips will be to South Africa in January to observe and learn agriculture and livestock practices in that part of the world.
“It’s kind of a humbling trip to take us somewhere that’s less developed and do community service,” Wagner said. “We see how lucky we are here.”
The Florida FFA Association pays for all of the officers’ clothing for the year and travel expenses around the country. However, the students, who are not paid for their yearlong service, must fund their trip to South Africa, which will cost about $4,000.
Wagner’s parents, Bill and Sherri Wagner, of Ocoee, have started a fundraising page at gofundme.com/5ruhzuw in hopes of securing donations.
“(Hannah) is wise beyond her years and (provides) great leadership,” Beusse said. “I’m looking forward to watching that grow in the next year (and) to seeing those leadership capabilities play out as she travels to South Africa in the next year in her role as vice president of the state.”