By Kelli Schrag, Kansas FFA Foundation Intern
The blue corduroy jacket is perhaps the most recognizable symbol of the National FFA Organization. If you were to ask an FFA member either past or present about their experience, they would probably talk your ear off with stories of their time spent in the blue jacket.
Most members’ FFA journey begins with the purchase of a new jacket, one that has their own name stitched in corn gold on the front. Oftentimes, the member will wear the jacket while it is still stiff from shipping. But the pride felt from wearing it, stiff or broken in, is irreplaceable. The jacket guides FFA members through the four years of FFA.
I remember receiving my first FFA jacket. I felt honored to be representing not only myself and my chapter, but also my state and the National FFA Organization. The blue corduroy was always present in times of nerves, joy, or sadness. It was there for my first speech contest, stuffed with Kleenexes because I was so nervous and had to do something with my hands. It was there for my first state CDE, the comforting corduroy replacing my nerves with confidence. It was there when I interviewed for a district office position, and when I experienced National Convention for the first time. I remember getting called “Kansas” and taking pictures with people from other states, proudly showing the back of our jackets to the camera. It was with me when I travelled to Washington D.C. for Washington Leadership Conference- I still keep the key I received in the inside pocket as a token of worth and a reminder to do what I can with what I have where I am.
Society may wonder why blue corduroy means so much to an FFA member. The jacket is much more than the official dress of the National FFA Organization. For some, it may be the only “jersey” they ever wear. It shows students that they belong to something bigger than themselves. I always get chills when I see a National Officer’s jacket, with the sole emblem in stark contrast of the blue background. The jacket is a common thread running from chapter to chapter, connecting students across the nation: from the state of Alaska to Puerto Rico and from the state of Maine to Hawaii. The jacket gives students a sense of pride in an organization that provides them with leadership and career building opportunities.
One of the most heartbreaking moments in my FFA career was unzipping that jacket for the last time. I tweeted to the National FFA Organization explaining it was my last time, and the love and support I received from members across the country is something I’ll cherish forever. Currently, my jacket is hanging in my closet, each memory I created sewn into the folds of the corduroy.
However, because of the cost not every member today has that opportunity. YOU can give them that opportunity. For $75 you can purchase a FFA jacket and tie for a deserving young person--and you can change their life. I am forever in debt to the donator of my jacket, for without them I would not have the memories, skills, or leadership abilities that I do today. The price of the jacket is incomparable to the lifetime of priceless friendships, talents, and memories that FFA has to offer.