Posted on March 13, 2024

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By: Valley Urricelqui

Growing up I was the average child, had a good family, friends, and even braces. But couldn’t wait to grow up. I was very shy, awkward, and unconfident as a teenager. Boys scared me and, well, if it had anything to do with speaking in front of a room of more than two, you could catch me hiding in the bathroom.

Today, I am a strong, confident 22-year-old public speaking woman, where walking into a room and sharing my passions with others is my favorite part of any day.

Wait, but how did I get here? It’s a question that I have been asked often over the past five years. Rewind to my freshman year of high school … still that shy, unconfident girl hiding behind her baggy sweatshirts hoping no one would see her. I walked into my Ag Biology class. Here I found the FFA.

The FFA, as most of us in farming and ranching know, is a national organization that makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for leadership and career success. From public speaking to becoming a professional welder, the spectrum is wide within an FFA chapter. High school FFA is a very important start to a successful future for many students.

The FFA is where many lifelong success stories started. For this girl, growing up within the agriculture industry on a small cow/calf operation in Northeastern California, I had some experience in the world of agriculture. I had previously shown steers for my local 4- H for six years, and I knew that I had to be involved in the FFA so I could ultimately show steers come fair time. So I thought, that’s what I’ll do, the bare minimum to get by, just enough to reach that goal. Of course, that didn’t end up being case at all. It wasn’t long before my parents were more than just nudging me to do more — they told me I must do a speaking competition and run for an officer position.

No way, not happening. At least that’s what I thought.

I most certainly did not want to do a speaking competition or be an officer … are you kidding me? I don’t even like having conversations with people. But this was not an argument.

My first time ever speaking in front of a big crowd was my sophomore year of high school running for an FFA officer position. I can still see it today: Over 100 people staring at me, with bright lights in my face as I spoke, “My name is Valley Urrice … Urri …” and just like, I forgot my entire speech, the one that I had been working on for weeks! I was so nervous, I couldn’t even remember my name! With a few deep breathes I told them to vote for me and walked off stage.

I was humiliated. I wanted to crawl into a shell and never see any of those people ever again. Turns out my peers knew of my ability to do the job and voted me in, even after my horrific performance. This was my chance, this was my chance to show them the kind of speaker I can be.

From then on, my confidence grew, and my speeches began to get stronger and stronger. By junior year, I was in the Job Interview contest, while also an officer for my FFA chapter where I continued to excel in my speaking ability. By senior year, I wasn’t hiding anymore — I found my true calling, which was to share my passion for the agriculture industry with those around me. All of a sudden it was as if I wished that I had gotten more involved in my chapter much sooner. Thank you, to FFA for teaching me the leadership and speaking ability that I have today.

My successes didn’t stop there. As a senior in high school, I became the Shasta County Beef Ambassador and decided to compete at the state competition. I lost, and although this was a huge failure to me, it was also what gave me the determination to strengthen my speaking ability and knowledge of the industry to come back and compete again.

Fast forward three years later to my junior year of college, I ran for the Northern California State Beef Ambassador, and this year, I won! Finally, all of my hard work payed off. In 2019, I went on to be one of three on the American National Cattlewomen’s National Collegiate Beef Ambassador Team, where I have gotten the opportunity to travel the country and share my passion for the beef industry with others. I started my own blog and have had the privilege to intern for groups like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

To be successful is to step out of your comfort zone and do the unexpected … to do that pushes limits of the unknown. Now remember, not everything life throws at you is going to be easy. You have to work hard for the success you want to achieve. I wanted nothing to do with speaking to people, but today I’ve become a well-spoken individual with the poise and confidence to walk into a room and speak my mind and heart.

All thanks to the FFA. I found my voice. I found how I was going to be successful. I found me. Where will the FFA take you? 

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