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Lander graduate to compete for seat on national FFA board

Aug 17, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

Lander Valley High School 2010 graduate Odessa Oldham will be among 51 young adults to travel to Indianapolis to compete for one of six seats on the board for the FFA's national chapter.

Each state and Puerto Rico send one candidate to the national convention, and the 20-year-old learned earlier this summer that she was tapped as Wyoming's contender.

While Oldham hopes to be the first Wyoming FFA member in nearly a decade to hold a national elected office, she has already made history as the first American Indian candidate from any state.

"It's pretty sweet," she said. "I'm pretty excited."

Oldham, who is a member of the Navajo Tribe, has been involved in agriculture her entire life. She had booster lambs in 4-H at the age of 3. She's a longtime fair participant, showing animals and competing in other activities such as speaking, demonstrations, talent shows, leather craft, sewing and wood working.

Oldham has worked many summers on her family's farms in the Lander and Fort Washakie areas and has been involved with FFA for several years.

She continued her involvement with FFA after high school and was selected in 2010 as vice president of the Wyoming chapter.

"I knew I wanted to be a state officer in ninth grade," Oldham said.

In 2011, she was one of five members to run for the state candidacy for the national board. This will be the first time she makes a run at a national seat.

It wasn't until her sophomore year that Oldham's goal moved up a notch to the national level. She said it was watching a national officer give her retiring address that motivated her to seek a higher position.

"It's something that's been my dream for a while," she said.

While the state candidacy is selected after a day of interviews, Oldham said national applicants go through cuts, personal interviews, one-on-ones and written tests and essays about a variety of agricultural issues. A committee selects the final six to fill the positions of president, secretary and four vice presidents.

"I want to be president," a grinning Oldham said.

If selected, she will have to relocate to Indianapolis for a year. After two weeks of training, she will spend 320 days of the next 12 months traveling throughout the United States visiting with FFA members.

"We're kind of there to serve them," she said.

The group will also spend a few days in another country, which has yet to be determined. There, they will exchange agricultural information with another culture, Oldham said.

National officers also go to Washington, D.C., to speak with legislators on behalf of the organization.

"It will be a full-time job," she said, adding she does not get paid but room and board is provided.

This year's national convention, which is the organization's 85th, will be Oct. 24 to Oct. 27. In the meantime, Oldham will be studying in preparation for the competition.

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