My closet is full of clothing that brings me joy: new trendy outfits, a classic pink power suit, well-worn tennis shoes, nostalgic T-shirts. Buried at the back of my closet is a faded blue corduroy jacket that I will probably never wear again but can’t stand to part with.

My chapter FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) jacket is so much more than a favorite item of clothing; it represents the profound impact that the organization had on my life and who I have become.

This week for National FFA Week, I celebrated with other FFA alumni, which number in the millions nationally, by pulling on my jacket and reflecting on how lives change while wearing it.

My FFA career began in junior high and continued through college. Those years of participation completely changed the trajectory of my life and career. Almost every accomplishment, useful business skill and transformational experience in my life can be traced back to the foundational opportunities of FFA.

FFA has a mission of developing students’ potentials for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. This becomes reality through many of the organization’s programs. Skill based competitions encourage students to develop expertise in soil science, meat evaluation, product marketing, food science, livestock selection, public speaking and numerous other areas.

Life and career skills are intentionally developed through student projects that include working in the industry, starting a business or conducting scientific research. Leadership qualities are fostered by speakers, workshops and working on officer teams.

A legacy of traditions bind FFA members and alumni across the country and over the years. Learning and reciting the FFA creed is one of these rites of passage for many first-year members in the organization. This experience builds confidence as a public speaker and shared camaraderie for an industry that requires a passionate will to persevere. The iconic first line states, “I believe in the future of agriculture with a faith born not of words, but of deeds.”

This week, I am grateful for those deeds in my own life and for the future generations. Kansas is fortunate to have community and agriculture leaders throughout the state who fight to have this life-changing program available for students in their communities.

In the past seven years, 52 school districts have added agricultural education and FFA chapters. Statewide, almost 10,000 student at more than 200 schools are members of the organization.

Let’s hope that this growth isn’t over yet. Agriculture connects all people and is vitally important to the Kansas economy. If every student in Kansas had a blue corduroy jacket and the life experiences that come from it, imagine what they would all do.

Jackie Mundt is a young professional and farmer from Pratt County, who is passionate about agriculture and youth development. Mundt is a former state and national FFA officer.