UK student elected National FFA Vice President


During her sophomore year of college, Gracie Furnish was elected as the National FFA Eastern Region Vice President on Oct. 29, 2017.

Bailey Vandiver

If someone had asked Gracie Furnish as a freshman in high school if she wanted to be an FFA national officer, she may not have said yes.

But on Oct. 29, 2017, during her sophomore year of college, Furnish was elected as the National FFA Eastern Region Vice President.

“I think every single experience has led to this point,” she said. “I think it’s kind of been brewing since my very first ag class in middle school.”

Furnish, an agricultural education major, became involved in FFA when she took an agriculture class in seventh grade. She said she became really involved her freshman year of high school, when she took another class.

“I come from a family farm and an agriculture background,” she said. “From there on, I just really loved (FFA).”

Furnish, a Cynthiana native, is the third FFA national officer from the UK College of Agriculture in the past five years.

“I’m so blessed to be from Kentucky,” she said. “I love getting to talk about the University of Kentucky and my hometown when I’m out on the road.”

Furnish was an officer for the first time in tenth grade, when she served as a committee chairman for the local Harrison County chapter. She has served in officer positions ever since: She was a chapter officer, then a regional officer. During her freshman year of college, she served as Kentucky’s FFA secretary.

“It really hit me during my state officer year that I would like to take my experiences in this organization to the next level and be able to give back at a different level,” she said.

So she interviewed in June to represent Kentucky as a national officer candidate; each state can send only one candidate to the convention.

“I was very blessed to receive the candidacy, and from that point on, I’ve just been prepping in a lot of different ways to get ready,” she said.

She said she talked to mentors, agricultural teachers and industry leaders. She learned more about agricultural education as well as government and politics. She took a prep course in Texas, which is not required but is attended by many candidates.

She said she also worked on discovering who she is as a person.

“That’s a huge part of this process,” she said, “figuring out who you are and what you believe in and what you value and truly owning that before heading into the process.”

Once she arrived at national convention, having already completed a written application, she participated in ten rounds of interviews with the nine-person nominating committee.

Originally, there were 41 candidates, which were later cut to 24. Then the final six officers remained and were elected to their respective roles.

“It’s a pretty extensive process, but it’s a really, really amazing learning opportunity,” she said.

Furnish said she is excited to work and grow with her fellow officers. The president, Breanna Holbert, made history by being the first black woman elected FFA president.

“She’s very humble about it, she doesn’t want a lot of attention for it,” Furnish said. “But she also knows that she’s breaking through a ceiling for all of our members.”

Furnish said that is what FFA is about because the organization has more than 500,000 members from diverse backgrounds.

Furnish said that women were not allowed in FFA until 1969, so since then, the organization has had its first female president, and now has its first black female president.

Furnish said that since she was elected, she has been trying to thank all of the people who have “poured so much into me.”

Furnish said UK agricultural education academic coordinator Kendall Wright has been a huge part of her journey. Wright said it is hard to describe how honored she is to know Furnish.

“I admire Gracie for many things, including her selflessness and her genuine and kind personality, but I most admire Gracie for her unwavering faith,” Wright said.

Wright said she is so excited for Furnish as she begins her time as a national officer.

“But I am even more excited for all of the people she will meet during her time as a national FFA officer, as they will be forever changed by their experience with the bright, generous, faithful and compassionate leader that Gracie Furnish is,” she said.

Furnish will be taking both semesters of 2018 off from school to serve. She and the other officers will be based in Indianapolis but will only spend 60 to 65 days there in the entire year. The team will travel all over the country to state conventions, conferences and more. In January, the officers are taking a trip to Japan.

“I’m really, really excited about that,” Furnish said.

But first, they have to train. They must finish their classes up by Thanksgiving then report to training in December.

“They say it’s a year for a reason because you go so hard at it and get to do so much,” she said. “I’m just really looking forward to it.”