COLUMBUS, Indiana — The 2013 Bartholomew County 4-H Fair queen has traded her crown for a gavel.
Brittany Young, 18, just began her term as president of the Indiana FFA, following her selection at the 85th state convention.
The recent Hauser High School graduate is the first from Hope to be selected for the position and the third to serve from Bartholomew County.
"It was crazy. It was the last thing I expected," she told The Republic (http://bit.ly/1mCJT7x ). "I'm so excited for what's to come."
The new job comes with sacrifices: Young will need to postpone attending college for a year.
Serving as a state officer for FFA is a full-time job. For the next year, Young will live at the FFA Leadership Center in Trafalgar with the six other officers.
Together they will travel the state to camps, conferences and classrooms to educate others about and promote the state organization, which was founded in 1929 and was formerly known as the Future Farmers of America.
Young is a 10-year 4-H member and grew up working on the family farm in Hope.
Family members including her grandfather and father, also involved with 4-H and agriculture, said it was obvious they would not have to push Young too hard toward the club.
She was showing animals for a neighbor at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fair while in kindergarten, and she was bringing Black Angus cattle into the ring when she was just a fourth-grader.
"It was a given," said her mom, Terri Young. "She just knew she wanted to do it."
The same goes for FFA, which she had heard fun stories about from her dad.
She disliked public speaking and giving presentations in middle school, but leadership and communication are areas the organization emphasizes.
Her first agriculture teacher, Arnold Ellison, saw potential in Young and encouraged her to enter an FFA speech competition.
"You can look at a class, and you can see someone that's bubbly, energetic, enthusiastic," the now-retired teacher said. "You just see it in different kids, and I saw it earlier in her and always encouraged her."
By the following year, she had won second place in the Freshman Prepared Public Speaking contest — and she said she almost lost her heel in the excitement when she went on stage to accept her plaque.
She was eventually elected District XI president and named Bartholomew County 4-H Fair Queen — which Young said were two of the proudest moments of her life.
This week has been bittersweet for her — commuting between the Bartholomew County 4-H Fair to show her barrow and heifer while balancing her responsibilities in Trafalgar.
"It's kind of a bummer I can only be here the days that I'm showing, but it's worth it," Young said. "I'm just blessed to be able to spend the next year promoting the ag industry. That's my passion."
Young was named president of the FFA on a Friday, and she was asked to move to Trafalgar by Sunday.
The seven officers will waste no time, she said.
During their year of service as youth ambassadors, the high school graduates will travel the state to present 10 three-day leadership conferences and speak to more than 8,000 FFA members, supporters and individuals involved in leadership and agriculture.
Ellison is almost as excited about the experience as Young.
"The state office thing is going to be very cool for her," he said. "It's going to be amazing what she's doing. When you want her to do something, you know she'll go at it with 100 percent."
Her dad, Kevin Young, had initial reservations, especially after learning that FFA officers are required to spend a year at the Leadership Center.
"We're not going to see you for a year," Kevin Young said with tears in his eyes when his daughter asked what he thought.
But her parents know it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
And Young said she and her team are not going to waste it.
The officers have already committed to continue an effort to increase Indiana FFA membership.
The organization has grown by more than 1,000 members in the past two years, and the membership count is well above 10,000.
Indiana is a leading producer of corn, soybeans, hogs, poultry, popcorn and tomato products, according to the Indiana Department of Agriculture, so strong interest from high school students is important to fill jobs.
Young said they will use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to attract high school members, and they will use fun presentations to engage elementary students.
Had she not been elected as president, Young would have been preparing to enroll in agriculture classes at Ivy Tech Community College-Columbus.
She still plans to do so — but not until next summer.
After two years at Ivy Tech, she plans to transfer to Purdue University in West Lafayette to study agriculture education.
The two institutions are piloting a new partnership to address a shortage of high school agriculture teachers, which will allow Ivy Tech graduates to transfer to Purdue's agriculture education program for half-price tuition. In return, students will need to commit to teaching at the high school level for at least three years.
That will not be a problem for Young, who said she considers Ellison to be one of her role models and hopes to impact others' lives in the same way.
Ellison said he could see Young being a spokesperson for a large agriculture corporation.
But no matter what career she chooses, Young said she knows this coming year will help.
"It is so emotional, so exciting," Young said. "FFA really changed my life, and I won't take this opportunity for granted."
Information from: The Republic, http://www.therepublic.com/