At the conclusion of the 86th State Convention of the Future Farmers of America at Virginia Tech on June 21, Dustin Richardson became just the second student in Carroll County High School history to be selected as the State FFA President.
With his selection to head the State’s FFA program, Richardson becomes the first CCHS student to achieve that honor since Sarah Jo Helms (Jones) in 2005-06. He is only the third person ever from Carroll County to be voted into the position (Wayne Larrowe of Woodlawn High School was the state’s FFA president in 1935-36).
“It is a huge honor. I still can’t believe it. It’s hard to put yourself in that position thinking you are qualified enough for the president position,” Richardson said. “But our ag program at Carroll County High School is such a strong program and it has gotten me ready for that position.”
According to CCHS ag teacher and advisor Alan Webb, almost all of the state’s FFA presidents the last 20 years have come from the Shenandoah Valley. The only exceptions are Richardson and Sarah Jo. The most recent Southwest Virginia state president from this area besides the Carroll duo hailed from Floyd County in 1993.
“Carroll County has had several state officers, but not many presidents,” Webb said. “Dustin has been a strong asset to our chapter and his leadership skills have increased as he has matured through high school. This honor is a culmination of several years of hard work serving as a Chapter and Appalachian Area officer and through leadership activities and competitions. Dustin has always shown high moral character and I’m always proud to see students such as he recognized for their abilities. I am confident that our School, County, and the Virginia FFA Association will be very well represented by Dustin.”
Richardson certainly steps into the new position with the respect and admiration of his peers. While candidates were being interviewed for president and other state offices, they were asked who they thought should be president. Eleven of the 15 candidates chose Richardson.
“That just blew me away,” Richardson said. “While they were selecting officers (on June 21), all the candidates were huddled up. They started with Sentinel and worked their way up to President. It was awesome to see my fellow candidates get called. When it got to president, all the other candidates that were left backed away and turned and looked at me. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t control myself.”
Richardson’s joy was shared by many of his counterparts from this part of the state.
“They said your 2012-13 state president from Carroll County, and you saw the whole Appalachian Area go wild, jump in the air and clap and cheer,” Richardson said. “I took off running across the stage. It was so emotional and overwhelming. It was an awesome feeling.”
Randy Webb, also an ag teacher and advisor at CCHS, said Richardson’s leadership was evident from the very start of the state convention. He was not surprised so many of Richardson’s counterparts were in favor of the CCHS graduate for state president.
“He emerged as a leader from day one. Kids started looking to him for leadership and it was a passion for him,” Randy Webb said. “He said last fall he wanted to be a state officer, he worked hard on it and it paid off.”
Randy Webb said he began working with Richardson when he was in the 8th grade. He said the new State FFA President was part of an unbelievable group of students.
“It’s one of the most excellent group of kids I’ve ever worked with. I think out of our officers that graduated this year, every single one of them could have been a state officer. It’s one of those groups that came along once in a teaching career,” Randy Webb said. “The great thing about that is the younger kids look up to them and want to follow in their footsteps. I see that with our 10th graders this year. “
He believes the current crop of CCHS FFA students can rival those of earlier years.
“I’ve been teaching here five years now and I don’t know that many people that can say they’ve had three state officers in five years,” Randy Webb said. “Back in the 80s and early 90s we had a string of about 15 years that CCHS had a state officer. Since then it’s been sporadic. Hopefully we are back on track and working to start another great run of students.”
As president, Richardson will represent the State FFA program throughout the Commonwealth and all over the world. In January he will travel as a state officer to an international seminar in either China or Argentina. He will lead a summer FFA camp for students in two weeks, and will travel all over the state and U.S. Part of his duties will include Chapter visits to high schools across the state, holding workshops for students and members, and attending competitions and meetings throughout the year.
Because of the huge amount of travel and responsibility associated with the position, candidates for State FFA President must be recent high school graduates. A 2012 CCHS graduate, Richardson wants to attend either a community college or Virginia Tech to pursue a career as a large animal veterinarian after his duties as state president conclude.
Richardson said having multiple past state FFA officers from Carroll County has been a major benefit for him. Included in those is Austin Larrowe, the State Vice President in 2009-10.
“There’s been a whole web of past state officers that have helped me prepare and get ready and know what to expect. Austin was one of them, and some of his fellow teammates have really helped me out the most,” Richardson said. “I went to courthouse and sat in one of the offices and stayed with them all day long just practicing and preparing for this position and the interviews.”
Richardson, of Galax, was recognized with a resolution for his honor June 25 by the Carroll County Board of Supervisors. During the meeting, Richardson thanked the board for their continued support of the local FFA and ag programs.
“If not for their support we wouldn’t have as strong of a program as we do. Because of the Carroll County FFA and ag program I am where I am today,” Richardson said. “I have had so many opportunities through Carroll County and that has been the difference in getting me where I am today. I also want to recognize Mr. Randy Webb for his support all the years I have been in the FFA program.”