Embracing Growth

Bartow High Graduate Emma Self Elected State FFA Area IV Vice President


Emma Self, a 2023 graduate of Bartow High School, has been elected the Florida FFA Area IV Vice President. Self is taking a gap year between high school and college to focus on her FFA responsibilities.

“Agriculture is obviously the backbone of our world,” Self says. “Not only do we need to eat, but all of our essential products in life — deodorant, chapstick, toothpaste, clothing, forestry, tourism, and horticulture [come from agriculture].”

“Agriculture is the second-biggest industry in Florida behind tourism, and agri-tourism is part of that,” she continues. 

The 18-year-old says she didn’t grow up on a farm or ranch but instead fell in love with agriculture through a class in middle school. She hopes to become an agriculture teacher to ignite the passion in other students. 

“I am focusing on learning as much as possible now so I can be the best ag teacher possible,” Self says. “I want to have the space to advocate for the industry, and I want students to be educated consumers.”

“Emma is passionate about the National FFA Organization and embodies the blue corduroy jacket,” says Jessica Anderson, Assistant Director of the Agriculture, Public Service, Construction/Industrial Career, Technical, and Adult Education division of Polk County Schools.

“I am excited to see the impact she will make on her peers across Area IV through her service this year.”

As part of her FFA responsibilities, Self will be attending board meetings and conferences for Florida FFA. She attended an event in the District of Columbia this summer and will be in Iowa later this year.

“Approximately 6,000 students attend student leadership conferences,” Self says. “That’s our main focus — serving those students and helping them become successful leaders in the ag industry.”

‌An active member of FFA and the ag community, the teen is well-known to many in Polk County.

“Having had the pleasure of witnessing Emma’s many accomplishments during her high school years in FFA, I am thrilled for her opportunity to serve as Florida FFA Area IV Vice President,” says Carole McKenzie, executive director of Polk County Farm Bureau.

“She has proven leadership skills demonstrated by the trust and esteem placed in her by both her peers and the Polk agriculture community.”

During her time at Bartow High School, she served as Student Advisor and Vice President of the FFA chapter. In middle school, she was the FFA chaplain and president. She is a strong advocate for the FFA ParPro team, which competes in the realm of parliamentary procedure.

“[ParPro] creates teamwork and leadership and agricultural advocates,” she says. 

In ParPro, five members have the opportunity to debate and to make motions. There is also a chairman who rules on the motions and maintains order in the meetings. 

“My biggest goal is to make lifelong connections,” Self says. “I really believe in getting to know other stories so we can gain perspective. I want to learn humility and how to serve selflessly. We are so focused on ourselves and doing things for us. The members deserve our full attention. I hope to gain humility and perspective and learn to put others first so that becomes a habit of mine.”

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