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Lodge Grass teen becomes first from chapter to be named state officer

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Anthony Hernandez of the Little Big Horn FFA was recently elected the 2022-2023 Montana FFA State Parliamentarian. He is the first Montana FFA state officer from his chapter and the first Native American state officer since 1947.

The last bit of business performed at any Montana FFA State Convention has always been the announcement of the Montana FFA’s new state officers. For members of the organization, being elected as a state officer is an emotionally-charged FFA career pinnacle. For 18-year-old Lodge Grass High School senior Anthony Hernandez, running for a state office was a dream he has had since the 7th grade.

Hernandez admits, he doesn’t come from a farm or ranch, so it wasn’t FFA’s agriculture foundation that initially drew him to the organization. As a 7th grader, Hernandez was sitting in his school’s ag classroom when he noticed a sign-up sheet for District Leadership School (DLS), a leadership workshop facilitated by the state FFA officers that is held every fall at every respective FFA district. Like many pre-teen boys, Hernandez liked the idea of getting a chance to skip school, so he put his name down on the sign-up sheet. He knew nothing about FFA, but he also had no idea how much the course of his life would change from that point on.

“I went to DLS and I had all these people asking me what my SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience) was and what CDEs (Career Development Events) I compete in and all I could think was, ‘What is this computer language?’” Hernandez said with a laugh while he reflected back on his first-ever FFA trip.

With an open mind and kindling passion for leadership development, Hernandez stuck with FFA. He quickly learned what SAE and CDE stood for, and he became an active member of his chapter and eagerly participated in every contest, event, and workshop he could.

At the Montana FFA State Convention his freshman year of high school, Hernandez remembers watching the state FFA officers get announced. As the newly-elected officers ran to the stage, he noted the passion that was etched on their faces.

“Once I saw that, I decided I wanted that. I wanted to be a state officer,” he said.

Many FFA members look back fondly on the moment that sparked them to want to run for a state office. For Hernandez, that spark meant a little something different.

A Native American, Hernandez’s mother is Crow and his father is Shoshone-Bannock. The pride he has for his family and culture bubbles out of him. He is a young man of conviction who decided to run for a Montana State FFA Office, not because he could, and not only because he wanted to give back to the organization that helped shaped him as a human. For Hernandez, the reasons ran deeper.

“My chapter is the second-largest Native American chapter in the nation. We have a really active chapter but we have never really seen anyone who looked like us run for a state office,” he said.

Hernandez is a leader and often leaders must go into unchartered territory and forge a path. He wanted to run for a state office in the hopes of inspiring other young Native American students and FFA members to become more involved.

Preparing to run for a state office has been a multi-year journey for Hernandez. At the 2021 Montana FFA State Convention, Hernandez served on the State Officer Nominating Committee, which helped him get a feel for the state officer interviewing process. He has also spent a lot of time self-reflecting because he wanted to ensure his authenticity shined through.  

“I really wanted to go in to those interview and just be myself,” Hernandez stated.

After three days of intense interviews, Hernandez and the 23 other Montana FFA members that ran for state office this year entered the Brick Breeden Field House on the morning of Saturday, April 2, with raw nerves. When it came time to announce the 2022-23 Montana FFA State Officers, all of the candidates huddled up, per tradition, and awaited their fate.

“When we huddled up I was looking at the other candidates and I could see all their emotions. We were all just really proud of each other,” he said humbly.

Moments after the candidates huddled up, Hernandez’s life changed forever as his name was called. Anthony Hernandez, from Lodge Grass High School, was named the 2022-23 Montana FFA State Parliamentarian. He is the first state officer from his chapter (Little Big Horn) and the first Native American state officer in Montana since 1947.

As Hernandez ran up on stage after his name was called, tears ran down his face. His chapter could be heard yelling their excitement over the roar of the crowd. He describes that moment in his life as simply “amazing.”

“It’s just phenomenal to think about that I have had the opportunity to impact and inspire, not only my community, but my tribe, as well. I am just really proud of who I am and where I come from,” he articulated.

As Hernandez’s dream of becoming a Montana FFA state officer morphs into reality, he cannot wait for this summer when he can really begin spending more time with his team and interacting with members. This is just the beginning for Hernandez.

He plans to continue his passion for FFA even after his year as a state officer. Despite growing up in a die-hard University of Montana Grizzlies family, Hernandez will be enrolling at Montana State University in the fall to study Ag Education.

FFA has impacted Hernandez in an incomprehensible way, and he is looking forward to giving back.

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