By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
COVID-19 interrupts Georgia FFA Convention
Event has strong Effingham County connection
Georgia FFA
Georgia FFA President Erik Robinson (from left), Georgia FFA Advisor Billy Hughes and Effingham County agriculture teacher Meredith Arrington - photo by Photos submitted

RINCON — Georgia FFA President Erik Robinson doesn’t need a spotlight to shine. Still, he would like one more opportunity to bask in the glow of his organization’s premier event.

Robinson, a 2019 Effingham County High School graduate and current University of Georgia freshman, is disappointed that the 92nd FFA Convention set for April 23-25 in Macon has been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s definitely a tough pill to swallow right now, for sure,” Robinson said, “but we’re getting through it everyday.”

The state convention is an annual opportunity for thousands of FFA members to celebrate their achievements. Hundreds of state degrees are awarded.

“That’s their moment to shine and exhibit to everybody the skills and talents they have honed over the past year,” Georgia FFA Advisor Billy Hughes said. “I know this is heartbreaking for them and it’s heartbreaking to state FFA  officials.”

Hughes, a Rincon resident and former Georgia FFA president, said FFA officials are pondering ways to make sure that the success of club members is honored even if a convention can’t be conducted. A virtual convention is an option.

“We are in uncharted territory,” Hughes said. “This is something that we’ve never seen in our lifetime and FFA members are trying to make the best of it so that they can have a positive experience based on what we are going through right now.”

Gov. Brian Kemp recently extended the public health state of emergency until May 13.

 “We are planning on something to happen like it always does but we are also planning in the background to do something virtually. We just don’t know right now,” Hughes said.

The 92nd convention would serve as the culmination of Robinson’s term as president. He was elected in April 2019, becoming the first black leader of the state officer team.

“He’s done really well,” said Hughes, who served as Robinson’s high school principal. “Erik has always been a committed student and he has been committed to the FFA.”

Robinson has been an effective FFA ambassador. He visited numerous Georgia chapters to offer agriculture students encouragement. He said his top job is motivating members “to be their best selves.”

“Chapter visits are just the pride and joy of our year,” Robinson said. “We get to go to the schools and see the members in their home territory, their element, and just hang out with them and see what life is like through their eyes.”

Personal interaction is one of Robinson’s primary strengths. Members gravitate toward him.

“All the kids know him and they all like him and look up to him,” Effingham County agriculture teacher Meredith Arrington said. “He is definitely a movie star when it comes to the state convention. I just hate this has happened because this is like his time for glory.”

Robinson greatly enjoys the camaraderie and other aspects of Georgia FFA, which has about 60,000 members.

About 70 students from the Effingham County School District were set to attend the convention. Some were slated to compete and others just wanted to show support for Robinson.

“There are so many different highlights to this year and it is so hard for me to believe that it is coming to and end,” Robinson said.

Robinson’s presidency featured Chapter Officer Leadership Training training last July.

“That was a whole experience in itself because that was the first taste of the job and being with students, meeting people and getting to facilitate,” he said. “That was our first taste of it and that was unforgettable.”

Another highlight was the State Officer Summit in Washington, D.C.

“We met the state officers from all across the nation,” Robinson said. 

Robinson appreciates that Georgia FFA has helped him expand his circle of friends.

“I’ve me so many people,” he said. “I never thought that I’d be friends with people from like Delaware, New York and California.”

Robinson’s path to the FFA presidency wasn’t a traditional one. He grew up in a subdivision and didn’t raise crops or animals.

“I feel like a lot of people think that only people who live on farms should be in FFA,” Robinson said. “That’s not necessarily true because there are people like me who never even had a taste of that but they found a love for it. You never  know until you finally just give it a shot.”

Robinson was lured into the club by others and immediately found it to his liking. FFA is catered toward students with interests in agriculture and leadership.

“If you put everything that you want into it, that’s what you will get out of it,” he said. “All we can do is encourage people to give it a shot and continue to show people what FFA really is through our actions. We want to inspire people to chase their dreams and step out of their comfort zone.”

Robinson is still sorting through his career dreams. He is leaning toward a career in law.

“I’m thinking about going to law school at LSU or staying at UGA for law school,” he said. “I’ve also thought about maybe going into the FBI or some federal agency of investigating.”

Arrington is confident Robinson will be a success in any career he chooses.

“Kids like him don’t come around very often,” she said.