Where Are They Now? | September 2022 | By Ashley Butler
Meet Jamie Orton, former Richfield FFA member who served as the Historian, Secretary, Vice President and President of her chapter throughout her high school years.
She was highly involved in FFA and competed in a variety of events including: public speaking, parliamentary procedure, and business related competitions.
“I loved being involved and took advantage of every FFA leadership training that I could and made great friendships along the way,” She says.
As someone who was raised as a traditional ag kid, farming with her parents in Richfield Utah, Jamie always thought that she would have a career in agriculture, but as with a lot of us, life took her on a different path. Jamie now serves as the Director for International Student & Scholar Services at Southern Utah University (which enrolls more than 750 international students each year from 76 different countries) where she oversees International Admissions Processing, immigration maintenance, international student success and retention, promotes diversity and inclusion, and mentors student groups.
While it’s not necessarily the career she saw herself in, Jamie says she couldn’t be happier with the opportunities that she’s had to have a worldwide influence through the lives of thousands of students. Without the FFA however, Jamie says she would not have had the skills and knowledge to be successful in her career.
Jamie hosting the First Lady of the Democratic Republic of Congo for a conference at SUU and showing her Southern Utah.
Jamie and her colleagues were selected to win the student organization of the year award.
Carrying international flags at SUU Homecoming Parade.
“Being “forced” through FFA to put myself out there has led me to have a sense of confidence that I don’t think I would have obtained any other way. FFA served as a catalyst for the rest of my career and life,” she says. “I went from a shy farm kid that wouldn’t talk to somebody on the phone to confidently speaking and educating large numbers of people frequently. My knowledge of the agricultural industry has helped me connect on a personal level with dignitaries from around the world. I will be forever thankful for the opportunities afforded to me as an FFA member”
Even though Jamie didn’t end up in a career in the agriculture industry, she has learned to remind herself that, ‘I have power in the place that I’m in,’ meaning that she has the ability to influence others, and represent the agriculture industry, as does anyone, simply by making connections, and choosing to make an effort to do so. One way Jamie does this is by inviting the Ag. club at SUU to the events that the international students may be having and encourages partnership and communication, as it helps bring awareness to agriculture on a global perspective.
She says that choosing to be an advocate for agriculture is something that everyone should be inspired to do, regardless of what career or position they are in.
When asked what advice she would give to a high school student that is thinking about joining FFA, she said, “Join. It does not matter if you are a traditional ag kid or not – the future of agriculture is limitless and diverse with a multitude of career opportunities. But, even more than that, the friendships and network you will build by being involved will have a powerful positive impact on your life.”
Jamie says she hopes that those involved in FFA, or those thinking about joining will recognize that the skills and tools that are learned and developed from being in the organization are ones that will be beneficial in any job, or position, regardless of what industry.
Now with kids of her own, Jamie is highly involved in helping her daughter’s (Ashlyn Orton) FFA Chapter (Canyon View).
“Being able to support Ashlyn in her involvement in FFA has been the best avenue for us to strengthen our relationship. I am so proud of Ashlyn for being involved in FFA even though she is not a traditional ag kid and the passion she has found to advocate and support the agricultural industry. “
Jamie says she jumps at any chance to be involved. This past summer she attended the Southern Chapter Officer Leadership Training and cooked for all the members, and this year she will be coaching/advising the chapter’s parliamentary procedure team.
In the future, Jamie says she also wants to help explore ways for current FFA members to grow in their awareness of the diversity that is in the agricultural industry and the many ways they can still be involved and support the industry even if their career or life paths are not directly related.
When asked what she would tell other FFA alumni about the importance of supporting their local FFA chapter, she said, “Get involved! Even if it is in a small way, find a way to support in person or through financial donations to support your local FFA chapter. There are few things better in life than knowing that you are having a positive influence on the experience and future of a young person. Getting involved is an amazing way to give back to the FFA community that you benefited from as a youth.”