LEFT: St. Jeanne de Lestonnac alum Brian Kavanagh, third from left, poses with other members of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) state leadership team. RIGHT: Kavanagh, who served as Treasurer, was a co-founder of the St. Jeanne FFA chapter, which started in 2018.
TEMECULA—Brian Kavanagh, who graduated from St. Jeanne de Lestonnac High School in Temecula last year, has completed his one-year term for National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Organization leadership on the state level. Kavanagh, who served as Treasurer, was the first student from St. Jeanne de Lestonnac to be elected to FFA state leadership.
When the Class of 2022 created the Temecula St. Jeanne de Lestonnac chapter in 2018, there were only four Catholic high schools in the United States which offered FFA; St. Jeanne de Lestonnac is the only high school in Temecula that offers FFA.
Kavanagh has attended St. Jeanne de Lestonnac since kindergarten and attributes his success as FFA Treasurer to school leaders.
“St. Jeanne’s set me up for success,” he said. “Having spent the entirety of my education with my St. Jeanne’s family, I grew not only academically, but developed a strong moral compass and found my spiritual path as well.”
Christian Gomez, agriculture teacher and FFA Advisor at St. Jeanne de Lestonnac, says that an extremely important part of the FFA is the leadership aspect. Students have the opportunity to run for an FFA office at multiple levels ranging from local to national. At the state level, students are elected by a body of delegates, two from each chapter in the state of California.
“The process to run for office is about three months long and is extremely competitive,” said Gomez.
State officer candidates undergo many screenings and interviews by a nominating committee. After multiple rounds of cuts, the top 12 students have the opportunity to be slated for a position at the State Leadership Conference that occurs every year.
Kavanagh took a gap year to devote himself to the position and says he found it important to delay his education plans and to serve for a year with the California FFA Organization because he saw the value in having the potential to directly impact the next generation of educators, business owners, politicians, farmers and leaders.
“In my freshman year, I was impacted by the State Officers and wanted to give back to the same family that allowed me to grow, learn and flourish,” he said. “I’ve learned so many soft and hard skills this year by traveling up and down the state and facilitating leadership conferences, teaching workshops in high schools and middle schools, advocating with elected leaders and forging connections — experiences that I am not too sure are offered in any university class.”
Kavanagh shares that he also has a deeper understanding of how agriculture truly is the most foundational industry of the nation. And he says he owes a lot to his alma mater.
His chapter advisor, Gomez, adds, “The fact that Brian was one of the founding members [of the St. Jeanne de Lestonnac Chapter] and had the opportunity to be elected as a state officer at the end of his senior year was an incredible accomplishment. There are programs that have been around since 1928 when the FFA was first founded, and have yet to have a state officer come from their program.”
And it looks like Kavanagh has opened the door for other leaders; a second St. Jeanne de Lestonnac student, Makena Stanisai, was elected to state office and slated to take over as secretary in 2023-2024.
“I believe these accomplishments are a true representation of how special Saint Jeanne’s is,” said Gomez. “These students are eager to extend a hand wherever they can and they’re passionate about diversifying their high school experience by partaking in organizations and classes that aren’t typical of a classic high school experience.”
And, as a member of FFA, Kavanagh created his own business, selling homemade jam, and learned more about entrepreneurship and leadership through agriculture.
“Having an FFA program changes the lives of these students,” Gomez said. “Without their FFA experience, many have shared that they may have still been undecided on what they wanted to pursue in life and in college.”
Kavanagh plans to attend the University of Notre Dame in the Fall where he will study International Business.
The FFA is an organization that intends to prepare its members for future career success and much more through agricultural education. It has more than 8,000 chapters in the nation including U.S. territories with 850,000+ members. The California Chapter has about 100,000.
For more information: www.ffa.org.