GUSTINE - Watching his older sister participate in FFA activities, Daniel Gomes knew that he too wanted to be active in the organization when he reached high school.
Today, as a junior, Gomes is leading the Gustine FFA chapter as its president - which in the midst of a pandemic requires shifting meetings, activities and competitions to a virtual format.
While the restrictions have prevented members from gathering for events, Gomes and the officer team are striving to ensure that FFA continues to offer opportunities to compete, hone leadership skills and experience the personal growth which the organization instills.
“We have an officer meeting once a month to talk about every activity that we would (normally) have in person, but how we could do it virtually,” Gomes explained. “We are trying to keep everyone involved through the monthly meetings and activities on Instagram and Facebook. We are doing everything we can.”
He acknowledges that virtual activities cannot fully replace the experience of meeting new people and forging relationships at in-person FFA events, but said as much of that as possible continues in the virtual format.
As chapter president, Gomes said, one of his goals is to keep the FFA spirit strong despite the limitations of the pandemic.
“Getting people out of their comfort zone is a key, so that everyone can have fun doing all the activities,” he stated.
At the time he spoke to Mattos Newspapers, Gomes said he was hopeful that students would be back in school for National FFA Week and that activities were being planned.
As always, contingency planning was a must.
“We are planning virtual and in-person options” to celebrate the week, he noted.
Gomes, the son of Christina and Richard Gomes, has been active in a variety of FFA competitions and activities since arriving on campus as a freshman.
He has been a livestock exhibitor since his 4-H days, and continued that interest as an FFA member.
After showing market goats in 4-H he showed a market hog as an incoming FFA member but has since switched back to raising goats.
“I wanted to try something new. My sister had started showing pigs and it seemed like fun,” Gomes explained. “I like showing goats more than I do pigs, because I have more control of the goat.”
Not being able to show last year due to the pandemic was a disappointment, he said.
“It was very sad to not see people you usually see at the fair,” Gomes commented. “Thankfully, the fair did a virtual sale so we were able to sell.”
Hand-in-hand with that interest, Gomes said he also loves livestock judging, in which he has been involved each of his three years at Gustine High.
He has also taken part in opening/closing ceremonies and FFA Creed competitions, and competed in job interview.
A trip to the national convention during his sophomore year was among the FFA highlights for Gomes. In addition to enjoying the convention activities, Gomes said, he had the opportunity to tour Ohio State, the school he hopes to attend after completing his studies at Gustine High. He plans to major in ag business and pursue a career in ag finance.
He credits his advisers for helping him get the most from his FFA experiences.
“My ag teachers pushed me to do my best, and when you need something they are there to help you right away,” Gomes explained.
FFA, Gomes said, has proven beneficial on many levels.
“It has impacted me. It has pushed me out of my comfort zone,” he remarked. “The organization is not just about showing livestock. It is about public speaking, building new friendships and meeting people. I have met new people from all over from going to conferences and the state and national conventions.”
The leadership skills, public speaking ability and experiences gained through FFA, Gomes said, will pay lasting benefits as he embarks on college studies and his future career.