State FFA Officers Master the Art of Balancing Leadership and Achievement


Robert Eselby

Seniors, from left, Amelia Pillis, Joe Velky, and Danni Syrotiak have impressed the Region 14 community with their ability to balance a litany of responsibilities. They are serving as officers in the Connecticut FFA.

Emma Cummings, Ag/FFA Reporter

WOODBURY — Being a senior is hard enough. Considering the different responsibilities that fill a school day for the average student, it’s remarkable what Amelia Pillis, Danni Syrotiak, and Joe Velky accomplish.

Aside from being students, Pillis, Syrotiak, and Velky are also Connecticut FFA officers. Holding a state office position calls for various extra responsibilities on top of their normal schoolwork.

“As a state reporter, I manage the Connecticut FFA social media accounts such as Instagram and Facebook,” said Syrotiak, the FFA state reporter. “I create posts that include important information for events as well as keep the Connecticut FFA Association updated as to what the officers are up to. Aside from my position duties, I run workshops, give speeches, and visit chapters throughout the state to meet members and hopefully inspire them to get involved with the FFA.”

Despite the stress, the continuous schoolwork and chaotic schedules might bring to the students, these three FFA officers make sure to keep a positive attitude and learn from these challenges.

“I learned how to throw myself into the deep end,” said Pillis, the FFA state treasurer. “I don’t want to regret anything when my term ends, so I’ve taken every opportunity I was given and could fit in my schedule. I’ve definitely become more comfortable and confident with myself knowing I can do whatever I put my mind to.”

With all this responsibility, these state officers have faced plenty of challenges. 

State officer Joe Velky speaks about leadership in the FFA at Shepaug Valley High School during fall semester. (Tyler Cremeans)

“It’s definitely taught me to be patient with the process,” Syrotiak adds. “It was a rocky start trying to find the motivation to do both high school work and state office but it’s all fallen into place really well.”

It’s striking what these students have accomplished on their own. While these three officers have proven their independent skills, there are many people in and out of the FFA community that give them endless amounts of support, and help them as much as they can. 

“Past state and chapter officers from Woodbury inspired me to become an officer,” Pillis said. “Everyone was super supportive and would give me great advice. Mr. [Tom] DiMarco has been a great resource for advice and help navigating the balance between student and officer life.”

DiMarco, Nonnewaug’s landscaping instructor, is also in charge of applications when it comes to the state level, ensuring that NHS students adhere to the rigorous Connecticut FFA guidelines. Not only does he assist students in the laborious application processes, but DiMarco gives great advice, preparing students for what state office is like while always giving all of them unconditional support along the way. 

“Time management is an important quality to have, and just being able to be flexible and adjust to sudden changes,” says DiMarco. 

The challenges of maintaining a state officer seat can be overwhelming. Thankfully, DiMarco has been there before. 

“Being a state officer as a senior is really tough, not so much just with the balancing, but there’s so much that goes on on the state level that is much easier and convenient when you’re not a senior in high school, flexibility-wise,” says DiMarco. “I think our students that are state officers are doing very well in terms of balancing their schoolwork and being a state officer. I think they’re getting a lot out of being a state officer and are giving back to FFA at the state level and are making an impact on that.” 

Regardless of the challenge it might bring, there are also many positive factors that play into having an exciting and senior year in state office. 

“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to do state office my senior year because I will no longer be in state for college,” said Syrotiak.

With spring here, Syrotiak and her other officers are already thinking about passing the baton to next year’s leaders and the qualities the job entails. 

“I would tell them that if you really are passionate about FFA, you will be able to make time for everything,” said Syrotiak. “State advisor Mr. [Milton] Natusch is super understanding and flexible with state office work because he knows the challenges that come with high school. It’s no stress and so worth the challenges you will face.”