EDITOR'S NOTE: The Daily Republic is featuring seniors in central- and southeastern South Dakota for a "Senior Year Stolen" series. We've selected seniors who are focused in several interests, such as athletics, FFA, rodeo, fine arts and others. Included is an essay we've asked them to write. The topic is, "Tell us how will being a senior in 2020 during the pandemic impact the rest of your life?"

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FORESTBURG — This past week, Katie Schmit was part of the interviewing process for the next officers in the Sanborn Central/Woonsocket Future Farmers of America chapter.

As Schmit talked with the younger students, who she led as the SCW chapter president the past two years, her FFA experience came full circle. Even with the curveball the COVID-19 pandemic threw at high school seniors, the Sanborn Central student became the leader she hoped when she applied for the position as a sophomore.

“It was kind of cool to hear, the kids that are below us saying, ‘I’ve looked up to you officers. You’ve shown me what FFA is and how to be a good role model, and you possess that leadership,’ ” Schmit said. “It’s kind of just comes around to that full circle because when you’re younger, you look up to those that have leadership and they’re your role models. And when you finally hear that, it all pays off.”

Schmit has always possessed leadership skills, pushing her to strive for the top position like her older sister, Jessica, had once held. In doing so, she was able to promote agriculture and community service, two things that have always been close to her.

It all started on her family farm. Schmit quickly learned the importance of agriculture, while her desire to help people only grew as she watched her dad, Robert, bottle feed calves. It led her to FFA as a freshman, becoming the president a couple of years later and to South Dakota State University next year to study nursing, where she’ll combine her passion for science and to help others.

“I’ve always possessed leadership skills, so I guess striving to be my best and go for the top thing,” Schmit said. “I knew I wanted to be someone that people look up to and show leadership skills throughout our chapter. That was a drive to get that president position.”

Her FFA résumé comes with stellar marks. Schmit, along with five other seniors, took first place at the state Leadership Development Event this year. The Ag Issues team earned first by presenting arguments for both sides of the lab-made beef vs. natural beef discussion. They’ll compete at the national level in Indianapolis, Indiana, in October.

In the second semester, FFA focuses on Career Development Events, which covers numerous job skills. Schmit said the SCW chapter usually attends 5-10 events per year. FFA changed it to virtual sessions and will host its state Career Development Event virtually on May 12-14, too.

“(There’s) moments that we missed, but they can’t take away the memories that we made,” Schmit said. “I think that’s super important to remember that we do have memories, and although we didn’t get to continue to make them, we still have the ones in the past.”

Katie Schmit was the Sanborn Central/Woonsocket FFA chapter president for the final two years of her high school career. COVID-19 threw a curveball into the senior's final year. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Katie Schmit was the Sanborn Central/Woonsocket FFA chapter president for the final two years of her high school career. COVID-19 threw a curveball into the senior's final year. (Matt Gade / Republic)