For someone who was unsure if she wanted to take agriculture classes in high school, Haley Bode has come a long way.
Bode, a recent Waterloo High School graduate, was elected Thursday to the office of Illinois State FFA Secretary during the Illinois FFA Convention in Springfield, becoming just the sixth representative of the Waterloo FFA to hold state office.
“I’m really excited to be part of the legacy of the Waterloo FFA,” Bode said.
This legacy of state officers from Waterloo includes Tim McDermott, Chris Steppig, Rich Chapple, Joel Limestall, Joey Birrittier and now Bode.
Coincidentally, McDermott, currently WHS assistant principal, was Bode’s ag teacher during her freshman year.
Bode said he was also her “runner” and “connection to the outside world” for a time during the FFA convention when officer candidates were sequestered from the rest of the attendees during the election process.
“Being elected as a state FFA officer is a huge accomplishment that takes time and dedication. That effort has been recognized by her peers across Illinois,” McDermott said. “I am extremely proud of Haley for being elected and look forward to hearing about her experiences.”
Bode applied for state officer candidacy in February. She said she was “very honored” to be picked by the selection committee as one of the top 10 candidates to give an election speech during the recent state convention.
Bode was then elected by the convention delegation as one of five state officers.
Bode thanked McDermott, current Waterloo FFA Advisor Colton Henry, former student teacher Haley Carlson and former WHS ag teacher and FFA advisor Marissa (Modglin) Battin for their support with her leadership development.
Bode recalled watching officer elections at the state convention during her freshman year. Battin asked her if it was something she would ever consider doing, to which Bode replied, “absolutely not.”
Despite her initially being “on the fence,” Battin said she knew Bode “saw a lot of opportunities” and would one day be an FFA leader.
“She lives and breathes ag,” Battin said, adding Bode “has natural abilities but also works very hard” as a public representative of the FFA and also behind the scenes.
Bode participated in many of the team and development events – including being chair of the chapter parliamentary procedure team.
She earned her State FFA Degree in 2021.
Battin said Bode was a “joy” to have as a student for four years, adding Bode has “natural leadership abilities” which were evident as she took office at both the chapter and section level her junior year.
During her senior year, Bode concurrently served as 2021-22 Illinois State FFA District 5 Secretary, Section 22 President and Waterloo FFA Chapter President.
She began her year-long duty as Illinois State FFA Secretary on Monday with a return trip to Springfield for orientation, followed by a visit to Bloomington-Normal.
As state secretary, Bode “owns” the Illinois State FFA Constitution for the year and will be responsible for recording state FFA correspondence and meeting minutes.
Bode said she will only have about 15 days to herself between now and the National FFA Convention held at the end of October in Indianapolis.
She will visit Washington, D.C., twice this summer. One visit will be during a “corn congress” and the other will be a leadership summit and training for state FFA officers from across the country and U.S. territories.
She will also attend a conference of the Illinois Association of Vocational Agriculture Teachers.
“It’s always an honor to have someone from this area represent us at the state level, especially Haley, because she is such a good role model,” Henry said.
Henry added she is a “source of inspiration” for younger Waterloo chapter members, 31 of whom were on hand in Springfield to watch Bode earn a spot on the state officer team.
“She will serve the state and organization very well,” Henry concluded.
“She excels at everything she does,” Battin said of Bode, including other school activities such as being drama department student director and speech team captain.
If not for her parents, Bode may have excelled at art rather than ag.
Bode recalled a time during eighth grade when she was picking classes for her freshman year at WHS.
Bode said she was “passionate” about art, but her father Tim Bode suggested she try the agriculture class first and switch to art classes in the second semester if she didn’t like ag.
Haley explained that her father, who studied plant and soil science at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, “instilled a love of agriculture” in her from a young age.
Since her decision to enroll in an ag class, Bode has now made it a career goal.
While Bode will not begin college coursework until her retirement as state secretary next year, she plans on attending her father’s alma mater to pursue a double major in agriculture education and crop and soil production management.
“I hope to return to Waterloo or the Section 22 area after graduation” to be an ag teacher, Bode said.
McDermott is not surprised at Bode’s aspirations given the quality of agriculture education in the area.
“Monroe County FFA chapters have a history of developing top-notch students who become exceptional leaders in the FFA and agriculture industry, McDermott said. “The local support from the community, parents, and schools allows our FFA chapters to continue to provide students opportunities to develop leadership skills while learning about the agriculture industry.”
Bode says she is “the person I am today” because of “the great support system” in place around her.
Bode is now part of that support system and will travel the state visiting chapters, presenting information and speaking at conferences.
As a leader, Battin said Bode has already been “very well received.”
“The kids just adore her,” Battin continued. “(Bode) falls into the legacy Waterloo has, and that starts with the kids.”
Bode remembered a time not long ago when she would walk through the WHS “hall of awards” and see mementos of student accomplishments.
“It’s crazy to think that now my poster will be up there as part of the legacy for Waterloo,” Bode said.