LCCC grad seizing success as FFA Foundation director
Oaklee Anderson has a passion for agriculture, a critical drive for her in the position as executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation.
It’s been a challenging role in many ways, she said, but her time at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne set her on the right track to take on her future.
From 2008-2010, Anderson attended LCCC as a major in the Agricultural Business Program. There were FFA connections to LCCC that attracted Anderson, but she said what really sold her on coming to the college was her exposure to the campus and scholarships.
Anderson went to high school in Shoshoni, as her parents’ home is between Shoshoni and Pavilion. In high school, she was active in 4-H and FFA. Anderson’s family has a long FFA tradition that led to her involvement, she said.
“It felt like a rite of passage,” Anderson said. “I saw the exposure and opportunities my siblings got through FFA and it just was something I knew I was always going to do. I still have my grandpa’s FFA jacket.”
There are 58 chapters that make up Wyoming FFA with 3,634 members being taught by 62 agriculture education teachers. Its students have over 2,500 supervised agriculture experience projects in Wyoming with a total income of $2.4 million in the state. This, Anderson said, creates an economic impact of $3.6 million.
When thinking about what her experience in FFA taught her, Anderson said it’s hard to put into words.
“(I learned) public speaking skills, leadership skills and the ability to advocate for a better understanding of where our food comes from,” she said. “I would say life skills that were gained through competitions and the opportunity to travel with FFA (were impactful), and the leadership component is huge.”
Those experiences, Anderson said, help teach her how to be a professional in the post-college world.
“It was more just a foundation of the type of person I would grow into,” she said. “Having that base set of skills is something I was just able to lean upon as I grew older.”
Going from a small high school in Shoshoni to LCCC was a great transition in her education career, Anderson said. Between the department sizes, the diversity in the student population, and more, she said LCCC was a great place to start her adult life.
“For that first time being away from home and all of those different things, I felt like the school did a great job of ensuring that we had all the things necessary to be successful,” she said. “And so I think it was just a good place to start growing up.”
After graduating from LCCC, Anderson transferred to the University of Wyoming to earn her bachelor’s degree in communication and journalism. She would go on to work for U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., first in Cheyenne and then in Sheridan, where Anderson has stayed, taking on the executive director position of the Wyoming FFA Foundation in February 2017.
The FFA Foundation is a private entity that works to help support FFA outside of the capacities that individual chapters and their school districts can support, with everything from college scholarships to FFA jackets for individual kids, to helping provide funds for the state convention.
The Wyoming FFA Foundation each year awards more than $18,000 in college scholarships, $30,000 in travel funds to the National FFA Convention, $20,000 in professional development and classroom support, and more.
“It's pretty broad, but it's all to help support financially and advocacy,” Anderson said.
The executive director role had big shoes to fill from Anderson’s predecessor, Jennifer Womack. But in her time, Anderson said she’s marked several achievements, including expanding the foundation’s financial support of FFA through the establishment of new endowments.
“What I think is exciting is two of them have been for college scholarships, but we also have two that are allowed to support student programs,” she said. “So if there are kids that aren't necessarily higher education bound, they can apply for funds to help support some other type of career, whether they're going to a tech school or if they're going to start their own cattle operation or by their start trying to get their own welding machines, they can help support that as well. And I think that those were both pretty exciting.”
As a successful professional in Wyoming, Anderson said she’d encourage young people who want to achieve similar outcomes to go to LCCC to see the campus for themselves and meet some of the faculty and staff who make the college a remarkable institution.
“Go have a tour of campus and meet some of the people in the department (you’re interested in), because I think that’s a real selling point,” she said.