Inspiring Okeechobee: Artha Jonassaint is state FFA president

Artha (center) with her parents, Mac and Lison Jonassaint, is proud to be Florida State FFA president.

What a whirlwind June for 2018 Okeechobee High School graduate Artha Jonassaint or, shall we say, Madame President. At June’s Florida Future Farmers of America State Convention, Miss Jonassaint was elected state president, and donned her association jacket for the coming year.
Artha will delay her enrollment for one year at Harvard University to work on behalf of Florida FFA members. Artha said at the moment she won, her family went “nuts” in the crowd.
She is the first African-American young woman elected to lead the organization in its 90- year history.

Getting to know Artha this past year has just been incredible. Not only is she a top student, but her heart and soul are worn on her sleeve. She is one of the guiding forces behind the continuation of the End the Hunger Project. She graduated at the top of her class, is a scholar athlete and just an overall great person. When I asked her why End the Hunger was so important to her, she clearly spoke with passion about food insecurity not just here in Okeechobee, but across the globe.
She hopes to work on hunger issues on a global level. I have no doubt she will.

Artha’s graduation speech excerpt speaks to her passion and drive. She noted, “We need to choose love, choose agape love at that, so that we can shine our lights in the darkest parts of the world.” She was challenged in high school by teacher Beth Box Wise to develop a mission statement, and Artha says that she uses this mission statement to remain focused. “I am Artha Kristie and my mission is to be a reflection of Christ and to exhibit competence, strength and agape love. I will use my intellect, likeability, communication skills to ensure the safety and prosperity of marginalized people. Through acts of service, and impacting legislation, I intend to make this world and specifically this country a place where all can be happy and prosperous.”

Her mom, Lison, posted on Facebook after Artha’s historic election: “Ninety years after it was chartered, the Florida FFA Association elected its first African-American female president. That young woman just so happens to be my daughter. Artha Kristie Jonassaint, proud doesn’t even describe it. Go set the organization and the world on fire.”

OHS Principal Dylan Tedders, wrote as part of her recommendation for state office: “I humbly write this letter of recommendation for Artha Jonassaint in her pursuit of becoming a Future Farmer of America state officer. Attempting to summarize her accomplishments in a single letter will be impossible to do. As I reviewed her resume, I was forced to reflect and challenge myself to serve and provide more opportunities of service through my position as leader of the school. Artha has the unique ability to lead others to achieving ambitious goals and believing that achieving these goals is within reach.”

Mr. Tedders continued: “Artha exemplifies The Brahman Way. Our mission, constructed by students and staff, was developed to match what it means to say, ‘The Brahman Way.’ I believe Artha is a model of everything this slogan represents. She has a sense of ownership and pride in the culture we are attempting to build. Her high school journey has been one of service and putting others before herself. That is The Brahman Way!” He concluded: “There is no doubt in my mind that when I see Artha, I am looking at a natural born leader. Her pleasant demeanor, relentless pursuit of excellence, and effortless ability to influence others has her in elite air when it comes to comparison of past Brahman student leaders. I would not rule out the possibility that I might be lucky enough in the future to apply for a position in an organization that she is leading. Whatever the organization, it will have a mission of solving issues to make this world a better place. I will be a better principal because I had the opportunity to witness the growth in a person as special as Artha. She makes us all strive for greatness!”

FFA Advisor Jared Prescott said of Artha: “It is a true privilege to be one of Artha´s advisors for the past two years. Artha is the definition of a leader. She is honest and fair and treats her peers and advisors with the utmost respect. In my opinion, one of the greatest qualities that Artha possesses are that of a motivator. I have watched her push those around her to set goals that, at the time, they may look at as unachievable, and then push and encourage them to achieve it.”

Mr. Prescott continued: “This year was my first FFA State Convention as an advisor, and what an exciting one it was! Just to be able to experience such an emotional moment, and next step in Artha’s future, with her was absolutely amazing. This is a dream come true for her, and the FFA is better for it. As State FFA President, I believe that Artha will lead the Florida FFA Organization to new heights during the coming year. I´m excited to see the growth that this year brings to both her and the FFA.”

Advisor Clint Thompson wrote: “It has been my great privilege to serve as one of Artha Jonassaint’s FFA advisors for the last three years. I have only been a teacher for a few short years now, but neither in that time or any time before it have I met such a driven, intelligent, and charismatic young lady.”

Thompson noted: “Artha is a natural leader, and commands the room anytime she stands at the front of it. She has the rare ability to help her peers work together as equals in a casual setting, while still keeping things moving down a predetermined path in an orderly fashion. She has served as our chapter president for two years running, and our district president for the past year, and has done so with great poise and seemingly unlimited support from her peers both at home and around the district. We have had state officers and even state presidents come from our chapter in the past, but Artha is the first in my time as an advisor, and I have to say, what a great first experience for me! I can think of no one better to represent myself, my fellow advisors, our FFA chapter and its members, and the great state of Florida as our state FFA president than Miss Artha Jonassaint. This is not the first election that Artha has won, and I guarantee that if she is so inclined, it will not be the last.”

Artha is off learning about her new position with her fellow FFA officers and enjoying her first weeks as “Madame President.”

Artha, the world is yours and your fan club is here to cheer you on! Thank you for inspiring us.

Leah Suarez is a freelance writer.

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