Taylor McNeel is a winner.
Active in the Vilonia FFA Chapter for several years, McNeel, the 18-year-old daughter of John and Laura McNeel of Vilonia, is the new president of the Arkansas FFA. Elected in early June at the Arkansas FFA State Convention at Camp Couchdale in Hot Springs, McNeel hit the ground running.
Since the election, she has attended several leadership-training camps, as well as the National FFA State Presidents Conference in Washington, D.C. During the coming year, she will make visits to FFA chapters throughout the state and attend the National FFA Conference on Oct. 30 through Nov. 2 in Louisville, Ky., and the 2014 state conference at Camp Couchdale in June.
While at the national conference, McNeel will also participate in the prepared-public-speaking competition as state winner in that event. In the event, students write and deliver a six- to eight-minute speech on a current agriculture-related topic.
In between all of this traveling, McNeel will begin her freshman year later this month at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, where she plans to major in agriculture-business and minor in Spanish. She was awarded the SAU Hallman Scholarship for a female in the college of science and technology, which includes agriculture. “That’s a full scholarship,” she said. “My education will be paid for.”
McNeel will be a student in the SAU Honors College.
“I graduated sixth out of 210 students,” she said.
She wants to go into public relations, public policy and government affairs after college.
McNeel said she hopes to serve internships with agri-related businesses and/or organizations during the summer months while she is in college.
“I grew up on a small farm, so I have a passion for the agricultural industry,” said McNeel, a May graduate of Vilonia High School. “I’ve had a look at the policy side of the industry and have a passion to help make sure the way of life enjoyed by people in agriculture continues to thrive.
“I hope someday to work in Washington, D.C.”
As a student in the Vilonia School District, McNeel was a member of both FFA and 4-H.
“I’ve shown horses, registered Boer goats, market goats and market hogs,” she said. “I’ve been very active in showing livestock at both the Faulkner County Fair and the Arkansas State Fair.”
She received the Grand Champion Showmanship Award twice at the Arkansas State Fair and has shown the Faulkner County Bred Market Boer Goat and Grand Champion Market Goat at the Faulkner County Fair. She plans to attend both fairs this year in her official capacity as the leader of 13,600 FFA members in Arkansas.
While FFA is her current focus, McNeel has been active in 4-H since she was 10. Most recently, she was a member of the Hooves, Spurs and Furs 4-H Show Team. “That includes about everything,” she said with a laugh.
As a 4-H’er, McNeel served as a state 4-H ambassador and president of the Faulkner County 4-H Teen Leaders and was the first recipient of the Faulkner County 4-H Foundation’s Larry J. Marshall 4-H Leadership Award.
McNeel said activities “outside” FFA and 4-H include spending time with friends and family, which includes her 14-year-old brother, Mathew.
“He’ll be in ninth grade this year and will be in FFA,” she said of her brother. “He’s pretty excited about that.”
McNeel is also active in the youth group at Vilonia United Methodist Church.
“My parents have been very supportive of me,” McNeel said. “Whether it’s been listening to me practice my speeches or practice showing my animals, they are always there for me. Our vacations have always revolved around showing livestock or making speeches. I definitely appreciate them and the time they have given me to help me succeed throughout the years.”
Her dad was a member of FFA in Texas, and both her parents were in 4-H.
“It was just natural that I got involved in both,” she said. “They are different, but the same — they are both service organizations.”
Laura McNeel said she is “very proud” of her daughter’s latest accomplishment.
“It’s a well deserved honor,” Laura said.
Leigh Helms, Faulkner County Cooperative Extension Service agent for 4-H, said, “I have watched [Taylor] develop from a middle-school student to a high-school graduate and have seen her potential develop into the professional, poised young adult that she has become. It’s all because of her hard work and the goals she has set; she is very driven. I know she will go far in life.”