West Iredell High junior Lauren Alford will attend a leadership conference in Washington, D.C. this summer. Pictured (from left) are teacher Ben Conklin, Alford and teacher Ryne Cooper.


West Iredell High School junior Lauren Alford will join a group of students from across the country for a premier leadership experience this July at the National FFA Washington Leadership Conference (WLC).

Alford was awarded a $2,000 scholarship that will help cover the cost of travel and other expenses associated with the conference.

“I’m excited about this opportunity. We will be taking different tours of our nation’s capital, and there’s different museums you can go to and a schedule of leadership conferences and events. We will be able to listen to speakers and grow as person,” Alford said.

“Before I became active in the program my sophomore year, I wasn’t a person that would go up and talk to people or stand in front of 300 people and talk. Covid definitely messed me up on that one. I was not the outgoing person,” Alford said. “It’s opened my eyes to see things in so many different perspectives by making connections and friends with so many different people. I like serving my community,” she added.

WLC inspires FFA members to become change-makers in their communities. Each day of the conference focuses on different principles, including exploration, encouragement, advocacy and service.

At the end of the week, members leave with a Living to Serve Plan they can implement in their communities.

Alford will also attend the Institute for Future Agricultural Leaders this summer in Greensboro. It’s a weeklong leadership development program that exposes students to career opportunities, technology and community service.

Alford said that being a part of her school’s FFA has helped her grow as a person.

“It is no longer called Future Farmers of America because members felt you had to be a farmer and that’s no longer the case. The biggest thing about National FFA is they reach out to students to set them up for success in their future,” she explained.

“I’m planning on going to school for architectural engineering, but FFA has set me up for speaking to people and a lot of different things.”

Alford has been proud to see her chapter flourish. She enjoys promoting the FFA program to rising eighth-graders and volunteering at the local Wake up to Ag Day for kindergarteners.

She also served as the FFA national delegate for North Carolina at the National FFA Convention in Indiana.

“I was a voting and voice for active members for all the counties and schools that have a program here in North Carolina,” she said.

Alford served as the FFA Northwest Region secretary, gaining experience running a regional rally and other leadership conferences. She is serving as FFA regional vice president for 2024-2025.

“This is a great example of how a student that is assertive and has aspirations for themselves can find avenues at West through our programs to really set themselves apart. She’s beginning to see herself as a leader and is cultivating a self-awareness that she can solve problems in our community,” said teacher Ben Conklin.