Finding her voice in a leadership role: MacKenna Clifton continues her journey as a National FFA Officer

by | May 8, 2023

MacKenna Clifton made history last fall when she became the first female from North Carolina to represent the 850,000 members of the National FFA Organization as Southern Region Vice President. Clifton is also the first North Carolina representative since 1996 and just the 14th person from the state to serve on the national board since 1929. Each year, six individuals are chosen to serve as national officers to advocate for agriculture, agriculture education and FFA. Clifton previously served as the 2020-21 North Carolina FFA Vice President at the Secretary’s Station. Stay tuned as we check in with her to learn about her year as a National FFA Officer. Check out the blog below to learn about the first half of Clifton’s year as an officer. Click here for part one of  the series about Clifton’s journey to becoming a national FFA officer. 

If you ask MacKenna Clifton about her first six months of serving as an national FFA officer she will tell you that it has been full of unforgettable memories, incredible opportunities and the knowledge that agriculture is not only feeding the world – but also producing its leaders.  “My first several months serving was mostly spent in training, they taught us how to give workshops and speeches,” said Clifton. “This training culminated with our trip to South Africa. This trip was about agriculture, culture and relationships. It was a chance to see the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in society and understand that a lot of  the problems that exist in other countries also exist in our own. This trip was also the capstone of our training as national officers and I really think it was here we learned how to be a team.”

“One of the places we visited is the African Leadership Academy,” said Clifton. “Students come from all over Africa to school here to get the best experience in education. At lunch I met Malcolm, a senior from Uganda. He told me that someone he knew passed away in front of him from heart issues. Because of that experience Malcolm wants to be a heart or lung surgeon. Malcolm was interested in going to Michigan State or the University of Miami. He has not made a decision yet. He then wants to work in the states to save money to build a hospital in Uganda. I meet incredible people like Malcolm every place I get the opportunity to visit.”

Also while in South Africa my teammate, Ryan, who is from Texas, and I attended a braai,” Clifton added. “A braai is the South African equivalent of an American barbecue. This braai was at Hoërskool Erasmus. We had the opportunity to spend time with students at the local high school and enjoy some particularly yummy food!”


In addition to the two week journey to South Africa, Clifton has criss-crossed the United States. She’s represented the National FFA at the state convention in Hawaii, on the Island of Oahu. “I learned there that aloha doesn’t just mean hello, it can mean many things including pouring yourself into those around you. I loved that meaning.” In Honolulu, Clifton attended a haku lei workshop at the Hawaii FFA State Convention. She quickly became friends with Serena (pictured) who taught her how to make leis and shared about Hawaiian culture. Serena is  now serving as a Hawaii FFA State Officer.

At the Idaho FFA State Convention in Twin Falls, Clifton presented the keynote address entitled, “The Gift of Gratitude.”  She had the opportunity to travel to multiple FFA chapters in Pennsylvania delivering her workshop “Work Hard, Play Hard,” delivering her keynote and interacting with members throughout the state, pictured below is Clifton and the Cumberland Valley High School students in Pennsylvania and her new turtle friend.

Clifton has also enjoyed visiting industry, both touring facilities and speaking with upper level leadership. “I have learned that Ag education takes place in more than just the classroom. Ag education is in policy and industry. There’s many different avenues that can be taken to teach about agriculture and how farmer’s feed the world.”

The next few weeks for Clifton will be visiting more businesses and industry sites, including a trip to the Culver’s headquarters in Wisconsin where she hopes to eat yummy custard and tell their leadership all about the mission of FFA.