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Sophomore directed FFA

Molly Madden | Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Most Notre Dame students spend the academic year on campus studying, attending athletic events and socializing with their friends — unless the student is Paul Moya.
The sophomore spent 2009 traveling across the country, speaking to thousands at leadership conferences and rubbing shoulders with government officials and corporate titans such as Bill Ford of Ford Motor Company.

Moya, 22, took a leave of absence from the University to serve as the national president of the National FFA, the national organization formerly known as the Future Farmers of America. The National FFA is the largest student youth organization with 507,000 members across the country. As national president, Moya directly represented over 500,000 individuals.

“The FFA is a phenomenal youth leadership organization that does a great job at providing skills for students,” Moya said. “As president, I was happy to have the opportunity to give back to the organization.”

Moya said he first got involved with the FFA through the chapter at his high school in New Mexico. He became a dedicated member of the organization and deferred enrolling at Notre Dame for his freshmen year in 2006 in order to serve as the president of the New Mexico FFA chapter.

“I spent over 320 days traveling this past year,” he said. “The FFA has over 1,500 corporate sponsors and it’s the national officers’ job to go to the sponsors and show them how their contributions to the organization are changing students’ lives.”

Moya was in Washington for President Barack Obama’s inaugurationlast January and even spoke at a ball the night before. He and his fellow officers spent their days in the nation’s capital in meetings with officials including the secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture and the secretary of the United States Department of Education. 

“It wasn’t just a handshake and go,” Moya said. “How else would a 21-year-old walk in to the U.S. Department of Education and carry on an hour-long meeting?”

The mission of the National FFA is to provide leadership opportunities to students. Moya frequently delivered motivational speeches at student conferences across the nation.

“Throughout the year, we had to go through a huge amount of training to deliver those speeches,” he said. “We had motivational speakers and business leaders teach us how to deliver an effective speech.”

Moya said there were times when he would realize the pressures of his position.

“There were times when I was about to give a 25 minute address to 20,000 students that I would need to be pinched,” he said. “There was an incredible amount of pressure but there was also incredible opportunity to inspire the next generation of leaders.”

Moya said the responsibility he felt to these students is what motivated him on a daily basis.

“I kept going knowing that everyday was an opportunity to impact the world a little bit,” he said.

All of Moya’s training paid off. In addition to continuing his speaking endeavors, he was invited to and spoke at leadership conference for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation last year.

After retiring from his position as national president in October, Moya said returning to student life at Notre Dame in January was slightly surreal.

“It’s definitely interesting to be in one place for more than three days at a time,” Moya said. “I’m a business major and doing all these things in the business world this past year has added more relevance to the classroom.”

Moya is pursuing a degree in finance from the Mendoza College of Business and plans to graduate in 2012. Until then, he said he has no plans to leave Notre Dame for extended periods of time, except when he has motivational speaking engagements.

“I’m taking a step back from the corporate side and am going to do more service oriented projects,” he said. “I feel blessed. I want to go serve in communities that really need it.”

Overall, Moya said his year as national president was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which changed the way he views the world.

“This past year has been a whirlwind in so many ways and I transformed so much,” Moya said. “I grew more in one year than I have grown in the last five.”