Union Grove’s Thomas Navarro-Gonzalez is the nation’s runner-up in the Future Farmers of America’s Spanish Creed Speaking competition.
It’s the inaugural year for the contest, and the UG High School sophomore clinched the No. 2 spot Nov. 1 during the 96th annual National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Notably, Navarro was already Texas Champion going into the event after advancing through three levels of competition to reach – and capture – the state accolade in December 2022.
The teen’s achievement represents two major milestones for Union Grove’s FFA chapter, established in 1950.
“To the best of our abilities, we can tell that Thomas was the first-ever state champion in any FFA competition and, of course, the first national runner-up that we’ve ever had,” said Josh Shafer, Ag Science Teacher and FFA Advisor.
The FFA Creed is five paragraphs. Whether in English or, now, Spanish the competitors are tasked with memorizing and reciting the creed with their particular emphasis and style. They then answer questions related to the statement and their lives.
While the English FFA Creed contest has been around for decades, the Spanish-centered event is still new. In addition to their recitation, all questions and responses were in Spanish as well.
For Navarro, the key challenge was finding the best, sincere answers to the questions, especially considering the short amount of time contestants have to ponder it.
“We are judged to see if we make any mistakes,” he said, “the way we say it, how we sound, the way we act and how well we answer questions.”
At Navarro’s request, Shafer waited out in the hallway during his student’s spotlight – in order not to add to the teen’s nerves. After plenty of practice, though, he knows Navarro’s style and has a good idea how the judges responded.
“He’s very confident when he’s speaking. His story and his personal examples for those critical thinking questions set him apart and allowed him to rise to the top,” Shafer praised. “They always complimented him on how personable he is with the answers to those questions.”
The national competition included 32 students from 18 states, ranging from 8th through 10th grade.
“They weren’t all necessarily state champions,” Shafer noted. “Because it’s such a new contest, not every state offers that competition.
That said, “There were some states that had as many as five students representing.”
Navarro made history, Shafer says, helping FFA bridge the gap between its English- and Spanish-speaking members in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He praised the youth for his hard work and dedication alongside the family members and friends who supported him along the way, including a contingent who welcomed the pair home Friday night.
“The national FFA organization has more than 945,000 members. Of those 945,000, there’s more than 150,000 students who consider themselves Latino,” Shafer said. “While not every one of them comes from a completely Spanish-speaking household, they certainly have a lot of influence from that culture in their household.
“That’s one of the neat things about this competition. In its infancy, it allows them to celebrate that heritage and that language that they possibly learned before they learned English.”
The FFA Creed
I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds – achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.
I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny.
I believe in leadership from ourselves and respect from others. I believe in my own ability to work efficiently and think clearly, with such knowledge and skill as I can secure, and in the ability of progressive agriculturists to serve our own and the public interest in producing and marketing the product of our toil.
I believe in less dependence on begging and more power in bargaining; in the life abundant and enough honest wealth to help make it so–for others as well as myself; in less need for charity and more of it when needed; in being happy myself and playing square with those whose happiness depends upon me.
I believe that American agriculture can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life and that I can exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task.
(The creed was written by E.M. Tiffany and adopted at the Third National FFA Convention. It was revised at the 38th and 63rd Conventions.)
El Credo de FFA
Creo en el porvenir de la agricultura con una fe que no surge de las palabras, sino de los logros de los agricultores en generaciones pasadas y en la presente; en la promesa de días mejores gracias a la práctica de buenas normas de trabajo, así como creo que los beneficios que disfrutamos hoy son nuestros por los esfuerzos de nuestros antepasados.
Creo que vivir y trabajar en una finca, o estar involucrado en otros intereses agrícolas, es grato y retador porque conozco los goces e inconvenientes de la vida de campo, y le profeso una devoción que no le negaré ni siquiera en las horas de infortunio.
Creo que debemos ser nuestros propios líderes y en el respeto de los demás. Creo en mi propia habilidad para trabajar con eficacia y tener claridad de pensamiento gracias a los conocimientos y destrezas que vaya adquiriendo. Creo también en el poder de los agricultores progresistas para servir nuestros intereses y los del público en cuanto a la producción y mercadeo del producto de nuestra labor.
Creo que debe haber menos dependencia de la caridad y más en nuestras habilidades comerciales; en una vida de abundancia y en la obtención honrada de los medios económicos que la hacen posible, tanto para los demás como para mi; en que haya menos necesidad de la caridad, y en la caridad cuando ésta sea necesaria; en mi propia dicha, y en que debo proceder honestamente con aquellos cuyo bienestar dependa de mí.
Creo que la industria agrícola de Estados Unidos puede y debe mantener las mejores tradiciones de nuestra experiencia nacional y que yo puedo ejercer influencia en mi hogar y la comunidad, los cuales serán siempre sólidos gracias a mi contribución en esta tarea vivificante.
Texas Version Approved by The Texas FFA Board of Directors 9.11.17