By: Emily Pan, San Luis Obispo FFA
In a world disrupted by the pandemic, it may seem like so much has been taken away--friends were separated, school moved online, and events and traditions were canceled. Yet, it is in times like these that we are reminded that there is always something to be thankful for. Thus, in November 2020, the San Luis Obispo (SLO) FFA Chapter took it upon themselves to initiate the “Growing Grateful” project, giving FFA members and the greater community an opportunity to reflect and share what they are thankful for. For the project, students wrote messages of gratitude on leaves hung on a designated tree in the community.
To do so, SLO FFA created “Grateful Kits” with laminated leaves, sharpies, and string where students could write what they’re grateful for and hang them on a tree so by the end of the month, the tree was filled with positive messages of gratitude. SLO FFA coordinated the project with all of the K-12 school principals in San Luis Obispo and encouraged every school to participate by having a designated tree with a sign so students could hang their leaves. The project ran through the month of November and the “Grateful Kits” were restocked around the community as needed. Everything was done with the goal of spreading gratitude throughout the community during such challenging times. By Thanksgiving Break, around a dozen trees in the community were filled with leaves of gratitude and stood as a reminder of all the things we have to be thankful for. For FFA member Talia Zundel, she believes “the Growing Grateful tree is a truly special activity because it allows not only our FFA chapter but also the entire [community], to be involved in something that reminds everyone of being grateful. By doing this, we are able to spread so much happiness.”
Recently, in November 2021, the San Luis Obispo FFA Chapter brought back the “Growing Grateful” project to their school and encouraged FFA members and other students to take a moment and write down what they’re thankful for. Students wrote down all sorts of meaningful messages such as being thankful for their teachers, their family, and the beach, among others. This was a great opportunity to get the whole school involved and reflect on everything we take for granted. Although a sense of normalcy has returned, there is no better time to be thankful than during Thanksgiving. Chapter Vice President Michaela Warnke added that “the Growing Grateful project is meaningful to me because it spreads positivity and gratitude around campus. It encourages everyone to be thankful and appreciate the little things.”
Next year, the San Luis Obispo FFA Chapter would like to challenge other FFA chapters to continue the tradition and establish their own “Growing Grateful” tree. It can be as simple as designating a tree at school and providing paper (or laminated) leaves for students to write what they’re grateful for and hang on the tree. Remember, gratitude can go a long way with just a few simple materials.