by: Marifer Quevedo
Resilience is the common denominator among educators and leaders reflecting upon Harlingen High School grad Savannah Butters. The current Texas A&M University business management major has already paved the way for an indispensable career path, inspiring young minds to follow in her footsteps towards a focus on agriculture and poultry science.
Her inspiration originated in Mr. Todd Cash’s agriculture class, where she was encouraged to raise an animal — an experience that reinforced her lifelong relationship with service and leadership.
“Savannah is an incredible young lady — very giving, self-driven, and organized,” shares Harlingen High School FFA Advisor Todd Cash. “She had goals for our FFA chapter and our organization. She would set goals and then do everything in her power to transform those goals into achievements.”
During her latter years at HHS, Butters researched new competitions and organizations and recruited students to participate. She took the initiative to spark interest and create momentum amongst her peers to develop — with the guidance and support from her FFA advisor — a team that would eventually qualify for the state championship.
Following her unwavering drive and passion for agriculture, Butters applied to the Texas FFA Foundation Ambassador program, where her application fell short and was declined. The rigorous ambassador program receives over 200 high school student applications, and a recruiting committee selects 40 new ambassadors and 20 returning ambassadors each year.
With sheer determination to participate in the highly competitive program, Butters contacted the foundation and requested the opportunity to volunteer and serve in the following state convention in Corpus Christi, Tx. Her persistence and resiliency captured the attention of Texas FFA Foundation Executive Director Aaron Alejandro.
“Her ability to take action really stood out,” says Alejandro. “She served her initial year as a volunteer, but she impressed everyone so much that the students recommended her for the notable Most Outstanding Ambassador award.”
During her freshmen year in college, Butters applied to several organizations and leadership positions and was turned down multiple times.
“Strong work ethic and communication skills will ensure professional and academic success,” advises Butters. “No matter what your skill level is, with these two characteristics you can overcome any setback. It was hard to accept the rejection, but with my resiliency, I was able to continue to apply for things that interested me.”
Soon enough she was granted a Texas FFA Foundation internship.
Butters served two summers as a foundation intern, where she was responsible for assembling the Host Committee for the Texas FFA Convention and was assigned to be the primary liaison between their sponsors and the Texas FFA.
With more than 114,000 members and 1,000 active chapters, the Texas FFA is the country’s largest state FFA association and operates the nation’s largest FFA convention. In efforts to carry out the FFA’s mission of developing students’ potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success, FFA interns become face-to-face hosts for special guests, sponsors, dignitaries, and top industry figures.
“She first impressed us all with how she took the leadership to heart,” recalls Alejandro. “Then, she impressed us with her performance and delivery.”
Butters did not hesitate to participate in extensive professional networking events while she was an intern with the Texas FFA Foundation. She sat at roundtable meetings with foundation colleagues from across the nation-administrators, CEOs, and highly recognized leaders in marketing, public relations, business, and international agriculture.
“Savannah did not live her best days while she wore her FFA jacket,” Alejandro continues proudly. “She’s going to live her best days after she takes that jacket off. She took advantage and listened to and learned from so many people that she quickly became a real asset to access networks. The essence of leadership is to plant trees under whose shades you may never sit. Savannah is the kind of person that will be planting those trees.”
Alejandro recalls a recent visit to speak at an FFA banquet at HHS where he was impressed with the sense of unity and pride that encompassed the Harlingen community.
“The district had already started the process of crafting Savannah to be the leader they passed on to me,” says Alejandro. “You always wonder if we are making a difference in the community. We wouldn’t be having this conversation about Savannah if it weren’t for somebody local doing their job. Success begets success. Somewhere along the way, somebody told Savannah they were proud of her-maybe a parent, maybe a mentor, maybe Mr. Cash. When you empower someone with the feeling of accomplishment and belief from within, they are bound to do great things.”
Butters remembers the key participants of her HCISD education with great admiration. She refers to them as individuals who care deeply about their students and go far beyond their job descriptions to cultivate values and opportunities outside the four walls of the classroom.
“Much more than just agriculture was taught in Ag classes,” shared Butters. “I learned how to work hard, overcome challenges, overcome defeat, teach others, and give back. The most important learning I experienced was outside the classroom-it was on the court, in the show ring, on the track, at the barn, or in front of the judges.”
“It has given me a sense of pride to see Savannah strive for excellence in all her endeavors,” says Veronica Hunt, Student Council Advisor. “Savannah is a leader who is humble and pursues her goals with passion and without letting obstacles or challenges hinder her. She was an exceptional student who not only established herself on an academic level but was also committed to several organizations at Harlingen High.”
Butters was part of the Harlingen FFA Chapter, the National Honor Society, and the Student Advisory Board. She played volleyball, basketball, and ran track and cross country.
“Her cooperative spirit, her compassion for the well-being of all, and her leadership style make her an outstanding individual who is destined for significant accomplishments,” Hunt continues. “Her ability to motivate and inspire her peers to do their best is one of her strongest attributes. Savannah Butters truly exemplifies Harlingen High School’s vision and promotes the culture of caring and excellence.”
Butters also played basketball under the direction of legendary Coach Nora Zamarripa, who instilled punctuality, respect, and resiliency in the Lady Cardinals.
“I am so proud to say I played for her,” shares Butters. “I have great respect for her and all of her accomplishments. I am so glad she was put in my life.”
When asked about her favorite HCISD memory, Butters reminisces about the long trips to compete for the FFA and the time spent in the barn.
“I remember having such a big, positive impact on the students that would soon take my place,” she recalls. “I remember having them look up to me and ask me for advice. I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to change their lives.”
Savannah currently serves as Platoon Sergeant with Company E-2 of the A&M Corps of Cadets. She is in charge of the health and well-being of twenty-five cadets, and she is also a member of the Cadets Marksmanship Unit where she serves as Public Relations Officer. Her participation in the organization has amplified her high levels of respect for those who serve in the armed forces.
Butters believes the classroom rigor and base knowledge at HCISD were necessary for the growth she would experience in college. Agriculture was an important component of her formative years and will continue to play an active role in her adult life.
“I believe agriculture is the most important part of our world today,” shares Butters. “Without it, we would be hungry and cold. I want to do all I can to promote the youth who will be leading the future of our country.”