Yelm student wins at FFA nationals

Just call Calli Hyder a national champion.

The Yelm High School student recently earned first place in the job interview career development category at the National FFA Convention and Expo in Louisville, Kentucky.

In addition to the title, the 17-year-old senior also received a $1,000 cash scholarship prize.

“It’s also a really big résumé builder,” said Hyder, who has been involved in FFA for three years. “I think the best thing that came out of it was the skills that I learned. Everyone needs a job, and you have to go through an interview to get a job.”

Washington had three national champions; Hyder was the only one from Thurston County, according to Yelm FFA adviser Matt Mounts.

The nearly 1,250-student school has the biggest FFA chapter in the state. It’s had an FFA chapter for 75 years, and Hyder is the Yelm’s fifth national winner, he said.

Yelm Principal Brian Wharton described Hyder as a strong student with a clear vision about her future.

“Her win at nationals does not surprise me in the least because Calli has tremendous interpersonal skills, understands professional discourse and has a strong desire to represent Yelm High School in a positive way,” he said.

FFA once stood for Future Farmers of America. Now it’s known as the National FFA Organization; its mission is career, leadership and life skills through agricultural education.

“FFA kind of has that stigma of cows, plows and sows,” Hyder said. “But now it’s really about beakers, speakers and job seekers. ... Not only can you get involved in agriculture, there are so many leadership opportunities and so many events that prepare you for the real world.”

Hyder’s competition included submitting a cover letter and résumé, filling out a job application, going through four rounds of interviews, participating in a network activity, and following up with thank-you notes along the way.

She put her skills to the test when she applied for a hostess job at a Yelm restaurant.

“I looked at everything I learned, and I said, ‘OK, I want this job; how am I going to get it?’ ” Hyder said. “And I applied everything.”

Hyder got the job. She also convinced judges at the national convention that she was the best candidate in the competition.

What’s her interview advice for job seekers?

“Practice, practice, practice,” she said.