Spiro High School junior Desiree Masterson's class ring reads, "The world is wide open."
"My mom always tells me, 'The world's wide open,' and she even had that put into my class ring so I'd never forget I have options," Masterson said.
Masterson, who is interested in all aspects of agriculture, journalism and more, has not yet decided what her college major or future career or careers will be, is already exercising several options and doing so with impressive results.
Agriculture teacher Sherman Cox, one of the district's three Future Farmers of America chapter advisers, called Masterson a good student, mature and professional.
"She has an unlimited future," Cox said.
Most recently, her "Be Inspired" speech presented at the Oklahoma Pork Council's annual Youth for Pork Speech Contest in July won not only first place in the Senior FFA category but was also deemed the overall winner.
The contest is also open to Oklahoma 4-H members. Two other Spiro students placed in the contest, too — Brooks McKinney earned second place and Logan Cox earned fourth place in the Junior FFA division. All told, Spiro FFA took home four of the 14 awards.
In her speech, Masterson discussed the evolution of the pork industry's brand, the necessity for marketing changes with the ups and downs of the industry, including one of its most devastating hits — its April 2009 association with the H1N1 influenza virus, then called the swine flu because an early victim, a young boy, happened to live on a swine farm in Mexico. The industry, she noted, took an immediate and prolonged hit. In the past two years alone, the U.S. pork industry lost $6 billion, resulting in producers losing 66 percent of their farm equity, Masterson said.
To boost the recovery effort, this March the National Pork Board let go its 24-year-old "Pork: The Other White Meat" slogan and adopted the new "Pork: Be Inspired" slogan, she said.
"Be inspired! While many feel it is not as catchy as the old slogan, we must realize times have changed; consumers have changed; the world has changed. Consumers are no longer simply looking for the healthiest meat source; they are looking for something to believe in. With our whole world in turmoil, people are looking for something to motivate them; to inspire them to make the world a better, safer and greener place to live; something to make them stray from the mundane and live life to the fullest, ..." Masterson said.
The slogan has the potential to be bigger than its predecessor, she said.
"Instead of challenging the change and asking 'Why?' embrace it and say 'Why not?' Inspiration can be found in any form, even pork," Masterson concluded.
Masterson's speech captured the attention of state Pork Board officials, who contacted her not only to feature her in the fall issue of the Oklahoma Pork Council's magazine, OK Pork Pages, but also to ask her and her teachers to film the speech for presentation to the National Pork Board.
"It took a long time. We'll send it off to them and see where it goes from there," Masterson said, matter-of-factly.
She had lots of help, Masterson stressed. Her FFA speech program adviser, agriculture teacher Nathan Smith, and a former Spiro FFA student, Kera Parker, now an Oklahoma State University student, helped her polish her speech. Smith suggested the speech topic, the industry's new slogan. For the filming, the FFA group set up a stage in the library, and one of Masterson's technology teachers handled the filming.
Masterson readily acknowledges that her parents, Sandy and Jeff Masterson of Spiro, are major influences, as are her three FFA advisers, Smith, Cox and Dustin McLemore, whom she views as father figures of sorts.
Her mother pushed her into FFA. Masterson said everyone in her family had been involved in the program, and she thought she wanted to do something different. Her mother, however, overruled her, telling her it would teach her responsibility, and then signing her up.
Initially, Masterson said, she didn't want to be there. But then Smith heard the way she spoke and told her she'd be giving a speech.
Smith said it was happenstance. He and a class were discussing public speaking, and afterward she said she'd done public speaking, and it was no big deal.
"I push public speaking. I've had several good speech students, and Desiree has probably been the best in the program. She qualified two years in a row for state (competition)," Smith said.
Fourteen years old and extremely nervous before her first speech contest, Masterson said, she asked to leave. Instead, Smith prodded her to proceed, and she found she loves it.
She's been in the program for four years, and cannot imagine her life now without the FFA chapter.
"I like the adrenaline rush, and I like the idea that I can get up there and teach people something," Masterson said.
If Smith hadn't had so much faith in her and if he hadn't pushed her, she wouldn't have done it.
"I don't think I could do it if people around here didn't believe in me so much," Masterson said.
She credits, too, the motivational speeches she was forced to make as a Girl Scout for her ease in speaking to an audience.
Besides the two prepared public speeches she'll make this year, Masterson serves as the FFA chapter's vice president, judges some events, shows goats (last year's entry won Grand Champion at the LeFlore County Fair), and she will compete in a job application contest at the state level and in a challenging contest called "extemporaneous." In that one, she explained, the contestant picks three random topics from a hat containing about 30 topics. Of the three, she'll choose the one she knows most about, will have 30 minutes to write a six- to eight-minute speech about it. She'll give the speech, then spend 15 minutes answering questions about it from the panel of judges.
Masterson hails from a farming family. Although they no longer live on the family farm, they have a cattle operation. Masterson has her own cattle operation. To qualify for a state FFA designation, she said, she must make and spend $2,000 on cattle.
As for the future, Masterson said she's taking it day-by-day. She hopes to go to OSU and major in "something agriculture," but she's not sure yet what.
Cox said Spiro's agriculture program and FFA department are highly successful. Enrollment is about 190, he said.
"We have to diversify. We have some students who do everything," he said.
Masterson is among them.
Information from: Southwest Times Record, http://www.swtimes.com com
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.