For Stephanie Yonker, her foray into FFA life started at home near Jackson, Minn. “My dad back in the day was actually an ag teacher.” Growing up on a hog farm, her interest in agriculture was homegrown.
It was natural that Yonker would join FFA when she was in ninth grade. She jumped right into the world of FFA and sought out as many opportunities as she could. “I was involved in the chapter and was Region Six vice president.”
Yonker thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the speech competitions. “I won the creed, public and extemporaneous contests.” Yonker also competed in meat judging.
Being so heavily involved in FFA, plus watching fellow chapter member Kimberly (Peterson) Kamolz become state FFA reporter in 1993 allowed Yonker to dream big and seize the chance to realize that dream of being a state officer.
“The election process was pretty grueling. It was more grueling than most job interviews. I still think that a lot of people that were state officers that year were some of the most talented people I’ve worked with.”
One of Yonkers’s most memorable experiences as state reporter occurred when she and her fellow state officers were at the FFA camp in Hackensack, Minn. and the power went out due to a strong windstorm. “I ate moldy bread.” Dealing with the power outage and having to be responsible to staying calm and leading the campers through that is something that Yonker looks back at and is grateful for the experience. Though she her stomach still turns thinking of that moldy bread.
During her time as state reporter she was on the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota — the only one of the state officers to be at that location. “People were at so many campuses.”
Yonkers graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in genetics and cell biology. She went on to the University of California Berkley where she received a PhD in molecular and cell biology and then on to law school at Harvard School of Law.
Yonker has worked in San Francisco as a business centered attorney. She and her husband, Carylai are the proud parents of two girls, Serena, Mila and live in the bay area.
Throughout all her years in the business world, it is her time in FFA that was instrumental in giving her invaluable tools she uses every day — like honing her communication, teamwork and organizational skills.
Yonkers recalls while working alongside her fellow state officers, they were extremely goal driven and that drive allowed them to work together focusing on that common mission. “It was a very cohesive time that year.” She is quick to point out that a mutual reverence for each other was part of their success as state officers. “We fundamentally respected each other.”
Yonker is grateful for what FFA taught her and the memories that she made and still holds dear. She encourages those in FFA that are considering running for state office to give it a shot. “If you never try you never know if you can get it.”
Yonker is thankful she went for it in 1996. No matter what the outcome was, the experience gave her insight on her own strength and determination for working towards a now-treasured goal.