May 22, 2019
TIFTON–When Brittany Braddy developed an interest in floral design as an eighth-grade student in tiny Mount Vernon, Ga., she never knew that her love for flowers would pave a path to a gigantic ballroom in our nation’s capital with the First Lady of the United States standing directly in front of her.
Braddy, a freshman agricultural education major at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, was the youngest of 30 floral designers from across America selected to put together flower arrangements for the recent Congressional Club’s 107th annual First Lady’s Luncheon in Washington D.C.
“I filled out an application that Dr. Frank Flanders from ABAC sent to me,” Braddy said. “He knew I had an interest because I took his Floral Management class and helped him with the floral arrangements at the Georgia Vocational Agricultural Teachers’ mid-winter conference.
“I don’t know how I got selected but I’m sure glad I was. I met flower farmers from Alaska and California and Virginia. I talked with florists from all over. I met an agriculture teacher from Texas who was there with her daughter who was also an ag teacher.”
Flanders said he saw an invitation to apply on an American Grown Cut Flower e-mail, and his immediate thoughts turned to Braddy.
“She was the runner-up in our ABAC Designer of the Year competition, and I knew of Brittany’s love for floral design,” Flanders said. “It seemed like a great opportunity. She’s a wonderful student. I told her it was a long shot but she really went for it. She has a lot of design ability.”
Braddy said the lead designer picked a team of 30 from the mountain of applications received to be a part of the event. Led by professional, renowned florists, the team prepared over 1,100 boutonnieres, 140 center pieces, hundreds of bud vases and other florals for First Lady Melania Trump, Second Lady Karen Pence, and 1,400 guests.
“Participating on the First Lady’s Floral Design Team was an invaluable opportunity,” Braddy said. “To me, this is what ‘engaged learning’ is all about, learning by doing, and in this case learning from the top designers in the United States. To participate in such an historic event was priceless.
“Since my career path is in agricultural education, the time I spent in Washington benefited me greatly by providing me with real life-changing experiences to prepare for my career. I will use the skills I learned to teach floral design to my students one day.”
As a member of the Montgomery County Middle School FFA, Braddy competed in the Floral Design Career Development Event in the eighth grade. Flowers became her passion.
“I began to study plant species and practice designing floral arrangements,” Braddy said. “I finished in first place at the area level event which led me to compete in the state competition, which happened to be at ABAC.”
A 2018 graduate of Montgomery County High School, Braddy spent this past year as a State FFA officer while she was enrolled in her freshman year at ABAC.
“Being an FFA State Officer was a challenge but it sure was fun,” Braddy said. “My sister was enrolled at ABAC, and I heard from her how great the experience was. I am a small-town person. I knew there would be opportunities at ABAC for me.”
Opportunities indeed. How about hearing Lee Greenwood sing “God Bless The USA” as well as watching Nicole C. Mullen and Michael W. Smith perform at the First Lady’s Luncheon? Kathie Lee Gifford was introduced, and the room was filled with a “Who’s Who” of Washington D.C. shakers and movers.
But did Braddy get a chance to go up close and person with the First Lady?
“A few of the designers did but I didn’t,” Braddy said wistfully. “But I did get to go to the luncheon and hear her speak. I was the youngest one they had ever accepted so I felt fortunate just to be there.”
Proceeds from the luncheon benefitted several non-profit organizations including the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer Research and the Washington Tennis & Educational Foundation.
As for Braddy, she has a part-time job this summer with the Georgia FFA Foundation in Swainsboro. In August, she’ll return to ABAC for her sophomore year. More opportunities just ahead.