Leadership Team

Youth Officers and Advisors

The youth officer team consists of three regional directors, secretary, vice president, president and past president (who is not elected). Every state represented at convention has youth coordinators that act as the communications link between delegates and the national officer team and assist their state leader. Youth officers are elected at the NJHA annual convention from delegates and serve through the following convention.

Lexi Gegare - NJHA President

Hello, I’m Alexia Gegare, your National President, but everyone calls me Lexi. I live in a little town of about 4,000 people in Wisconsin. I graduated last year from Milton High School and am a freshman at the University of Wisconsin - Rock County. I am pursuing a degree in Recreational Therapy with minors in Horticulture and Music. I am involved in Jazz choir and musicals at school since music and dance are my passion. I teach Pre Ballet and Voice at Step Up Performing Arts Academy, where I also just assisted with a community production for Christmas. I have been very active in Milton FFA with my Horticulture CDE and I was on the Floriculture judging team for 4 years. This year I will be helping to coach the team and look forward to becoming an Alumni member of FFA. I am the Vice President of the Milton 4-H club and have been active in 4-H for 13 years. I currently serve as the Rock County 4-H Fair Queen and was recently awarded Miss Congeniality at the State Fairest of the Fair competition. I belong to Milton Grange where I am the Lecturer and at the Wisconsin State Grange I hold the office of Ceres. I work part time at Milton Senior Living as an Activity Aid and like hanging out with my friends and 2 cats Zoey and Molly.

I have been attending NJHA conventions since I was little and I actually took my first steps in 1995 at the NJHA convention in Niagara Falls. I am the third generation in my family to be involved in NJHA. I have participated in many contests including Young American projects, speeches and demonstrations, and the Horticulture ID. NJHA has given me the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends from across the country. I have been able to travel to new places and discover and learn new things. Being part of the National Officer team has been an awesome experience. It has allowed me to strengthen my skills and grow as a leader. I am so honored to be your National President this year.

I am so enthusiastic about NJHA. My hope is to have an FFA team come to Kentucky this year from Wisconsin. But my biggest project is to re-connect NJHA to the Grange. Locally and in Wisconsin, this has been working (Thank you Wisconsin State Grange for your support of NJHA), but I have also been busy promoting NJHA to Grange members across the nation. I have been fortunate to attend National Grange Conventions and Grange Leadership meetings and have shared what we are about. I encourage you to find your local Grange (if you need help finding one, just ask me, I can help you), and start talking about NJHA and the opportunities we offer. Together we can reach across the nation and build our organization. Let’s not keep us a secret any longer.

Grace Manzer - NJHA Secretary

My name is Grace Manzer. I was born in Morgantown West Virginia and lived in West Virginia for 3 months. Now I live in Elizabeth City, North Carolina and have been here since I was 3 months old. I am currently the NJHA secretary. I am a senior at Northeastern High School and plan to go to NC State in the fall to major in horticulture. My favorite hobby is working with and showing lambs.

I have attended National convention as a competitor for 2 years. However, I have been doing the competition since I was 9, the youngest competitive 4-H age. I have been the state individual high scorer twice at the junior level and once as a senior. I have also competed in the speaking and demonstration events at nationals both in San Diego two years ago and this year in Williamsburg.

It’s really important to keep those who have been involved still involved. Also, we need to pull more on our sister organizations such as FFA and 4-H to promote membership. Some ways we could do that include setting up a booth at the state conventions for each organization. By showcasing the merits of the horticulture competition I expect a few states might show considerable interest. FFA horticulture competitions only deal with ornamentals, so I think displaying the NJHA contest as a complete horticulture experience might interest some people. This same approach could also be implemented at the state level by our state coordinators.

Rachel Hammond - NJHA Central Director

Howdy y’all! My name is Rachel Hammond from the out skirts of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I live on the country side of Fort Wayne where fields surround my house, which is what I love. I am a freshman at Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne currently studying Pre-Radiography. I would like to continue my education so that I can continue to help others. Last year I was Western Director and this year (2013-2014) I have the privilege of being Central Director. I am honored to be a part of this wonderful organization. I love not only my officer team, but also the youth from across the United States. I was a 10 year 4-H member and a 5 year FFA member. I was heavily involved in 4-H and FFA and I will forever continue to support them. In 4-H I showed steers, chickens, and a pet rabbit and enter may projects. I did activities and competitions left and right in FFA, from Horticulture to growing and selling corn. FFA is what got me into NJHA and I am very thankful of that. NJHA is giving me the opportunity to continue supporting the organizations that made me who I am today. Now I can give back to not only NJHA but also 4-H & FFA.

Lexington, Kentucky will be my 7th NJHA convention and the second time of holding an NJHA office. I have done the Horticulture ID contest (2009-2012) and participated in Horticulture connections every year, including this year, I have attended NJHA convention. The people, the fun, & the knowledge learned all play a key role in bringing me back to NJHA year after year. I hope they do the same for you! NJHA has given me the opportunity to travel new places and meet new people. I have been able to make many new friends and family.

“Going and Growing” That is what we are all about! In my office this year I want to make sure that NJHA keeps Going and Growing. That means keeping in touch with the youth and sponsors. I want to ensure that NJHA members come back, not just once, but over and over again. I hope people make it a tradition because traditions and memories are what NJHA loves to do. We love seeing the faces from across the country return to NJHA. We like to see people going to convention and growing into leaders of tomorrow. As an officer it is also important for me to talk to sponsors to make sure that they continue to support our non-profit organization. It is important that we have sponsors so that we can continue to grow in this ever changing world.

In the future of NJHA I see many brilliant, bright faces and life impacts. I see good changes in the future of the National Junior Horticultural Association. Changes that will improve our organization and that will help the youth. Changes that will keep NJHA Going and Growing. But together we can keep NJHA Going and Growing!

Sayali Desai - NJHA Eastern Director

Hello! My name is Sayali Desai, and I have been given the honor to serve as your 2014-2015 Eastern Region Director. I am currently a junior in high school hoping to pursue a generalized agricultural degree at the University of Delaware. During the summer, I volunteer at Hagley Museum and Library on a weekly basis assisting the horticulturist in maintaining and the beautification of the gardens. During the semester, I am employed as a Kennel Technician at the Windcrest Animal Hospital assisting with canine and feline boarding. Apart from agriculture, some of my other passions include reading, archery and hiking.

I have been a member of NJHA for the past two years and was introduced to it during my first year as a 4- H member. I have competed in many of our contests such as demonstration, essay contests, horticulture connections, the Y/C program, and alumni scholarship as well as taught plant propagation workshops. I am also a member of FFA, a national organization have competed in numerous contests and classes. I am currently serving as a Director in my chapter guiding and counseling those who are relatively recent to the organization. I am a member of my local Grange.

NJHA is not only a horticultural platform that has introduced me to the various fields in the horticultural industry but it has also brought me to connect with many others who share a similar passion. It also made me realize of my future endeavors. I wish to use this given opportunity to make a difference as those who have continued to do and will continue in this organization. My contributions in that office would be to keep the general public informed of our esteemed organization through our annual newsletters. Also, I would like to create cohesive groups at local, state and national level through correspondence with various youth coordinators in the region. Furthermore, I would like to be that voice to offer help when needed, encouragement when there is a lack of confidence or even offer advice as friend and lend a helping shoulder.

I envision helping NJHA in whichever form or way whether it requires recruiting members, attending meetings; writing articles or even getting members enthused about participating in various projects/events. My ultimate goal is just to spread happiness. Happiness breeds optimism, optimism produces resilience, and resilience makes happiness endure perpetually. Also, I envision carrying this organization to great heights where it is recognized as a National Organization similar to FFA. Last but not least, I would indefinitely like to promote exciting new experiences for youth while informing them of various vocations and careers.

Some of my goals include visiting various University extension departments in the Eastern region involved and passionate about this field as I am and accomplishing what others have been able to before me. Moreover, I would like to be able to make a contribution to NJHA through various fundraisers hoping to expand horticultural awareness and develop an appreciation for this particular industry through lectures, informative sessions and interactive methods.

Bethany Brinsfield - NJHA Western Director

I am Bethany Brinsfield. I live on a farm in Vienna, Maryland and I am the Western Director. I am 17 and currently a senior at North Dorchester High School. On my farm we grow sweet corn, peppers, lima beans, watermelons, field corn, soybeans, and sweet potatoes. I love making sweet potatoe biscuits and pies! We also have animals on my farm. I raise goats and rabbits for meat and have three dogs and a lot of barn cats. I have two sisters and a brother and we all help our parents on the farm.

I have been to three NJHA conventions, but I have been participating in horticulture judging since I was 8. My first NJHA convention, in 2011, I competed in the Horticulture Judging contest for the Maryland 4-H team. I placed 3rd in Horticulture Judging and also participated in the Extemporaneous Speech contest. I made some great friends in San Diego, California and decided to come again to compete in Open Horticulture Judging. In Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, 2012, I competed in Open Horticulture Judging, Extemporaneous Speech, and Preforming Arts. I placed first in Open and received Grand National for the skit that I co-preformed with Sayali Desai. In Wisconsin I was also chosen to be the Eastern Director. I had a great year as Eastern Director. I went to winter meeting and June Meeting and really connected with my youth coordinators. I came back to Williamsburg, Virginia this year and competed in Honors Horticulture Judging and Extemporaneous Speech. I placed 4th in Honors and won a National award for my Extemporaneous Speech. I applied for office again and now I am Western Director!

This year I would like to continue working hard to keep NJHA ”going and growing.” I started a game last year on Facebook called “Quiz Pictures.” I’m planning on continuing the program this year, so don’t miss out. I also had a great time last year putting together the February and August editions of The Eastern Times. This year feel free to send me articles so that The Western Times can be a hit. If I am not already your Facebook friend, please look me up. If you have any questions email or message me and I will be happy to answer them.

Matthew Bond - NJHA Past President

Hello! My name is Matthew Bond, and I am the 2013-2014 Past President. I’m currently a senior Plant Science major at Cornell University. My concentration is Plants and Health, and I am currently applying to PhD programs in ethnobotany and economic botany. During the semester I conduct research on medicinal plants and work at the Cornell University costume shop. Although my main love is plants, I also enjoy spending time with my camera, downhill skiing, and hiking.

I have been a member of NJHA for 7 years, and have been a member of the officer team for the last 5 years. For the last two years, I served as president, and in the two years before that I served as Western Director. I have competed in many of our contests, including the ID, demonstration, extemporaneous speaking, and essay contests, as well as horticulture connections, environmental awareness project, the YC program, and achievement and leadership scholarship. I am also a member of Pi Alpha Xi; the honor society for Horticulture, Ho-Nun-De-Kah; the junior and senior honor society of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, Phi Eta Sigma; the National Freshman Honor Society and Beta Beta Beta; the Biological Honors Society.

During my year as Past President, my goals include continuing to revise and modernize NJHA’s social media presence. This will include our website, Facebook page, Youtube channel, and twitter account. I am also working to update NJHA contests and projects, and contacting other states and organizations to encourage their participation. I challenge all of you to help us keep NJHA going and growing, coordinating with organizations such as The Grange, FFA, 4-H and local youth garden clubs. I know that this year’s convention in Lexington, Kentucky, be one to remember, and look forward to seeing all of you there!

Ted Beebe - NJHA Co-Advisor

Hi, I am Ted Beebe, and I am one of the co-advisors to the Youth Officer Team. My two children (Nick and Katlyn) both attended NJHA conventions in prior years (and Katlyn is a past Youth Officer), and my granddaughter Brooklynne is a Grand National and National Award winner in the photography contest while she waits to be old enough for her first convention. I live in Saratoga Springs, NY, a city that takes great pride in its historical parks and natural spring waters. I work with Saratoga County 4-H as the manager of the photography department at county fair, and assist with judging and entry classifications at State Fair. I am a member of my local Lions club and help to manage the Ballston Spa 4-H demonstration community gardens.

My wife, Sue Beebe, introduced me to NJHA 24 years ago, and my first convention was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I have greatly enjoyed sharing in the learning process with our Saratoga County 4-H Horticulture Team over the years (I have a natural “brown thumb” – so anything horticultural is magical to me!) and look forward to helping with the NY State Fair contest each year. Sue and I have been members of the awards committee over the years and have been very happy to assist the officer team in taking over this responsibility last year. Sue is the Photography Competition Program Chair, and I help with that competition each year. It is always exciting to see each year’s entries come in the beginning of September, and I hope to see some of your work this year!

This is an exciting time to be part of this organization. We have some new faces, and new energy in our governing bodies – and the more experienced parts of the boards have been strongly encouraging everyone to get involved in re-invigorating our group. We have a really great team of youth officers, they are dedicated, work well together, and are just lots of fun to be around. A committee is working on revamping and updating the many competitions, and we are beginning an effort to re-connect with our Grange roots. All of this points to exciting times in the next few years and a bright future for NJHA. It’s great to be involved!

Debbie Gegare - NJHA Co-Advisor

Hi, I am Debbie Gegare, from Wisconsin and I am a Co-Advisor to the National Officer Team. My daughter Lexi, is very interested in Horticulture and my son Cody, is just starting to learn. We also have 2 cats named Molly and Zoey. I work for Catholic Charities in the Community Connections program, where I am the Lead Skills Trainer. This is a day program for adults with developmental disabilities, where I do case management and activity programming. I am not only involved with NJHA, but also 4-H, FFA and the Grange. In 4-H, I am a project leader for Music and Drama, Food Preservation and I am the County Camp Director. I am the coach for the FFA Floriculture team and I am also an alumni member. I am currently the Overseer (Vice President) of my local Grange chapter and the Membership and Youth Director for the Wisconsin State Grange. I also do some work with the National Grange as a Communications Fellow and correspondent for Grange Radio.

I have been involved with NJHA for over 25 years. My first convention was the 50th Convention in Grand Rapids, MI in 1984. I represented Wisconsin on a 4-H team and was hooked on NJHA right from the start. I was active as a YC, became a national officer and when I graduated out, I worked with teams and became the State Leader for Wisconsin. We have made NJHA a family affair as my parents, sister and daughter have all participated in different aspects of the organization.

As the National Advisor, I work closely with the National Officer Team. We help to plan conventions and keep in communications with the members of our organization throughout the year. Our goal is to have representation from all states at our annual meeting. NJHA is a best kept secret, but let’s not keep it a secret any longer. I encourage and challenge you to spread the word about our awesome organization. When voices start talking, people will hear.

We are very excited to begin working out the details for the 80th annual convention, held October 10-13, 2014 in Lexington, KY. Plan on attending, you won’t want to miss it!