Mattie Tucek embracing life, leadership, opportunity

Charlie Denison

From left, Janelle Tucek, Kendra Murnion and Mattie enjoy a night out in Nashville, Tennessee, the country music capital of the world, earlier this summer. Nashville hosted FCCLA Nationals, where Mattie got to be a judge.
Photo courtesy of Mattie Tucek

“Do what makes you happy.”

Those are Grass Range junior Mattie Tucek’s words of advice, and she’s following that advice as much as she can.

Mattie, 16, born and raised in Grass Range, was out hauling hay in the morning, out about Lewistown in the afternoon, preparing for volleyball practice, reflecting on leadership and starting to plan for her candidacy as a state officer in FFA.

All of this might sound like a lot – and it is – but Mattie doesn’t mind one bit. Working hard, achieving and being the best person she can be is what makes her happy.

And, for Mattie, the sky is the limit.

Of course, life isn’t always so simple. You can do what makes you happy and still have some complications here and there. That’s what happened this year with Mattie’s FCCLA life event planning project.

“I was going to do a life event plan on prom, about everything you have to do to get ready,” she said. “I was hoping to qualify for state and then go on to nationals, but, the Sunday before state, I went into the computer lab and nothing was working. I lost it. Should have saved it onto a zip drive. It’s my own fault.”

Although Mattie didn’t compete at state, she went there anyway, and she also went to Nationals in Nashville, Tennessee, where she was a judge, an experience she feels will really help her moving forward.

“It was great to see what other kids were doing and it will benefit me when I do another project for FCCLA, although that might not be until senior year. I might run for state office this year.”

Mattie will figure that out. In the meantime, she’s trying not to move too fast before heading off to college, taking in everything she’s done this year, which includes two leadership classes.

FCCLA is definitely a passion for Mattie, but FFA is definitely the activity she’s most interested in. In fact, she’s probably not even going to play basketball this year so she can focus on becoming a state FFA officer her senior year.

“It’s going to take a lot of work,” she said, “but I understand the value of hard work.”

She also understands how the process works. Mattie was on the nominating committee, which was pretty difficult for her, as there were a few who didn’t make the cut.

“It was hard to tell those kids they didn’t make it and tell them to try again next year,” she said. “I think we will be seeing them, though. There really were a lot of good candidates.”

It takes a lot to be a good candidate, she said, and it takes a lot to handle the pressure. Growing up on a ranch and understanding the importance of hard work, Mattie is willing to give it her best. Besides, it’s what makes her happy.

The joy Mattie has for FFA is in large part thanks to Joel King, Grass Range’s FFA advisor.

“I admire him a lot,” Mattie said. “He’s really pushed me and encouraged me. For example, I used to be terrified of public speaking, and now I actually enjoy it.”

King is “always there,” Mattie said, and has helped the FFA team grow as young adults. His leadership and belief in the team is leading to success. The team is doing remarkably well, Mattie said, competing with larger schools such as Flathead. They’ve been placing high in several categories, be it vet tech or livestock judging.

As excited as Mattie is for FFA, she knows it will come to an end eventually. She hopes, however, that she can become a state officer and then get a scholarship to Montana State University, following in the footsteps of many in her family.

As far as a career, Mattie sees herself working as a prison psychologist.

“Criminal investigations have always fascinated me,” she said. “I’m curious to know the psychology involved. I want to know why the criminals are the way they are and what’s happened in their lives to make them that way.”

But a career is a long way away. For now, she’s going to enjoy the rest of the summer, continuing to do what makes her happy, which, starting next Friday, will be volleyball practice.

“That’s when summer ends for me,” she said. “It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’ll be ready.”




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