Saturday, February 21, 2015

Lowville Academy Grad Finishes Strong at National Competition

Ashley Willits, a Morrisville State College student from Copenhagen, Lewis County, earned a spot in the "Sweet 16" as one of the top finishers in the Collegiate Discussion Meet at the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers and Ranchers Leadership Conference in Nashville.

Willits, who represented the New York Farm Bureau, was one of 47 participants in the meet. She is a freshman in the agriculture business program and qualified for the national competition after placing first at the New York State Collegiate Discussion Meet competition held at Morrisville State.

During the three-day leadership and development conference in Tennessee, Willits participated in many educational sessions where she learned about the Farm Bill, growing trends in the agricultural industry and how to be a better leader.

The Collegiate Discussion Meet is a competition in which four contestants simulate a committee meeting where they discuss rising issues in the agricultural industry and develop possible solutions for these problems, taking into account how the problems change across state boundaries. 

Judging is based on contestants’ constructive criticism, cooperation, and communication while analyzing agricultural problems and developing solutions.

Willits has extensive experience in the agriculture industry, having served as the 2013-2014 president of the New York State FFA Association and as chapter reporter and secretary and the District VI President on the 2012-2013 State Officer Team. 

She was a state finalist in 2012 and 2013 in the Prepared Speaking and Job Interview Career Development Event and was a national finalist in 2010 for the FFA Creed Speaking Career Development Event. She also was a member of the National Poultry Judging Team in 2011 and was the recipient of the 2014 Empire State Potato Growers Association Scholarship.

She also has traveled with the National FFA Organization to South Africa as a part of the International Leadership Seminar for State Officers. The two-week long trip gave participants the opportunity to volunteer in a South African community, meet agricultural leaders, explore South African agriculture, and gain a better understanding of the global marketplace.

Willits, a 2014 graduate of Lowville Academy and Central School, is the daughter of Jennifer and Melvin Phelps of Copenhagen.

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