Houston native Rae Kirkwood and Plato native Douglas Cooley II were among eight Missouri State University-West Plains students who placed at the 2017 Missouri Postsecondary Agriculture Students (PAS) organization’s annual conference.

The eight are now eligible to compete at the National PAS Conference and Convention March 13-16 in Louisville, Ky. They advanced in mid-November at the event at North Central Missouri College in Trenton.

PAS promotes career preparation and leadership, according to Dr. Linda Wulff-Risner, associate professor of agriculture at Missouri State-West Plains and the group’s faculty adviser. Conferences include contests in career planning, career progress, employment interviews and comprehensive subject matter exams, as well as various workshops, motivational speakers and other conference events. Missouri State University-West Plains hosted the 2016 state conference.

The career planning contest encouraged students who are in their first year of postsecondary agricultural training to explore careers in agriculture and interview professionals within that career while learning what skills, work habits, lifestyles and salaries are common in that field, Risner said. They also are required to set goals and the steps to achieve those goals, which are then evaluated by an industry representative, she added.

Cooley took second in that contest.

The career progress competition for students in their second year of post-secondary agricultural training called for students to complete an extensive application for an interview by a person currently working in the industry, Risner said, and judges evaluate the students’ progress toward the goals and competencies needed for success in that career field. Kirkwood placed fifth.

The employment interview contest required students to complete a letter of application, resume and employment application, all of which are judged for accuracy and quality, then sit down for an interview with a person currently working in that career field, Risner said. The contest prepares students for the process of applying and interviewing for a career position, she added.

Kirkwood was third.

The top five contestants in each division of career planning, career progress and employment interview advanced to the national competition.

“I am extremely proud of our students,” Risner said. “Eight students went to the state competition, and eight students scored in the top five in one or more contests, earning them the right to compete at the National PAS Conference in Louisville.”

In addition to the competition placements, Cooley was selected as sentinel for the Missouri PAS Organization. He will represent Missouri as official delegates to the national convention and will assist at Missouri PAS events statewide. Bryce King and Cooley also are scheduled to give the welcome address to the area FFA Greenhand motivational conference Jan. 10.

“One of my proudest moments here at Missouri State-West Plains was when Bryce King was elected vice president and Douglas Cooley II was elected sentinel,” Risner said. “This was the first time that Missouri State-West Plains had officer candidates, and two of them were elected to state office. There are only six offices and 16 contestants.

“Missouri State-West Plains is only in its third year of competition at Missouri PAS, and we jumped off the deep end by hosting the conference in West Plains in 2016. We took the lessons learned while hosting, rode the wave of enthusiasm after over 20 students competed in 2016, and the results are amazing! Now, on to preparing for national competition in March! We plan to work hard and hopefully come home with good results at the national level.”

The National Postsecondary Agriculture Students Organization was founded in 1980 in Kansas City, to provide opportunities for individual growth, leadership and career preparation for college agriculture students. An estimated 1,400 members from 62 chapters in 18 states are PAS members.

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