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Morrisville State College provides top high school students with hands-on experience during NYS FFA Convention

MORRISVILLE, NY—Future agricultural leaders honed their skills on the Morrisville State College campus during this year’s New York State FFA Convention May 11-13. 

More than 1,000 of the best and brightest high school students from across New York flocked to campus to gain hands-on experience in their future agricultural career fields during the event, which showcased some of the best MSC has to offer.

Hailey Mason, in her fifth year with FFA, credits the organization with inspiring her to pursue a career as an agriculture teacher. After visiting campus, she now hopes to fulfill that career path at Morrisville someday.

“I love this place,” exclaimed Mason, 15, of the Greenville FFA Chapter located southeast of Albany. “It feels like everyone here is in to seeing the students succeed.”

The convention featured a lineup of motivational and informational presentations, as well as competitions for participants that tested their knowledge of subjects such as agricultural communications, veterinary science, agricultural issues and food science. The event also helped students gain a better understanding about personal growth and career success while teaching them job interview skills, public speaking skills and team building.

Campus and industry tours also offered educational experiences. In addition to experiencing Morrisville’s campus operations, including the college’s dairy incubator and aquaculture center, students had the chance to visit the nearby Fenner Renewable Energy Education (FREE) Center, a goat dairy, a mushroom farm and a worm farm. 

Munnsville resident Rebecca Ax, who hopes to become a therapeutic riding instructor, beamed as she discussed the college’s equine rehabilitation center. Now in her fourth year with FFA and serving as the junior high reporter for the Stockbridge Valley Chapter, the 14-year-old felt the convention would help her gain “more knowledge of agriculture and learn things I can show to other people.” 

Presenters from all over the country spoke throughout the event, including MSC alumna Ashley Willits, Eastern Region vice president for the National FFA Organization. Willits, a 2016 agricultural business graduate, is the first female member from New York to be elected as a national FFA officer. In her role, she leads personal growth and leadership training conferences for FFA members throughout the country and helps set policies that guide the future of FFA and promote agricultural literacy.

The Peterson Brothers, a sibling trio from Kansas who create social media content to promote agriculture, served as keynote speakers during the three-day showcase, which additionally featured a performance by country artist Jerrod Niemann.

“It’s pretty powerful and has something for everyone,” said Christopher Roman, 15, of Verona, a member of the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill (VVS) FFA Chapter. “It’s more than just agriculture; you gain leadership skills out of this, too.”

The event provided students with the opportunity to explore a career show, view an array of exhibits and attend leadership and career workshops. Among them was a fence-building workshop, presented by Jim Costello and John Leva of the college’s wood products technology program.

“It’s providing me with hands-on experience and exposing me to things I need to use in life,” Isabel Van Tassel said of the convention.

Van Tassel, 17, of the Cazenovia FFA Chapter, became interested in agriculture while raising a pig to show at a fair. “That sparked my interest in so many other things, like how to build a fence,” she said.

Students also investigated soils for agricultural productivity and learned how to effectively lobby legislatures, organizations and other groups in support of agriculture.

“I love this; it’s beautiful here in upstate (New York),” said Wanbesly Nacelus, of Queens, now in his second year with the John Bowne FFA Chapter after joining due to his love for working with plant life. “Because I’m an FFA member, I’m part of something much bigger.”    

FFA members, who commanded the campus with their widely recognized blue corduroy jackets with gold lettering, also completed service projects during their stay. They built a willow hut, filled sand boxes and built vertical gardens at the on-campus Childcare Center and also painted around campus.

“This is giving me a lot of experience,” said VVS FFA member Cody Minckler, 16, of Verona. “I have made so many new friends through FFA.”

Most attendees earned their way to the convention competing at local, regional, and sub-state levels. The top students from the state convention will go on to represent New York and compete at the national competition.

In addition to students, nearly 400 volunteers also assisted with the convention, along with judges who included Morrisville faculty and staff, high school teachers from various FFA districts, and business and industry leaders and personnel.

Morrisville State College’s curricula are enriched with applied learning and pave the way for opportunity at both the Morrisville and Norwich campuses. An action-oriented, interactive learning lab, the college is a national leader in technology and has been lauded for its exemplary, innovative and effective community service programs. 

The college was ranked among the Best Regional Colleges in the North by U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges 2017 issue and was also recognized in the Top Public Schools, Regional Colleges North in the 2017 Best Colleges rankings. For more information about Morrisville State College, visit