Ashley Willits grew up in northern New York and is graduate of Lowville Academy Central School. Ashely attended Morrisville State College where she earned a degree in agricultural business and now attends Tarleton State University as an agricultural education major. She served as state FFA president during her senior year at Lowville in 2013-14, then that fall was one of 75 people nationwide selected to participate in a trip to South Africa organized through the organization’s International Leadership Seminar for State Officers.
The process to be elected as a National Officer is extremely rigorous. Ashley has been preparing for this moment since she zipped up her first corduroy jacket. Her parents, Jennifer and Melvin Phelps, both agricultural educators have raised an astounding young lady that is such an inspiration for so many of our members. This quote from Seth Browe, 16-17 NYS FFA Vice President, is the perfect example of this, “Ashley said this to me in Getman Lodge on Wednesday of week 3 at camp, ‘whatever happens I'll be happy, but if I don't get elected I don't want people to say sorry, because I'll know that I did the best job I could do.’ It was at this moment I knew that New York would have a National Officer. Congratulations Ashley, you earned it!” There are multiple rounds to the selection process, from the application to delivering a speech, to facilitating a workshop with high school students. The nominating committee is made up of student members from around the country. The New York FFA State Executive Secretary, Derek Hill, had this to say, “This is the most extensive interview process that I have ever seen and will prepare these students not only for the year ahead but for their future careers”.
National Officers are required to take a year off from College to serve the nearly 650,000 FFA members across the United States. Ashley will spend the next year traveling over 300 days and over 100,000 miles spreading the positive influence that FFA has on its members. The six officers will speak with “business and industry leaders, thousands of FFA members and teachers, corporate sponsors, government and education officials, state FFA leaders, the general public and more,” states a release from the organization. “The team will lead personal growth and leadership training conferences for FFA members throughout the country and help set policies that will guide the future of FFA and promote agricultural literacy.”
Joining Willits on the 2016-17 National FFA Officer team are: President - David Townsend, University of Delaware; Secretary – Victoria Harris, University of Florida; Southern Region Vice President – DeShawn Blanding, North Carolina A&T State University; Western Region Vice President – Trey Elizondo, Texas A&M University; Central Region Vice President – Valerie Earley, University of Minnesota.
The New York FFA Association and all of its members, educators, staff, friends and supporters are proud and excited that one of our members has reached such a monumental achievement. We wish her all the best as she focuses on the extraordinary journey ahead and we can’t wait to see the incredible impact that she will have on FFA members, agricultural education and the agricultural industry.
For more information about this year’s National Officer Team, FFA or agricultural education please visit the following websites: www.ffa.org or www.nysffa.org
Media Contacts: Taylor McNamara, 16-17 NYS FFA Reporter or Derek Hill, NYS FFA Executive Secretary, 607-254-2880 or firstname.lastname@example.org