Okoboji FFA’ers place third at state
By Karen Schwaller
MILFORD – Two Okoboji High School FFA members placed third in their competitions at the Iowa FFA State Convention.
Carson Miller, 16, an early-achieving senior, and Andrew Dunn, 18, senior, placed in job interview and extemporaneous speaking, respectively.
Dunn’s task in extemporaneous speaking was to choose a topic which was unknown to him beforehand, then spend 30 minutes putting together a four- to six-minute speech that could be neither longer or shorter than the allotted time. His topic, Biotechnology and How to Feed the Next Generation, dealt with GMOs, agri-science and bio-technology.
“My speech went 20 seconds too long, otherwise I would have placed first,” he said. “I gave a good speech, and while it wasn’t exactly what I wanted, I did my best.”
He spoke about feeding a world population of 9 billion within the next 20 years and the role that agri-science and bio-technology will play in that issue. He spoke only about GMOs at the state competition, saying they are one of the most important factors due to their ability to increase yields, resist drought and pests.
“Interestingly enough, I talked about things keeping people from being fed currently – the walls they have to get past, addressing poverty in developing countries,” Dunn said.
A seasoned debater at Okoboji High School, Dunn is a two-time national qualifier for the West Iowa District for the National Speech and Debate Association, along with years of involvement in speech.
His freshman year, he said he didn’t fare well at creed speaking at state and sophomore year he said he wasn’t prepared to write an extemporaneous speech about biofuels.
He took his junior year off from the FFA speaking contest because he was focusing on his All-State qualification in spontaneous speaking. Senior year came and he competed in extemporaneous speaking at the sub-district level again for FFA, and got first place with his piece on bio-technology.
Following that, he went on to districts and received first place, then moved on to state, where he placed third.
“Education and communication of ideas are both important to me,” said Dunn, who plans to major in political science and international relations and communications at Simpson College in Indianola, where he has received scholarships for debate and political science.
“Any time I can talk about something that is so often misunderstood – such as GMOs and agri-science – I enjoy taking that opportunity.”
Dunn has been involved in FFA all four years of school and said it offers more than people think.
“I value the education, skills, friendship and fellowship it provides, as well as the people that are involved in the FFA community,” he said.
He is the son of Ken and Janet Dunn of Milford.
Miller placed third in the state and received a gold rating out of 12 competitors in the job interview portion of the contest at state. It involved choosing a real entry-level job to apply for. She chose to be an agricultural legal assistant working for an agricultural lawyer.
“I had to use whatever certifications I currently have, then come up with a resume and cover letter and descriptions of jobs and references,” said Miller. “I had to bring that forward to my judges and then did an on-site interview for each level of competition. I did that for sub-level, district and state levels.”
She said she was a little disappointed to get third place, but understood it after visiting with her competitors and finding out how qualified they were.
“Getting first place would have qualified me for nationals, which would have been insanely cool, but I decided that the fact that I was able to hold my own among them and get third place was pretty cool,” she said.
Miller said there were nearly 200 competitors in that area of competition alone from the sub-district level on up.
She had to do her interview in front of an audience at the state level, which she did not know going into it. There were about 50 people watching and listening to her in addition to three judges and one interviewer.
Miller added FFA gave her an understanding of the importance of food security and the opportunities available to her for choosing agriculture as a career path. She wants to go into international relations and foreign affairs as a career path.
“Agricultural relations are so important in working with developing countries all over the world, and even with some of our major countries as well,” she said. “Agriculture is so much more than chickens and gardens and it taught me about leadership and how to present myself and be proud of the area I came from, because we all know agriculture is a huge part of what makes Iowa what it is.”
Her goal is to specialize in the Middle Eastern relations. This summer she will spend seven weeks in Aman, Jordan, through a fully-sponsored U.S. State Department program to learn the Arabic language while living with a host family there.
“I’m hoping to work through the government sector and do international relations through the state department while living in the Middle East, or work with corporations trying to bring businesses to the Middle East or agriculture developments there,” said Miller.
Specifically, she is interested in the economic development of foreign communities, as well as helping them be sustainable by showing people in developing countries how to do things.
Miller will graduate two years early from Okoboji High School and will go on to further schooling in New Mexico. She is the daughter of Killey and Carry Miller of Arnolds Park.
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