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ICCC students had successful 2018 National PAS conference

By Staff | Mar 30, 2018

Mollie Uptown and Emma Graves look over a bridle while studying for the National Postsecondary Agricultural organization’s national conference’s equine specialist contest, recently. The pair, along with Olivia Erenberger earned first place.



FORT DODGE – Sixteen Postsecondary Agriculture organization (PAS) students at Iowa Central Community College competed at the 2018 PAS conference, held recently in Louisville, Kentucky.

Mike Richards, Iowa Central’s Ag Technology program instructor, is the adviser of PAS.

He said the students saw a lot of success at this year’s conference.

“This was one of the best,” he said. “We’ve only had one other year where we had a national winner. This year, we had a national winner and two third places, a first and a second individual.”

“That is quite an accomplishment.”

He said the college’s PAS program has been seeing some growth.

“We took 11 to Kansas City just a few years ago and to take 16 was, by far, the most we have ever advanced to nationals,” he said.

Currently, the PAS program at Iowa Central Community College has close to 90 students enrolled and Richards said that enrollment number is steadily increasing.

PAS is an organization associated with agriculture, agribusiness and natural resources offerings in approved postsecondary institutions, offering baccalaureate degrees, associate degrees, diplomas and or certificates.

It is one of the 11 career and technical student organizations that has been approved by the U.S. Department of Education as an integral part of career and technical education.

Richards said the students had to earn their way to the national conference and competition by first competing at the state level. That conference was held in February at Iowa Valley Community College in Marshalltown.

Nineteen PAS students competed at the state level, with 16 advancing to nationals.


Richards said the students competed in team and individual competitions.

Teams included equine specialist, where Emma Graves, Olivia Erenberger and Mollie Uptown received first place.

Within the equine specialist’s competition, Graves received first place individual and Erenberger received second place individual.

For most of the team competitions, there are three aspects the team must complete including a written test, which is done individually; an identification section, which is also done individually, and a case study, which is performed with the team.

“We are given 45 minutes to prepare a presentation and then present that case study to the judges,” said Graves. “Topics can vary, but at nationals we were supposed to be a breeding operation and we had to change something in our genetics.”

Graves chose to participate in the PAS competitions, specializing in equine, because of her love of horses.

“I really enjoy equine,” she said. “PAS is a good thing to put on applications. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of and meet new people.”

Uptown is also involved with horses and is enjoying her PAS career.

“I did the equine contest because I showed horses and my pony in 4-H and FFA while in high school,” she said. “And that’s a part of why I joined PAS. I enjoyed those other organizations so much, I wasn’t ready to let go.”

Iowa Central Community College advanced two crop specialist teams to nationals. Colby Van Hill, Jared Rotert and Mason Claude placed seventh at nationals while Montana Else, Tony Sexton and Sean Peters placed 14th.

Rotert said participating in the crop specialist contest has helped him not only branch out of his comfort zone as well with his college studies but to be able to return to the farm.

“This was out of my range. I have never really competed like that before,” he said. “It was a good experience. The case study was real life problems of what can happen. You have to solve that for the judges – or at least to your best ability – and it gives you a good idea of what’s going on out there.”

Van Hill was proud to say his team did better this year.

“We placed fourth last year at nationals and third this year,” he said. “I enjoy sales class, so that’s why I decided to give it a go.”

Taking sixth place at the PAS National Conference in the sheep specialist competition were Raechel Spangler, Tyler Perez and Ward Umbaugh. Joel Delp participated in this contest at state level, but was unable to attend the national conference.

Spangler said she chose to participate due to her overall interest in sheep and sheep production.

“I have been raised around sheep my entire life and I wanted to participate,” she said. “This has taught me a lot about teamwork.”

The overall livestock specialist team received a seventh place ranking and included Lincoln Miller, Bree Henningsen, Kaleb O’Connell. Taylor Sandy competed with the team at state, but was unable to compete at nationals.

A college bowl team of Danielle Peterson, Miller, Perez, Else and Spangler also competed.

Individual contests

Peterson placed third in agribusiness administration job interview.

Umbaugh was third for the prepared speaking contest.

Claude received fourth place for livestock production job interview.

Uptown placed seventh at nationals in ag education.

For this competition, Uptown said she had to put a lesson plan together and teach it to the judges.

“I want to be an ag teacher,” she said. “I think the contest emphasized that. It was up in the air for a while, but after the contest, I decided I think it’s something I really want to do the rest of my life.”

Sexton took 13th place in the individual precision agriculture specialist.

He said the competition also helped steer him towards a career path.

“It helped me to decide what I wanted to do in ag after college,” he said. “I was leaning towards the crops side, but now precision agriculture is what I’m leaning towards.”

Richards said attending both state and national conferences gives the PAS students several opportunities outside of the contests. There is at least one day where the students get to tour the city and visit with other students.

“It was one of the best experiences I have had,” Uptown said. “It’s a good networking opportunity, as well as a good place to make new friends.”

“Probably the biggest thing, and Mollie touched on, is I see students develop more confidence and skills that hopefully prepare them as they look to enter the workforce,” said Richards. “I think that confidence and skill set and the networking opportunities – because, generally speaking, the judges are someone from the industry.”

“Not only are there networking opportunities with other college students, but with industry people as well.”

Fundraising efforts

Richards said the PAS state and national conferences do not come without a cost.

“We have a corporate sponsorship program we started when we started advancing more to state and national competitions,” he said. “It’s quite expensive, so that presents some challenges.”

To help offset those costs, Richards said the PAS program solicits sponsorships from local agribusinesses and agribusinesses from the student’s hometowns.

To go along with that, he said they also host a “Friends of Agriculture” banquet. This banquet is an opportunity to sell tickets and thank their sponsors. This year, it is planned for April 14.

Richards added they are also offering tickets for a hog raffle.

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