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Back row (L to R): Matt Wood, Ben Travlos, Garet Koester, Carley Esser, Kyle Clement, Jason Smith and Brad Borges; middle row: Ambrosia Church, Elizabeth Brown, Jesica Wells, Kassie Waller, Leslie Borries (Western Illinois University), Keili Summey and Melissa LeCaptain; and front row: Dusti Irwin (John Wood Community College), Emma Heser, Kaylee Norris, Eileen Desmond, Lynn Dodge, Katelyn Jerde, and Tori Summey. Not Pictured: Danielle Milbern.
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WIU Student, JWCC Student Chosen for Elite Team of National Collegiate Agriculture Ambassadors; Students Will Serve to Educate Public about Ag Industry This Fall

August 27, 2015

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MACOMB/QUINCY, IL — It will be a busy Fall 2015 for Leslie Borries (Tuscola, IL), a senior at Western Illinois University, and Dusti Irwin (Quincy, IL), a sophomore at John Wood Community College. In June, both students began their roles as National Collegiate Agriculture Ambassadors. Last spring, they were each selected for the opportunity through the National FFA Organization's ambassador program. In addition to tending to their college studies in agricultural education this fall, both will be putting in hours to educate the public about the agriculture industry.

In June, Borries and Irwin completed training for the national program—for which only 20 other students across the U.S. were chosen—and next month, both will complete a second training session. After their training in September, Borries and Irwin will give presentations and facilitate workshops to audiences interested in learning more about agriculture, according to the National FFA website.

"We have to work for 20 hours during each of our ambassadorships, which last through the end of the December," Borries said. "My goal is to engage students and audiences in activities to spread the awareness about agriculture. My job as a National Collegiate Agriculture Ambassador is to provide the people with facts about the agriculture industry, not the anecdotal evidence, but to provide them with the statistics and the research."

For Irwin, who was selected as an intern for the WIU School of Agriculture's Growing Agricultural Science Teachers (GAST) program last spring, the opportunity to spread accurate information about agriculture is an exciting one.

"As a National Collegiate Agriculture Ambassador, I am ecstatic to work with and present to any group or organization interested in learning more about agriculture and the role of it in our everyday lives," she explained. "I look forward to talking to people and groups about current issues and questions related to agriculture."

According to Irwin, her GAST internship (a program funded through the Illinois State Board of Higher Education) came about as result from an ongoing relationship between WIU School of Agriculture Director Andy Baker and JWCC Ag Sciences Chair Gary Shupe.

"Last year, another JWCC student was able to benefit from this internship opportunity, and this year, when the internship was again made available, Dr. Baker contacted Mr. Shupe about the opportunity to have it filled by another JWCC student," Irwin explained. "Last spring, I completed my required internship hours, 80 hours, at Mendon-Unity High School [Mendon, IL] under the instructional supervision of the current ag teacher and FFA advisor there, Amy Lucie. These 'experience' hours opened my eyes to the 'behind the scenes' life of an ag teacher and FFA advisor. I learned about the classroom, administrative and FFA-related dynamics of such a position. I also was given the opportunity to create my own lesson plans and present them to two classes of students on the days I visited the classroom. This was great practice for any teaching experience that I may be involved with in the future. The evaluations and critique I was able to receive from my lessons are greatly valuable as I advance to my structured training in pursuit of a degree in ag ed."

According to Baker, the National FFA Organization implemented the National Collegiate Agriculture Ambassadors in 2006 to educate the general public about the agricultural industry.

"They felt the need to promote the agricultural industry by allowing collegiate-level students to gain substantial experience in educating individuals and groups about where their food comes from," he noted. "Since the inception of the program, WIU has had four students selected for this program, including Leslie and Dusti. I am very fortunate to have such high-caliber students who desire to educate others on agriculture. This is a very elite group of students. I firmly believe these two young ladies will do an outstanding job in fulfilling their requirements, and that they will be great educators in the near future."

A Great Choice

Both Borries and Irwin hope to work as agriculture education teachers once they complete their college degrees. Borries noted opportunity to serve as a National Collegiate Agriculture Ambassador gave her a second chance to get more involved with the FFA.

"In high school, I wasn't too involved with the FFA at the chapter level, and once I graduated, I immediately regretted that, so I thought this would be a great opportunity," she explained. "For my application, I produced a five-minute video about engaging kids. At the time, I had the GAST internship at Southeastern Community High School [Augusta, IL], so I was able to use that experience to show how I could engage students and to help tell my story. I didn't really think I would get it, so I was surprised when the advisors of the program asked to interview me, but I was thrilled when I was selected as an ambassador."

Borries, who noted she chose to pursue her degree in agriculture education at Western instead of the University of Illinois, said she thinks her role as a National Collegiate Agriculture Ambassador will help her advance her effort to work as an agriculture ed teacher.

"I felt the agriculture program at the University of Illinois has more of a research focus, and I plan to teach in Illinois, hopefully around the St. Louis area," she said. "I know I made the right choice, as Western has a 100 percent placement rate—once someone graduates with his or her degree in agriculture education, he or she is easily placed in a job. Eventually, I hope to pursue my master's degree, and down the road, when I have a family, I would like to possibly work at the Farm Bureau."

Irwin, who will finish up at JWCC in December, plans to attend a four-year institution to complete her bachelor's degree in agriculture education.

"I also have a strong interest in international agriculture studies and may pursue a related degree as a secondary priority. I am currently uncommitted to a college, but am looking at all of my options carefully with deep consideration of many factors. WIU has long been, and continues to be, my number one option. After completion of my desired degrees I foresee a long-term career in education, and I am open to the many options that such a career may provide."

For more information about the National Collegiate Agriculture Ambassador Program, visit the National FFA Organization website at To schedule Borries or Irwin for a presentation or workshop, contact Borries at or Irwin at

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (
Office of University Communications & Marketing