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NMSU collaborates on new career-building contests for youth

New Mexico State University’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, in collaboration with the New Mexico State Fair Commission, has developed two new contests for youth to showcase their public-speaking and scientific-reasoning skills.


A female student gives a speech.
New Mexico State University student Annalisa Miller, who served as the 2018-2019 state president of the New Mexico FFA, gives a speech during an FFA event. NMSU and the New Mexico State Fair Commission developed two contests for youth to showcase their public-speaking and scientific-reasoning skills. The contests will take place virtually, following the cancellation of this year’s New Mexico State Fair. (Courtesy New Mexico FFA)

The contests, Agricultural Public Speaking and Agricultural and Natural Resource Science Fair, will take place virtually, following the cancellation of this year’s New Mexico State Fair.

New Mexico youth ages 8 to 18 are eligible to enter each contest for a chance win cash prizes or scholarships to attend NMSU, with participants competing in either the junior (ages 8 to 13) or senior (ages 14 to 18) divisions. Entries are due Aug. 1.

“These contests were developed to provide new avenues for more youth to participate as agricultural exhibitors, in addition to helping them develop career-building skills,” said Frannie Miller, ACES assistant professor and contest coordinator.

The contests would have made their debut in September during the state fair, but late last month, officials canceled this year’s event due to concerns over COVID-19. Miller immediately pivoted plans to continue the contest in a virtual format, she said.

“When I heard about the cancellation of the state fair, I was crushed. Not only because my kids won’t get to show their dairy heifers, but because we really love the New Mexico State Fair,” she said. “It’s not how we wanted to kick off the first year of these contests, but at least we can make sure that this is one event that still offers scholarships, that still offers some of the fun of just competing to be the best.”

For the Agricultural Public Speaking contest, participants will have to deliver an original six- to eight-minute speech based on one of eight topics: New Mexico agricultural heritage; agriscience technology; agricultural advocacy/leadership or communication; agribusiness or agrimarketing; plant or animal science; rural economic development; environment and natural resources; or agricultural policy.

For the Agricultural and Natural Resource Science Fair contest, participants will have to complete a project based on one of six categories: animal systems; environmental and natural resource systems; food products and processing systems; plant systems; power, structural and technical systems; and social systems. They must also create a display board, give a three- to five-minute presentation and answer follow-up questions from the judges.

Each contest will include a preliminary round and a final round for the top 10 participants.

ACES Dean Rolando Flores said the contests will help the college further its mission of public service and outreach.
“Agriculture in New Mexico has always had numerous challenges for which the College of ACES has been an inseparable companion of the farmers, ranchers and food processors in the state, assisting with the solutions to those challenges,” Flores said. “Working with the youth to develop the needed leadership to solve future challenges is one of our priorities. These new contests are part of our work in developing and strengthening the youth of New Mexico.”

Miller, who teaches in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business, encourages youth to hone their public-speaking and problem-solving skills from an early age.

“Public speaking is such a valuable skill to have throughout your professional career,” she said. “If we can help kids in our state develop this skill early on, they will have so much more confidence and will be able to compete at the national and international levels for any job or scholarship opportunities. The same is true for the scientific-reasoning and problem-solving skills learned through our science fair contest.”

Miller advises participants in both contests to reach out to ACES faculty members for help and guidance on their speeches or projects.

“We hope they will use ACES faculty as a resource,” she said. “This will provide them a chance to network with professors who they’ll hopefully be studying under in the future.”

Entries for both contests must be submitted via email to nmyouth@nmsu.edu by Aug. 1. For complete rules and entry forms, contact Miller at 575-636-9305.