Chance of a lifetime

Denton senior chosen for FFA NextGen conference in Missouri
Thursday, March 5, 2020
Chance of a lifetime

During a visit to Kansas State University, Morgan Ward (right) visited with Denton High School alumnus Ashley Hartman (left). Photos courtesy of Morgan Ward

Chance of a lifetime

Morgan Ward recently returned from a week at the NextGen Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. The conference was sponsored by the National FFA organization.

Denton senior Morgan Ward recently returned from experiencing a unique opportunity. She attended the very first National FFA NextGen Conference in Kansas City, Missouri.

This conference was by invitation only. Morgan was the only student chosen from Montana.

“Mr. Willmore encouraged me to apply,” Morgan said. “With only one student chosen from each state, I was sure I didn’t stand a chance.”

In order to be considered for the conference, Morgan was required to write several essays and submit two letters of reference.

“Mr. Willmore, my FFA advisor and Jennifer Saunders with the MSU Extension office both wrote letters for me.” she said. “ I worked closely with Jennifer and the extension office during the Central Montana Fair last year, and she graciously wrote a letter of reference for me. You had to show you intend to follow this career path.”

The conference was career-focused to help attendees prepare for college or the workforce in the animal systems path. Speakers focused on the topics of livestock production, nutrition, feed, genetics, breeding and research.

“Because the event was specialized, only 50 students were chosen, one from each state. It was a much smaller group than other national conferences,” Morgan said. “Surprisingly, there were 40 girls and only 10 boys.”

Not all of Morgan’s time was spent listening to speakers. The full, five-day schedule also included touring facilities, including a production plant where attendees were able to observe the entire process of procuring and processing pork.

One day was spent on the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. Students observed demonstrations as well as getting hands-on experience with animals, including palpating a cow to see if she was pregnant.

“Kansas State has a huge ag program,” Morgan said. “I was surprised by the connections I found to Central Montana while in Kansas. One of the students at the university who spoke was Ashley Hartman. She was in high school at Denton while I was in grade school. Also, the national auctioneers’ contest is held there. Kyle Shobe from Lewistown won that competition one year.”

Morgan is a 10-year member of 4-H. She lists cattle, pigs, market goats and sheep among her completed projects, as well as photography and cooking. She has also been involved in leadership projects and was a county ambassador for three years, as well as a camp counselor.