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Highland agriculture shines bright at Illinois PAS Conference

Highland agriculture students came away numerous awards at the Illinois Professional Agriculture Students (PAS) Conference at Lincoln Land Community College on Nov. 22-23 in Springfield.

The 22 Highland students are part of a national student organization that provides opportunities for college agriculture students to experience individual growth, leadership and career preparation through competition and cooperative activities.

Over the two-day conference, students competed in individual and team contests highlighting a variety of agriculture career opportunities. The students also networked with industry professionals and other Illinois college students.

“I’m excited for all the students that participated in the conference,” said Justin Ebert, Highland Agriculture instructor. “Each student’s accomplishments are a reflection of their time and commitment to achieving career success in the agriculture industry.”

Individual competitions, Nov. 22 results

In the days leading up to the competitions, students prepared resumes, career planning projects, lesson plans, and sales presentations.  During the conference, students then spent the day showcasing their talents to a panel of judges in their respective career areas. Listed below are Highland student participants, their home town and awards they received.

  • Charleese Faulkner, (Milledgeville), Agribusiness Management Plan, 3rd Place
  • Danielle Hagemann (Mt. Morris), Administration Interview – 3rd Place
  • Gwen Heimerdinger (Pearl City), Agricultural Education Demonstration – 1st Place

Agricultural Education Interview – 2nd Place

Collegiate Discussion Meet

  • Katie Hoffman (Savanna), Feed & Animal Health Interview – 3rd Place
  • Brooklynn Hollis (German Valley), Dairy Production Interview – 1st Place
  • Rebecca Hough (Mt. Morris), Agricultural Sales Presentation – 1st Place
  • Alec Tipton (Savanna), Agribusiness Management Plan – 2nd Place
  • Natalie Wilkinson (Thomson), Agribusiness Sales Interview
  • Benjamin Woessner (Shannon), Livestock Production Interview
  • Hannah Woessner (Shannon), Ruminant Animal Systems Plan – 1st Place
  • Ana Zinke (Winslow), Non-Ruminant Animal Systems Plan – 2nd Place

Team competitions, Nov. 23 results

During team competitions, students took individual exams in their subject area and worked with their teammates to respond to current event issues, make presentations on controversial topics, and solve industry specific production problems. Below are the Highland teams, individuals with home town, and awards:

  • Dairy Specialist, 2nd Place–Jared Dickman (Lanark), 2nd Place Individual; Brooklynn Hollis (German Valley); Carli Reeverts (Dakota)
  • Equine Specialist, 1st Place–Katie Hoffman, Savanna, 1st Place Individual; Kristy Kruger (Scales Mound) 2nd Place Individual; Kassandra Heitkam (Dakota)
  • Landscape Horticulture – 2nd Place Natalie Wilkinson, Shelby Judd (Milledgeville),

Rebecca Hough, Kassandra Heitkam

  • Soil Specialist —Leland Houzenga (Fulton), Shane Houzenga (Fulton), Reid Huneke (Lena), Kristy Kruger, Andy Gustafson (Byron), Lucas Boomgarden (Freeport)
  • Crop Specialist–Natalie Wilkinson, Leland Houzenga, Lucas Boomgarden,

Charleese Faulkner, Shane Houzenga, Reid Huneke

  • Floriculture Specialist2nd Place Shelby Judd, Rebecca Hough, Elizabeth Oltmanns (Oregon)
  • Beef Specialist –Danielle Hagemann, Benjamin Woessner, Hannah Woessner
  • Swine Specialist3rd Place — Ana Zinke – 1st Place Individual, Gwen Heimerdinger, Katie Hoffman

 Election of PAS Officers

Students held a business session and elected officers for the upcoming year. Gwen Heimerdinger, Pearl City, was elected as the 2019-2020 Illinois PAS Presidents. Gwen and her officer team will spend time throughout the year promoting PAS at colleges and businesses across the state of Illinois. Gwen is a sophomore student at Highland Community College majoring in Agricultural Education. She plans to transfer next year to complete her bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Education.

“It is an extreme honor to be elected to a state office and Gwen will do a tremendous job advocating for agricultural education,” said Monica Pierce, Highland Ag instructor.

Highland Community College Agriculture students participate in PAS through membership in the Highland AG Club. The AG Club meets monthly to discuss upcoming activities, agricultural awareness, and career exploration.

If you would like more information about Highland Agriculture including the Highland AG Club, please contact Justin Ebert at or Monica Pierce at

Photo: (left to right): Ana Zinke, Natalie Wilkinson, Hannah Woessner, Ben Woessner, Katie Hoffman, Reid Huneke, Charleese Faulkner, Elizabeth Oltmanns, Jared Dickman, Leland Houzenga, Carlie Reeverts, Kristy Kruger, Shane Houzenga, Brooklynn Hollis, Andy Gustafson, Kasi Heitkam, Danielle Hagemann, Rebecca Hough, Gwen Heimerdinger, Shelby Judd, Lucas Boomgarden