“Competing in the national competition helped me as a student in that my increased awareness of these agricultural issues was extremely applicable to nearly everything I learned in class,” said Kathi LaPoint, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation’s (WyFB) Young Farmer & Rancher (YF&R) Collegiate Discussion Meet (CDM) national contestant. “Not only did I gain valuable communication skills, but I gained confidence in my ability to discuss issues and seek solutions while thinking on my feet.” “The ability to problem solve is a highly marketable trait in the job field nowadays, so it is also a resume boost,” she continued. LaPoint recently completed her freshman year at Laramie County Community College (LCCC). LCCC agriculture instructor Rosemary McBride encouraged LaPoint and six other LCCC students to participate in the state contest last November. LaPoint won the competition which awarded her a $300 scholarship and a trip to the national competition. Just two days before she was set to travel to the national competition in March the AFBF YF&R Conference was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The competition preparation came to a halt, but just for a bit. AFBF converted the competition to a virtual competition offering the national contestants the opportunity to still compete for scholarships and LaPoint was all in. She represented the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation in the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Virtual Collegiate Discussion Meet at the end of April. She advanced to the “Sweet 16” round of competition and was awarded $150 in scholarships from the CHS Foundation. “I learned a lot,” LaPoint emphasized. “The way a person communicates can make the difference between a win and a loss. Those with brilliant ideas and lacking communication skills will struggle to gain listeners in comparison with a polished communicator who shares few ideas more colorfully.” “The Virtual CDM made some format changes that ended up being a good opportunity for me to solidify my stance,” she continued. “In fact, if I were to give advice to future competitors, it would be to record a three-minute video just like the VCDM required for the first two rounds. Not only does it give a chance to evaluate your stance, it leads to concise speaking and increased awareness of speed, volume, etc. that make for good presentation.” The Virtual CDM format changes moved the first two rounds of competition to an individual video format. The contestants were given a 24-hour period to record two three-minute, unedited videos addressing the questions for rounds one and two. The “Sweet 16” and “Final Four” rounds were held live via Zoom video conference. The Sweet 16 round question was: Products like cell-based food products have demonstrated the food system is rapidly changing. How can future food technologies and related products be beneficially integrated into modern agricultural production without hampering the success of traditional products and the farmers and ranchers who grow them? LaPoint represented Wyoming well in the Sweet 16 round of competition. We are proud of her hard work and dedication to representing us so well. “I recommend other college students compete in competitions like this one because it is a practical application of communication,” LaPoint said. “Many students have taken public speaking, but not had the opportunity to network and speak on behalf of individuals and values. Classes taken in school do not synthesize this entire process quite the way this competition can, which makes it admirable.” We appreciate the extra efforts of the AFBF staff and national YF&R Committee to produce a virtual event for these contestants. The virtual contest was professionally produced. It provided these college students the opportunity to learn more about Farm Bureau and being involved in agriculture policy development. Thank you also to CHS Foundation for providing sponsorship of the scholarships. “I would say the best part of the entire process of prepping for this competition was meeting and networking with individuals who I look up to and have established wonderful friendships with,” LaPoint concluded. “I would like to extend a big thank you to the Wyoming Farm Bureau who made me feel like part of the family. This will likely be one of the highlights of my college career.”