While some residents are spending their summer vacation swimming in the pool, traveling with family or even relaxing at home, one local young man is spending the next couple of months learning more about his favorite subject: agriculture.
Merrick Irvin, a 2017 Godley High School alum, is participating in a summer internship with the National Association of Wheat Growers in Washington D.C.
Irvin was one of 13 students selected for the program through the Agriculture and National Resources Policy’s internship program with Texas A&M University. He is currently studying animal science at A&M.
For the past 29 years, the program has sent students to D.C. to work in congressional offices and other agricultural organizations, officials said. Each student receives course credit for their internship and a scholarship in the form of housing, which is partly supported by private donors and commodity organizations.
Irvin’s duties include monitoring legislation, attending committee hearings and briefings and preparing reports for senior staff members.
“The ANRP internship program is one of few in the nation specifically geared toward transforming today’s agricultural students into tomorrow’s leaders,” ANRP Internship Program Director Stephanie Webb said. “Through this opportunity, students use what they have learned in the classroom in a professional work setting. Not only will this D.C. experience be attractive to future employers, but our students are also providing valuable assistance to the offices in which they intern.”
Irvin said the NAWG seeks to work towards the common good of the wheat industry through advocacy, alliances and innovation on a variety of issues from environmental regulations to commercialization of emerging technologies affecting the wheat industry.
“Being the primary representative of wheat growers in Washington D.C., NAWG seeks to represent wheat farmers across the United States to protect their interests and the industry they hold dear,” he said. “NAWG represents the industry through maintaining good relations and contact with state association representatives, NAWG grower leaders, members of Congress, congressional staff and the public from their offices located in the Wheat Growers Building on Capitol Hill.”
Not far from the senate offices sits NAWG where he said he does a variety of jobs from answering the phone to working on project assignments given to him from area all throughout the office.
“Luckily, my job has not entailed solely answering the phone and getting the office staff coffee, unlike what many people view that interns do,” he said. “In fact, I have yet to get anyone but myself coffee in the office. I have been tasked with doing a variety of different projects or jobs within the office including research, development and networking.”
He is currently working on a blog series on the National Wheat Foundation website covering the history of wheat and its future through gene editing.
“Here, I am outlining research submitted by scientists on how gene editing could be beneficial to the industry and the world,” he said. “I am working towards providing educational avenues for members of Congress and the public to understand the science behind innovations in the wheat industry.
“I also have been keeping up to date on recent government or industry news, which I then relay to our communications department. I have several other projects I am working on during this internship, as well as providing tech support, answering the phones and whatever else NAWG might task me with.”
His mom, Monica Irvin, said when her son applied for the internship she wasn’t sure what the outcome would be.
“When he set out to apply for the internship, I tried telling him not to get his hopes up too high as it is very competitive but to do his best and that if it is to be it will be,” she said. “He is a very determined and strong-willed young man — always has been. When he sets his mind to something, he does it.”
Merrick Irvin was involved in not only FFA but also the debate team and the National Honor Society. When he started school at A&M, he told his mom he wanted to be on the school’s wool judging team and fun for freshman class president.
“Now, two years later, he proved he could not only be on the wool judging team and maintain his grades, but he went on this year to join the meat judging team and is very involved in Saddle and Sirloin — much like a college-level FFA,” Monica Irvin said.
When her son applied for the internship, she knew the process was going to be competitive.
“After each round of interviews, he would call and tell me how excited he was,” she said. “When he called to say he had been accepted, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming burst of pride to know that my son was being selected to participate in this program that would take him to the nation’s capital to work for the National Wheat Growers Association.”
The internship will provide him with not only work experience to help him in whichever path he chooses but also create many connections, she said.
“He tells me that D.C. has one of the largest networks of Aggies outside of College Station,” she said. “Even though I have jokingly told him not to like it too much in D.C. and that he has to come back home, I will support him in whatever and wherever life takes him. I know he will be successful in whatever he decides to do because as I said before, he is a very determined young man and will be successful at whatever he does.”
At the Saddle Sirloin banquet, her son won the Workhorse award “for how hard he works” and helping others.
“It was a very proud moment for his dad and I, and for Merrick to have been selected for this internship makes this mom very, very proud,” she said.
When he was in high school, Merrick Irvin said he participated in a variety of career development events, leadership development events, competed at stock shows and maintained a leadership position on their chapter officer team.
“In doing these events, I obtained knowledge of our agriculture industry and developed leadership, speaking and personal skills that I continue to use today,” he said. “My speaking and personal skills have become especially helpful while in D.C. allowing me to talk to important people of interest and making needed connections.”
GHS ag teacher Lacey Bennett said Merrick Irvin was a great student and a lot of fun to teach.
“He was very self-motivated in everything he did,” Bennett said. “He was one of those kids who went above and beyond anyone’s expectations. What amazed me was his ability to manage his time. He was in everything: athletics, FFA, UIL, debate and his family runs a deer operation. They raise white-tailed deer.”
His former student never meets a stranger, Bennett said.
“He was just a great guy and always had a great attitude,” he said. “He made time to do everything. He was an all-around good guy.”
The internship, he said, will be great for his future regardless of what he wants to do.
“He is such a personable guy,” he said. “I think this will really help with his relationship with other people and be able to communicate with people of authority. He can have a conversation with just about anyone.”
Merrick Irvin said agriculture has always played a major role in his life.
“Currently, I am not sure what I want to do beyond college other than being involved in agriculture,” he said. “It is through the Agricultural and Natural Resources Policy Internship where I could find out if agriculture policy is something I would want to pursue.”
His interest in policy comes from his years competing in policy debate at GHS.
“Luckily the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences advertises this internship to its best and brightest making it very competitive and an honor to be a part of,” he said. “This internship provides an amazing opportunity to network and build connections for your career.”
After graduating from high school, he said his original plans were to study to become a veterinarian, but going to college has opened up his interests in other things.
“Luckily animal science leaves upon a wide variety of careers I can pursue,” he said. “I know I want to pursue a career in agriculture and continue my education at [A&M] once I receive my bachelor’s degree.
“I am currently considering further education in ag policy, animal nutrition, meat science or by continuing down the path of becoming a veterinarian. The possibilities are truly endless in animal science. So in short, I do not know exactly what I want to do, but I am making the connections and building my Aggie network to help me find my future career path with the experiences I gain along the way.”