Chris Willett is one of the many volunteers who are impacting students' lives as WAEF. Read below as our recent interview with Chris highlights a bit of his personal, professional and volunteer life.
Please tell us a bit about yourself, Chris.
I grew up in Yakima, WA and attended Davis High School. After High School I lived in Sao Paulo, Brazil for a year as a Rotary exchange student w
hich was truly an amazing experience. I then attended University of Redlands, majoring in environmental science, and later attended Purdue University and Indiana University to obtain advance degrees in business and economics. For the past 6 years I've worked for EnzaFruit Products, an apple variety management company. I now live in Wenatchee, WA with my wife, Jennifer. We are excitedly expecting our first child - a girl - in April.
What has been your primary involvement with WAEF?
For the last couple years I have been involved with WAEF's Student Stewardship Committee. The Student Stewardship Committee is a new and exciting component of WAEF that works to facilitate opportunities that lead to student's degree completion and confident transition to post-degree employment. Additionally, the committee provides opportunities to increase scholarship recipients' awareness of career opportunities in the tree fruit industry.
What inspired you to become involved and in what ways has volunteering been rewarding?
I became interested in WAEF shortly after entering the tree fruit industry and learning about the organization's mission. Providing opportunities for students to make further education more obtainable is excellent for the individual students and for the communities at large, and something I strongly believe in. I was very fortunate to have parents and mentors in my life that valued education and provided me with ample amounts of support in my pursuit of higher education and career development. Having recently gone through the college process - applications, major selection, internships, after college decisions, etc., I hoped to help scholarship recipients by sharing my own experiences and discuss post college opportunities. It is rewarding to spend time with other members in the community that are passionate about the WAEF program and willing to donate their time and resources to foster educational opportunities to students in our communities. Additionally, it is inspiring to see the drive and dedication of the WAEF scholarship recipients. Many of the students are the first generation in their families to attend higher education and it's amazing to see their commitment to advance their education and open the door to more opportunities later in life.
Are there any specific events that you've been proud of?
The Student Stewardship Committee recently hosted career tours in Wenatchee and Yakima for WAEF scholarship recipients considering professional options after College. The events received excellent support for local Ag businesses and good turnout from students. It was very exciting to see the students better understand the wide range of job opportunities and career paths that exist within this industry and get excited about the potential to return to their communities and be successful. It was a great event that hopefully we can continue to expand in the future.
What do you like to do in your free time?
My wife I try to stay active and enjoy what North Central Washington has to offer outdoors. This includes hiking, downhill and XC skiing, biking and swimming in Lake Chelan. Spending time with family is very important, as well as taking advantage of opportunities to travel and explore new parts of the world when possible!
Thank you Chris for all that you do!