Haywood Community College Forestry student Bill Sweeney was recently elected as the national Society of American Foresters Student Congress Chair. Student from any college represented in the Appalachian Society of American Foresters were eligible to apply for this position including those from two and four-year schools.

As Student Congress Chair, Sweeney will lead student delegates from across the nation representing their respective forestry programs at the 2009 Annual SAF Conference to be held in Orlando, Florida in September.

Sweeney will graduate from HCC next spring. He is vice president of the school’s Forestry Club and has a 4.0 grade point average. He was a marshal at this year’s graduation ceremony. On the HCC Woodsmen’s Team, he competes in the bolt split, axe throw, dendrology, and pulp toss events. This past year, he came in second place in the dendrology and axe throw events.

As the Student Congress Chair, Sweeney will serve as liaison between the Appalachian SAF and colleges. He plans to create a network of forestry club presidents in hopes to get students more interested. Most of HCC Forestry students are already very active in the SAF.

“This position is a great networking tool,” Sweeney says. “It is a great way to obtain knowledge on jobs, a career, and for mentorship.”

Sweeney says he will participate once a month in phone conferences and consistently through email with the SAF and Student Congress.

Sweeney is a native of Asheville and graduated from Asheville High School in 1992. He spent two years in the Army as a mechanic and two years in the active Reserves. He was worked in retail automotive managing various commercial automotive stores. In addition to attending HCC full-time, he also works full-time at O’Reilly Auto Parts.

Sweeney says pursuing a career in forestry is something he’s always wanted to do. “Growing up, I took regular trips hiking, camping, and picnicking in the Pisgah National Forest.”

Sweeney believes that the role of a forester is to be right in the middle of preservation and conservation.

After graduation, Sweeney plans to pursue a Bachelor’s degree at either Virginia Tech or the University of Idaho.

“HCC is really hands-on,” he explains. “HCC definitely gives you the experience of doing the work, doing the job you will be doing when you finish school. They have a great staff that is interested in helping you succeed. Every teacher has gone out of the way to help. There’s no excuse not to do well.”