Back to Home

Ashdown Mill Empowers Local Students With SuitUp Competition

Categories: Giving Back
Ashdown Mill hosts SuitUp competition
Pictured: Domtar judges and mentors (back row, left to right: Doug Teale, Josh Haywood, Johnathan Haltom, Trevelyan Hodge and Mill Manager JC Allaire) and the winning team.

Our Ashdown Mill partnered with SuitUp, a nonprofit educational organization, to host 17 high school students at the mill for a special SuitUp competition. The organization’s mission is to increase career readiness for all students through innovative business planning events.

Volunteers from the mill joined SuitUp professionals for the SuitUp competition, which engaged students in various aspects of product development, manufacturing, marketing and distribution for a potential new Domtar product.

Four teams of students started their day with a mill tour and then worked with professionals from several Domtar departments to prepare marketing, strategy and design plans for their SuitUp competition entries. Ashdown Schools Superintendent Casey Nichols came by to cheer them on.

“We all had an idea of what our local mill was like, but after this experience, we feel connected and understand the value Domtar brings to our community and the world,” says Caleb Blankenship, one of the participants from Ashdown High School.

SuitUp competition gives students hands-on experience

Through the daylong SuitUp competition, students learned about the business environment and a variety of roles in a corporate setting. Late in the day, they pitched their ideas to a panel of judges.

The four groups offered the following ideas:

  • Paper to apply to windows at schools to prevent an active shooter from seeing inside the school/rooms.
  • More affordable packaging of feminine hygiene products that would be recyclable and help address “period poverty.”
  • Recyclable, three-ply food trays for schools and other institutions that use one layer of Domtar heavy basis weight paper, one layer of Domtar fluff pulp (to absorb grease) and one layer of a lighter basis weight paper.
  • Utilizing or selling biofuel to replace fossil fuels.

The proposal for paper-based food trays was the winning entry. Students Caleb Blankenship, Ty Marks, A’mya Thomas and Caroline Wrinkle participated on the winning team.

“The SuitUp/Domtar experience was like no other,” the students said in a message to Domtar. “It taught us many things, such as teamwork, the collaboration and innovation process, and leadership. The mentorship by the Domtar employees was outstanding and fun. We learned how to think outside the box. We gained real-world skills that will benefit us in the future.

“Overall, SuitUp was a wonderful and empowering experience. Our team will continue to apply Domtar’s core values of agility, caring and innovation in our own lives. Thank you, Domtar and SuitUp, for this experience!”

Ashdown High School principal Kay York added her praise for the SuitUp competition.

“It’s often hard to motivate and provide such challenging opportunities to youth. You hit this one squarely on the head,” she says. “Thank you so much for this great learning experience.”