Application is open for Great Lakes Dairy Ambassador Scholarship Program

The Michigan Dairy Ambassadors Program provides youth unique leadership and communications training, and the chance to network with like-minded youth and industry professionals. Applications are due by Jan. 8, 2016.

2015 Great Lakes Dairy Ambassadors stop to enjoy a cold glass of milk during Dairy Day at the Capitol in June.

2015 Great Lakes Dairy Ambassadors stop to enjoy a cold glass of milk during Dairy Day at the Capitol in June.

4-H opens numerous doors for thousands of youth across the United States and around the world. The life skills learned through various projects help youth grow into successful, productive leaders of the next generation. As youth begin to age out of 4-H activities, they continue to seek programs and opportunities that help them refine the life skills learned through clubs. One such program is the Great Lakes Dairy Ambassador Program.

The Great Lakes Dairy Ambassador Program, held Friday, Feb. 5, 2016, during the Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference, is a one-day communication and leadership training offered to youth in high school and college. Established in 2006, this program helps equip future leaders of the dairy industry with information to share with the public. Youth will meet with professionals who play different but very important roles in the dairy industry. In previous years, local dairy farmers, agricultural advocates, bloggers and journalist have been part of the program, sharing their knowledge and experience in communicating the stories of dairy farmers with the public. While at the training, youth also have the opportunity to network with dairymen and women from across the state, industry partners and faculty from the Michigan State University Department of Animal Science.

The training sessions are aimed to help refine communication and leadership skills so youth become comfortable speaking with anyone – consumers, peers and individuals not familiar with dairy production – both in-person and online about dairy farming and dairy products. This is only the beginning, because additional training sessions are offered throughout the year and all dairy ambassadors are tasked with promoting and making dairy visible in their communities and across Michigan. The ambassadors will be present at local happenings and visible throughout the state, attending such events as Michigan State University Extension’s Breakfast on the Farm, Dairy Day at the Capitol and Michigan 4-H Dairy Days.

All youth are officially dairy ambassadors for 2016 once they have attended the training. Two youth are chosen as dairy ambassador representatives and are awarded scholarships. High school students (grades 9-12) in the junior division compete for a $1,000 scholarship, and college students (up to age 22) in the senior division compete for a $1,500 scholarship. Youth are evaluated based on their application, which includes submitting a current resume and describing involvement in dairy programs, engagement during training sessions and a short interview with the professional panel. One junior and one senior are awarded scholarships and named dairy ambassador representatives for the year.

Responsibilities of the ambassadors include:

  • Submitting a quarterly written report to the Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference planning committee on his/her dairy promotion, leadership and education activities.
  • Presenting awards during the Michigan Dairy Expo 4-H Awards Banquet.
  • Attending the following mandatory events: Michigan Milk Producers Association Leaders’ Conference (senior only), Dairy Day at the Capitol and Breakfast on the Farm (at least one event).
  • Attending the 2017 Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference; may be asked to make a presentation and assist with the ambassador selection process or other appropriate duties.
  • Attending other events, as available, assigned by the program administrator.

The Great Lakes Dairy Ambassador Program is sponsored by Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference because the conference recognizes the importance of youth in maintaining and growing the Michigan dairy industry. Participants who are accepted into the training attend the program at no cost, though they must provide their own transportation and any lodging expenses.

Bridget Moore, a senior in the MSU Department of Animal Science, reflected on her year as a dairy ambassador by saying, “The Michigan Dairy Ambassador program allowed me to really get out of my comfort zone and learn how to talk to consumers. Not only did I learn how to speak with consumers, I was able to blog about my family farm and why we do what we do. I was also able to go and speak at events and meet more great people in and out of the dairy industry. It was a wonderful experience. I recommend any young person who is interested in the dairy industry to give it some thought!”

Libby Venema participated in the program as a high school student. She is now a freshmen at MSU and agrees with Moore, stating “The Michigan Dairy Ambassador Program was a very rewarding experience. It taught me many skills that will be useful in my future, such as talking with the public from volunteering at events like Dairy Day at the Capitol.”

Natalie Horning, also a student at MSU, echoes the sentiments of her fellow ambassadors, “The Dairy Ambassador Program is a really great way to get teens and college students more connected to the dairy industry through volunteering at various events around Michigan. I’ve really enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had and it has allowed me to meet a lot of great people.”

Full details about the program and applications can be found at the Great Lakes Dairy Ambassador Program website or the Michigan Dairy Ambassador Scholarship and Leadership Program Facebook page. Youth should submit all requited materials to Megghan Honke Seidel at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) no later than Jan. 8, 2016.

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