Unique leadership and scholarship opportunities for youth with Michigan Dairy Ambassadors Program

The Michigan Dairy Ambassadors Program provides youth who are passionate about the dairy industry a unique leadership opportunity by offering trainings in agriculture advocacy and public relations.

Unique leadership and scholarship opportunities for youth with Michigan Dairy Ambassadors Program

For many youth, what starts as a love for dairy cows with the 4-H dairy project is only the beginning of their involvement in agriculture and agricultural advocacy. There are numerous opportunities in Michigan through Michigan 4-H, Michigan State University Extension and other groups for youth to learn life skills, practice technical skills, master written and spoken communication, and expand their horizons throughout early adulthood. One such program is the Michigan Dairy Ambassador Scholarship and Leadership Program held during the Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference (GLRDC) every February.

The Michigan Dairy Ambassador Program was established in 2006, three years after the first GLRDC. The goal of the program is to provide future young dairy leaders in Michigan with an opportunity to further develop their communication, promotion  and leadership skills while representing the dairy industry.

This program, sponsored by GLRDC, is an educational event for high school and college youth passionate about dairy. It is designed to provide youth with training to become spokespeople for dairy and to share their unique and inspiring stories of agriculture. Participants are invited to GLRDC where they participate in leadership and communication sessions taught by professionals from the dairy industry and the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications. While at the conference, youth also have the opportunity to network with dairymen and women from across the state, industry partners, and faculty from the MSU Department of Animal Science.  

The training sessions are aimed to help refine communication and leadership skills so youth are 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 Ambassdors will be present at local happenings and visible throughout the state, attending events like Breakfast on the Farm, Dairy Day at the Capitol and the Michigan 4-H Dairy Days Awards Banquet.

Upon completion of the initial training, all youth are officially Dairy Ambassadors for the year. Two youth are choosen as Dairy Ambassador Representatives and are awarded scholarships. High school students in the junior division compete for a $1,000 scholarship to be used for secondary education or the purchase of a dairy animal. College students in the senior division compete for a $1,500 college scholarship. Youth are evaluated based on their application, engagement during training sessions and a short interview with the professional panel. One junior and one senior are awarded scholarships and named the Dairy Ambassador Representatives for the year.

Twelve youth, three juniors and nine seniors from around the state completed the Dairy Ambassdor training in 2014. This year was very unique in that three Dairy Ambassador Representatives, one junior and two seniors, were named from the outstanding pool of applicants.

Information regarding the 2015 Michigan Dairy Ambassador Scholarship and Leadership Program will be available in December 2014, with applications being due in early January 2015.

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