Leaders Made in Billings, Montana
By Chloe Fowler
The National Junior Angus Association (NJAA) is about more than showing cattle across the nation. It also focuses on growth for the juniors in both leadership and knowledge of the industry. The Leaders Engaged in Angus Development (LEAD) Conference is designed to enhance these skills in the juniors and provide networking opportunities across the nation. LEAD is intended to stress both the importance and responsibility of the association as well as the success and character of its individual members.
Sponsored by the Angus Foundation and Thomas and Catherine Chambers Estate Angus Youth Support Endowment Fund, the 2018 LEAD Conference was coordinated by Jordyn Wagner, 2017-18 Leadership Director of the NJAA, and hosted in her hometown of Billings, Montana, August 2-5.
“Throughout this past year, I have worked to choose host locations, organize tours and create a schedule and plan that the juniors would love,” Wagner said. “I love kids and coordinating something like this is my opportunity to give back to this association that has given me so much, as well as to serve these juniors.”
Students from all over the country, including visiting juniors from Canada, were able to participate in this four-day event. Industry tours attended included Genex Bull Stud, Midland Bull Test, Billings Livestock Commission and ORIgen Genetics. Each location included presentations, tours and descriptions of the operations as well as the ability for the juniors to ask any questions they had regarding the organization.
“These juniors were unafraid to ask questions, and their knowledge of the subjects they were asking about was extensive,” said Rick Cozzitorto, president of Angus Media who was in attendance. “You often won’t find that much interest from a group of adults, let alone youth.”
The juniors also participated in activities designed to build relationships with each other, inadvertently building their network for the future in the industry. Activities included floating the river; fly-fishing lessons; having recreational time at the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch; and a tour, hayride and dance at the Vermilion Ranch. Despite a sudden thunderstorm on Friday when the juniors were floating the river, the memories they made of rowing through the pelting rain will last a lifetime. Juniors landed their rafts and came piling up the hill through the rain, drenched and cold, yet laughing, saying how fun it was and how they would love to go again.
Caitlyn Brandt of the Events and Education Department for the American Angus Association has been working closely with Wagner, to ensure that LEAD is a great success. “We had 155 juniors attend, which is our largest number in recent years. This event is always a favorite of many students, who look forward to it each year, and this year was no different, and having even more juniors than before was incredible,” said Brandt. Students from the ages of 14-21 can participate in this event. Some juniors have attended each year of their eligibility, while others are just starting their participation with LEAD. CJ Stevenson, has reached his last year of eligibility but was also attending for the first time. A native to Montana, he decided that despite his last year of eligibility, he would take this fleeting opportunity to attend at least one LEAD Conference.
“I thought that there would be a weird age difference since there was such a wide gap in age, but I have really enjoyed meeting everyone here,” Stevenson said. “I recommend anyone to forget what is holding you back from attending and to come learn and appreciate the time here.”
Juniors in the NJAA are encouraged to participate as the location moves each year to be more available to those around the country. If you are interested in attending next year, stay alert for the sign-ups for 2019. Also, watch the NJAA social media and website for the announcement of next year’s location and theme.