On a recent visit to a small town in northern New Mexico I noticed a couple of youngsters, perhaps less than 18 years old, sitting contentedly on a bench on the plaza located in the center of the town. Their appearance was somewhat scruffy and unkempt, and their hair matted.
A training ground
The young man was strumming a guitar while the young woman, in a melodious voice, warbled a folk song reminiscent of Joan Baez. Several people were listening to the mini-concert. In front of them was a guitar case opened to receive contributions.
As I moved around the small crowd, my thoughts drifted to the youth involved in our National Junior Angus Association (NJAA) and the programs it offers to its membership. I pictured in my mind's eye an organization of 8,000 youngsters strong, vibrant young men and women excited about their present roles in society and their plans for the future.
I thought about the Green Jackets the NJAA Board of Directors and the role models they provide for others to emulate. I thought about all the youth from the United States and foreign countries who have participated in our Leaders Engaged in Angus Development (LEAD) conferences. Many have remarked that LEAD is an experience of a lifetime.
As always, there's the National Junior Angus Show (NJAS) that attracts participation from junior members throughout the entire country. In addition to the actual show, there are many other non-showing events in which to participate.
The competition is fierce and the rewards are significant. In effect, it is a training ground for the experiences life will later offer. We all realize that while many of these young people will enter careers that do not directly involve agriculture, the basic values learned can be applied in any chosen vocation. As a result of participation in NJAA activities, these junior Angus leaders will be better citizens and better stewards of their resources.
Broadening NJAA scope
Since its inception in 1980, the NJAA has grown to a membership larger in size than most other breed associations. While national media and attention have focused on the NJAS, the eastern and western regional shows, the annual LEAD Conference and the NJAA Board of Directors, additional efforts must be extended to touch countless other NJAA members on regional, state and local levels.
With this concept in mind, staff responsibilities have been realigned to allow more emphasis to be placed on developing programs that have a far-reaching influence on all NJAA members. Discussions on ideas regarding the development of programs to involve a broader spectrum of the NJAA membership have already begun on the NJAA Board of Directors level and in the Junior Activities Department of the Association. Since this is a collective effort, I encourage you to put your gray matter to work. Let us know your thoughts.
When discussions of youth development occur, I am often reminded of the quote attributed to Sir William Hamilton from a book entitled Livestock Production by Jan Bonsma, the eminent author, animal scientist and philosopher from South Africa: On earth there is nothing great but Man
When you invest in young people you invest in eternity.