When opportunity knocks, we are supposed to bulldoze down the door like one of our favorite superheroes; however, many of us are guilty of doing the exact opposite. Sometimes we’re a little skeptical of new opportunities, and rather than swinging the door wide open, we often take on the role similar to those in scary movies. You know who I’m talking about…the character who slowly opens the door to see if the crazy guy with the chainsaw is on the other side. I believe they just need to swing the door open and if he’s in there, take him down!
I hate to admit it, but sometimes when opportunity knocks, I too am guilty of slowly opening the door to see what’s on the other side; however, that was not the case when the opportunity to apply for the National Collegiate Agriculture Ambassador program came knocking. I had just made the tough decision not to run for national FFA office and was in search of something that would still make me feel like I was making a difference in agriculture and doing something meaningful. Little did I know that making the choice to apply to be an ambassador would actually open up countless other doors for me. Since roundhouse kicking that door down Chuck Norris-style, I have never looked back; these past two years as an ambassador have been inspiring and influential.
Just in case you don’t know what the National Collegiate Agriculture Ambassadors do, here’s a brief rundown of the program that changed my life. Twenty college-aged students from across the nation who are majoring in agriculture are selected each year to serve as advocates for agriculture through the program. After completing summer training in North Carolina with BASF and Syngenta (the two companies that had a major hand in starting the ambassador program), the ambassadors are sent back to their respective states to complete 30 hours of presentations to groups ranging in age from elementary school students to senior citizens. The ambassador team is provided with a binder of 15-20 presentation outlines with varying topics for them to take and personalize to fit their presentation style. For winter training, each ambassador writes a new presentation to share with the rest of the team, giving each ambassador 19 new presentations to use in the spring semester.
I have been lucky to serve on the ambassador team for the past two years. To date, I have given roughly 50 hours of presentations to a countless number of people. From explaining to kindergarteners that chocolate milk doesn’t come from brown cows to teaching high school students about the number of opportunities available in agriculture to informing civic clubs about genetically modified organisms, I have had some memorable moments advocating for the industry that feeds, clothes, and houses us every single day. It’s hard to say that I have a favorite or most memorable presentation because each group had its own personality. I have presented to a large number of civic groups, but I would definitely have to say that working with the elementary students has been the best. They are so young and full of life, and they accept new information so easily. They also love having a new person in their classroom, so I never had a behavior issue. A few of them asked me if I’d be their girlfriend, so on top of getting to teach them about agriculture, my confidence was also boosted. That was simply the icing on the cake.
A few of you may be asking yourself how in the world do you balance 30 hours of presentations and stay on top of issues in agriculture and also manage your class load and other commitments? I promise that it’s completely manageable. Also, the benefits you receive from this program will follow you for a lifetime. Serving as an ambassador has actually helped me better understand some of the things I’ve learned in the classroom and vice versa. For example, I’m an agricultural education minor and have had to take several teaching theory courses that focus on how students learn and how to target various learning types. I’m a hands-on learner, so after learning these theories, I was able to apply them in my ambassador presentations to help further my understanding of the theories. If it wasn’t for the ambassador program, I would not have understood things I learned in the classroom nor would I have discovered my love for developing presentations and curriculum.
I strongly recommend the National Collegiate Agriculture Ambassador program to any college student who has a passion for agriculture and for sharing it with others. This program helped to put me on the right career track and for that, I will be forever thankful. This is one door that you can’t afford to slowly open and wait to see what’s on the other side.
Mollie Dykes is a senior at the University of Arkansas – Fayetteville, majoring in agricultural communications and minoring in agricultural education. She is a second year member of the National Collegiate Agriculture Ambassador program.