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Ambassadors excited to promote dairy

FRANKENMUTH, MI -- Seven Michigan youth were named Michigan Dairy Ambassadors after gathering at the 2019 Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference for leadership training, commencing a year of dairy promotion and outreach in Michigan. 
The program welcomes students in high school and college to hone in on their skills and learn how to communicate about their passion in dairy. 
“The Michigan Dairy Ambassador program gives youth with a special interest in dairy the opportunity to connect with consumers and share their ‘dairy story,’” said Jessica Welch, a member of the Dairy Ambassador planning team and MMPA member relations coordinator. “Our goal is to equip each Michigan Dairy Ambassador with the communication skills and tools to represent the dairy community and industry in a positive way.” 
The Dairy Ambassadors began their year with a day-long leadership training on Feb. 8 in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Throughout the day, ambassadors took part in dairy promotion brainstorming, sat in on Drew Vermeire’s presentation titled, “Management of Young Calves for 2020 and Beyond” and an inspirational presentation by Mark Jewel titled, “Beyond Survival: Rediscovering How to Strive in Tough Times.” They wrapped up the afternoon with training to harness their “Youth Voice” with Sara Keinath from MSU Extension. 
Led by Welch and Bridget Moore, Industry Relations Specialist at the United Dairy Industry of Michigan, the ambassadors were guided through engagement activities and challenged to try new things such as starting conversations with new people. 
Ambassadors will take part in further trainings and represent the dairy industry at promotional and outreach events throughout the year. 
Next up for the ambassadors is a communications training at UDIM in April and representation at industry events throughout the year, including Dairy Day at the Capitol, Michigan Livestock Expo Sale‐abration, Michigan 4‐H Dairy Days Awards Banquet, Breakfast on the Farm and the MMPA Leaders’ Conference. 
The newly designed, participation-based program will offer the ambassadors an opportunity to earn an interview after accumulating points. Their application, resume, participation, and interview will determine the junior and senior scholarship winners for 2019. Recipients will be announced at the Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference’s Michigan Dairy Industry Recognition Night February 2020. The Michigan Dairy Ambassador program is administered by the Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference.
2018 Michigan Dairy Ambassador Scholarship recipients were announced at this year’s recognition night. The senior scholarship was awarded to Leta Larsen of Scottville, Michigan and the junior scholarship was awarded to Abby VanDyk of Kalamazoo, MI. 
When asked to describe her year as a Michigan Dairy Ambassador she said, “I greatly enjoyed interacting with individuals of all ages, but in particular, I loved teaching children about the dairy industry. Seeing their eyes light up when they pet a cow or watch a cow being milked is a great feeling.  Showing them that milk doesn’t just come from the grocery store and giving them the ability to put a story and a face with the product that they put on their cereal, or drink with their dinner is a very rewarding.”
VanDyk shared, “My favorite part about being a Dairy Ambassador is that I had a chance to Agvocate for the amazing dairy community. I was able to promote dairy to the people who thought about the false advertising of the dairy industry. My favorite project was when I created a display that was exhibited at my County Fair.”
2019 Michigan Dairy Ambassadors
Ian Black, Eagle
Keegan Nugent, Clarksville
Jonathan Sayles, Bay City
Abby VanDyk, Kalamazoo
Katie Wilson, Blanchard
Elyse Zimmerlee, Bellevue
Brynnen Gardner, Belmont