Future ag leaders embark on educational experience

College Aggies Online launches eighth annual competition to develop advocacy skills.

The Animal Agriculture Alliance recently launched the eighth annual edition of the College Aggies Online (CAO) scholarship program, an initiative aimed at helping college students harness their passion for animal agriculture to become confident, positive and proactive communicators. Since its inception in 2009, more than 4,000 students have competed in the program.

Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) is among a growing list of program sponsors — also including the National Pork Producers Council, Diamond V, National Turkey Federation, AgriBank — that see value in the initiative.

“The animal agriculture industry needs strong social media users to communicate information about agriculture to consumers,” said Don Schindler, senior vice president of digital initiatives for DMI, which manages the national dairy checkoff. “College Aggies Online does a great job of engaging and mentoring the next generation of agriculture communicators for doing just that.”

With the support from sponsorships, CAO participants will cultivate valuable skills while competing for scholarship funds and other prizes. Throughout the nine-week competitive program, college students harvest their interests and grow their passions for animal agriculture. With weekly training and instruction from industry experts, participants connect on social media by posting about current and emerging issues facing farmers and ranchers and by sharing personal stories and experiences on industry-related topics.

“We are so grateful for DMI’s platinum sponsorship of CAO,” said Kay Johnson Smith, alliance president and chief executive officer. “The consistent support from sponsors like DMI helps the alliance to meet our goal of training the next generation of ‘ag-vocates’ and paving a strong future for animal agriculture.”

Participants receive weekly tasks such as writing blog posts, attending webinars hosted by industry experts, creating infographics and more. If students participate as an organization, they are assigned group challenges, such as holding an “Ag Day” on campus, handing out candy wrapped with meat myths and facts, teaching at local elementary schools, etc. Students earn points for each task completed and for promoting agriculture on social media.

CAO registration remains open both for individuals and student organizations to be a part of this year’s competition. For registration information, visit www.animalagalliance.org/connect/#collegeaggies.

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