* Editor's Note: Ashley Fitzsimmons summer intern for the Charolais Journal through the Livestock Publication's Council internship program. A senior at Kansas State University, she is working on her second bachelor's degree in Agriculture Communications and Journalism with a minor in Animal Science and Industry. She grew up in south central Kansas on a commercial cow/calf operation, predominately Angus cross cattle. She had the opportunity to attend her first AIJCA Junior National Show and Leadership conference, work closely with the junior board and many state leaders.

My first Junior National experience was surprising on many levels. The high- quality cattle and the plethora of contests that the youth exhibitors had the opportunity to compete in as well as the informational leadership sessions was truly impressive. It was exciting to see stiff contest competition in areas of prepared speech, art, photography, inter- view and resume, and that is only scratching the surface. The two contests, team fitting and team sales, drew my attention from the beginning. It was enjoyable watch the youth talent fit their animal to perfection and trying to enhance the breed’s best qualities and confirmation in a specific time frame.

Team sales is exactly what it sounds like, the youth work together to sell their animal to the judges. These contests help enhance the exhibitor’s leadership, teamwork and people skills as well as preparing them for their future, whether they decide to stay connected with the beef in- dustry or pursue a different career path.Being a part of the American-International Junior Charolais Association and attending the Junior National is a fantastic opportunity for young cattlemen and cattlewomen alike. It helps expand their knowledge and give them the skill sets needed to be successful in many different industries, not just with beef cattle.One of the many passionate state leaders, Linda Hickam, made a statement about this organization that stands true.

“Opportunities like these are valuable with the development of many skill sets that these outstanding youth will need in their future careers,” Hickam says.The youth are very pas- sionate about showing their Charolais cattle, but they spend a lot of time outside the showring working on promoting the organization as well as the beef cattle industry as a whole. Being a member of the AIJCA and participating in Junior National creates great opportunities for youth to better them- selves in all aspects. TheAIJCA organization and opportunities it presents to the future of the industry is incredible.

The AIJCA Junior National is a remarkable opportunity to meet breeders and families from all over the country. It is enjoy- able to walk through the cattle barn and see the interaction between the different state youth organizations being involved in those conversations. Breeders, industry leaders and families working together to cultivate the next generation of cattlemen. This type of involvement is going to continue creating strong industry relationship for the Charolais youth as well as producing well-rounded industry leaders for the future.