Youth develop leadership skills during South Dakota Farmers Union 2015 State Leadership Camp | TSLN.com

Youth develop leadership skills during South Dakota Farmers Union 2015 State Leadership Camp

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Image courtesy of S.D. Farmers UnionRural youth from 27 counties across South Dakota attended the 2015 South Dakota Farmers Union State Leadership Camp held at Storm Mountain Center just outside Rapid City. Courtesy photo.

Rural youth from 27 counties across South Dakota attended the 2015 South Dakota Farmers Union State Leadership Camp held at Storm Mountain Center just outside Rapid City.

During the week-long camp, youth who have completed the seventh grade through high school developed leadership and communication skills as they organized and operated five cooperative businesses.

They also learned about the Farmers Union and other cooperative businesses, participated in leadership workshops, listened to guest speakers and participated in talent night. A tour of the Black Hills, hiking, volleyball, basketball and fun cooperative games completed the camp experience and left campers with lasting memories and many new friends, says Karly Schaunaman, 15, who lives on her family's crop and livestock farm near Aberdeen.

"Because I go to a bigger school not many of my classmates live on farms or show cattle like I do, so it can be difficult to identify with them. That's what's different about my Farmers Union friends; we have a lot in common," Schaunaman explains. "These are the friends who have encouraged me to be myself and step out of my shell."

“Because I go to a bigger school not many of my classmates live on farms or show cattle like I do, so it can be difficult to identify with them. That’s what’s different about my Farmers Union friends; we have a lot in common. These are the friends who have encouraged me to be myself and step out of my shell.Karly Schaunaman, camper

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Kiana Brockel, 19, would agree.

"I've met so many friends through Farmers Union–these friends encouraged me and helped me develop confidence," said Brockel, a 2015 graduate of Bison High School, who explained that before she attended Farmers Union Camp, she would describe herself as self-conscious and awkward. "After State Leadership Camp, I realized that other people thought I was fun. This motivated me to do more in my high school back home."

Brockel was one of six students to plan the camp agenda and activities as a member of Farmers Union 2014/2015 Junior Advisory Council (JAC). "As a JAC I am able to help other kids who, like me, are shy and need someone to help them break out of their comfort zone. For me, Farmers Union Camp is the best week of my summer. Our team worked to make camp the best week for others," says Brockel, who will attend Colorado State University this fall.

Schaunaman and Brockel's camp experiences are not unique, explains Bonnie Geyer, South Dakota Farmers Union Education Director "We make sure camp is fun, but also informational. It's our hope that through camp, youth learn more about themselves, gain confidence, make friends and glean a clear understanding of the cooperative system, agriculture and farm safety," Geyer said.

During camp the 2015/2016 Junior Advisory Council was elected. These students are responsible to plan the 2016 State Leadership Camp. They include: Kaden Kummer, Parkston; Jesse Carlson, Seneca; Tess Heidenreich, Faulkton; Jeana Nuss, Tripp; Kylee DeBoer, Tripp; and Windsor Barry, Carter.

Along with the Junior Advisory Council members, a team of four summer interns also helped Geyer with State Leadership Camp.

Helping keep things running smoothly to ensure a positive experience for campers was a role that Summer Intern, Myles Bialas, took seriously.

"I've always thought South Dakota is the greatest state, and the opportunity this internship gave me to visit rural communities throughout the state has convinced me," says Bialas, a junior Agronomy major at South Dakota State University. "I enjoyed working with all the youth and the great team of Education Directors."

Bob Janish Memorial Friendship Award

Jesse Carlson of Seneca was awarded the Bob Janish Memorial Friendship Award during State Leadership Camp. Each year this award is given to a camper who exemplifies the most friendship toward other campers throughout the week.

It is given in memory of a former state camper and Junior Advisory Council member, Bob Janish, who was killed in a tragic accident in 1980.

To learn more about Farmers Union Youth Programs, contact Geyer at bgeyer@sdfu.org, 605-352-6761 ext. 125 or visit http://www.sdfu.org.

–South Dakota Farmers Union