by Mason Blinson

When I attended my first Junior National Hereford Expo (JNHE), I wanted to get really involved. I participated in speech contests, Hereford Idol, photo contests, poster contests and many more. However, my favorite thing I was involved in was definitely the mentor-protégé program. This program was what made me love the JNHE. I had something fun to do all week, I was inspired to get more involved in the Hereford breed and I got to meet so many people.

The mentor-protégé program was great for many years and, as a junior board, we have decided to bring it back better than ever. This year at the JNHE, we will be reintroducing the mentor protégé program as the Hereford Pen-to-Pen program. We will be taking the industry from the livestock “pens” to communicating through writing “pens.”

This will be something that goes on during the JNHE as well as the rest of the year. During the JNHE, a mentor and protégé will be paired and there will be activities throughout the week like scavenger hunts, fun crafts and more. However, the big difference this year is that you will not only be getting a friend for a week, but you will also have a pen pal for the rest of the year. It is always a great feeling to get something in the mail and we think that this will be a great reminder throughout the year that you are part of the best breed in the best industry with the best people.

When I was a protégé, I was introduced to many of the National Junior Hereford Association’s (NJHA) board members and I got to do activities with them all week. After interacting with them for just that short week, I wanted to be involved like them and participate in all of the activities and contests they were a part of. That week of the JNHE was the first time I was able to meet the board and it was a major factor in why I wanted to run for the junior board when I was older. The Hereford Pen-to-Pen program will be a great way for juniors to get inspired and to get involved. It is so important to get involved in the new Hereford Pen-to-Pen program as it allows all participants to build lasting relationships.

The best part about the Hereford breed is the Hereford family. I have grown so close with people all over the country because we share a common passion for the cattle industry. That is what the Hereford Pen-to-Pen program is all about. When someone is attending one of their first junior national shows, it is so important that they feel welcomed with open arms and that they feel confident that the people they meet will be resources for the rest of their lives. The relationships made through the Hereford Pen-to-Pen program are like no other. I know of a mentor-protégé pair who have been friends for over ten years and they always catch up at cattle shows and stay close through social media. They have built relationships with each other’s families and recently the mentor needed a place to stay while on the road and they were welcomed with open arms to break up the long trip. I met a past board member of mine, Kelsey Stimpson, through this program when we were both serving as mentors.

It was so nice to go onto the board knowing that we had shared that experience and would already be close because of it. Another relationship I built through the mentor-protégé program was with sweet little Emily and I am so honored that I got to be her mentor. We got to walk around and do a giant scavenger hunt where she got to meet all kinds of people from across the United States. We got to explore all around the grounds and were both able to have a very memorable JNHE. To this day, we always make sure to find each other at any show, we catch up with school and activities and our moms are always taking an annual photo of us together. I know I will always have Emily and her family as friends; they are a big part of my Hereford family and that is all due to this program. There have been so many relationships like this made throughout the years and I cannot wait to see what is in store for the Hereford Pen-to-Pen program.

This article originally appeared in “The Advantage” – The National Junior Hereford Association Newsletter – Spring 2018. To download this newsletter, click below.

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Source: American Hereford Association news release