S.D. Farmers Union Jr. REAL development program encourages students to give back

Farm Forum

Juniors and seniors from Wolsey-Wessington and Hitchcock-Tulare Wednesday took part in the S.D. Farmers Union Jr. REAL (Rural Economic and Leadership) Development Program on Oct. 9.

Jr. REAL events help build community leaders in rural South Dakota through motivational speakers and educational seminars.

Holly Hoffman of Eureka, a motivational speaker and author, knows a thing or two about being a survivor.

The Eureka native caught national attention on CBS’s Survivor Nicaragua, as the last woman standing in her tribe. Two weeks ago she stood in front of these high school students as part of the program.

“When you face your fears, you gain strength and courage,” Hoffman told the young crowd. “Do not let your past mistakes define your future.” Hoffman is a mother of three, motivational speaker, author and medical student and shared how her rural upbringing shaped her personal ambitions.

The Jr. REAL program, now in its fifth year, invests in high school juniors and seniors and presents a comprehensive one-day seminar.

Student participants engaged in hands-on exercises while learning techniques to articulate civic responsibility. The conference focused on leadership development, credit issues and identity theft, life skills, and motivation.

Jr. REAL spurs young people to give back and help out in their own communities and build their leadership skills. The program is specifically focused on building young leaders in rural South Dakota.

Motivational speaker and trainer John Beranek of Miller shared the microphone and reminded youth about community service. “When you decide to do something good for someone, they are not always ready to receive that help. You must be careful not to shame them and always be respectful.”

Beranek cited his experiences from the Pay It Forward group he founded to anonymously give to those in need. “Helping out others is incredibly rewarding.”

Malcom Chapman, a professional speaker from Rapid City, led a breakout session on leadership. “Kids need to participate and they need to find outlets to participate and hear discussions about leadership and community involvement. That’s what this program gives,” Chapman said.

Erin Wilcox, Rural Development Director for South Dakota Farmers Union also led discussion on credit cards, identity theft, credit scores and other financial information. “When these kids get to college, they’re going to be bombarded with credit card companies trying to lure them in and rack up credit card debt,” Wilcox said. “We’re trying to educate these kids about the dangers they may face and help them make the right decisions. This is a critical age for them to learn how to deal with their finances before they get out there in the real world.”

South Dakota Farmers Union strongly believes in the talent and potential of rural South Dakotans. Through our rural development programs, we support and create partnerships and collaborations between various entities and individuals to help improve the lives of all. Our Junior REAL series offers comprehensive training that helps youth develop leadership skills and make a difference in your community.

South Dakota Farmers Union has been working since 1915 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.