By Katie Berndt
Since the early 90s, the ambassador organization for South Dakota State University’s agriculture programs has been a place for passionate students to grow personally while making an impact for SDSU. For Kylee Kohls, the commitment runs much deeper than that.
Both Kylee’s parents were on the initial College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences (now College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences) Ambassador team during their college career. Daniel and Teresa Kohls graduated from SDSU in 1994.
Now called the CAFES Ambassadors, the group travels across South Dakota and neighboring states to high school classrooms and other events to recruit students for the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. Students are invited to apply every spring and go through an interview process to join the program.
According to Daniel and Teresa, their duties as ambassadors were much like those of the current team. They recall going on high school visits and meeting as a group, but said the impact of the ambassadors reaches much further now than when they were members.
“They’re definitely engaged in a lot more on- and off-campus activities, like going to National FFA Convention and recruiting for the college in other ways, but then still doing the high school recruitment which is where it starts,” Daniel said.
In the first years of the ambassador program there were about 12 members. Now, the group has grown to 25 students. According to the program’s advisor, Brad Blaha, a larger team allows them to reach more potential SDSU students and assist with other on- and off-campus events.
“The students do about 120 events per year,” he said. “So it allows us to be a lot of places that if it was just one person to represent the college, it would be hard for them to be at many of those things.”
While Daniel and Teresa said they never pressured their daughter to join the CAFES Ambassadors, Kylee thought it was a “natural fit” for her to get involved with the group.
“In my eyes, I’m continuing a legacy,” she said. “Not everyone can say they had the opportunity to be involved in the same organizations as their parents.”
Despite the differences between past and present, Daniel and Teresa agree that the students are still as dedicated and passionate as when the group began. The original ambassador team included notable alumni like SDSU Animal Science Professor Cody Wright and agriculture journalist Michelle Rook.
“We were probably all focus-driven kids that wanted to make a difference and I think that still holds true to the quality of kids that want to serve in that capacity,” Teresa said.
As for Kylee, who served as a Minnesota State FFA Officer last year, the CAFES Ambassadors allows her to continue speaking to high school students and FFA members who are excited about a future in the agriculture industry.
“I love reaching out to others considering SDSU and assuring them they have a place to pursue their passion,” she said.