One of the most important lessons Destiny McCauley ever learned happened in the show ring: “Never give up, even when you think you’ve lost,” she says.
After the first round of a cattle showmanship competition, McCauley, a long-time Hardee County 4-H member, was put last in the line of contestants, which usually signals a low score, she explained. Thinking she had already lost, McCauley just went through the motions in the second round.
She later found out the judges were testing her resolve. Her placement in the line-up had nothing to do with her score. After the first round, McCauley was in first place, but, after her lackluster second round, she had dropped to third.
Now, as she gets ready to graduate from the University of Western Kentucky with a double major in animal science and communications, that experience in the show ring still impacts the way she faces challenges.
“As I apply for jobs, I know that I’m going to be told ‘no’ before I’m told ‘yes.’ But I know that a door will open or that I can create one and open it” she said. “My attitude will determine the outcome.”
4-H alumni like McCauley are known for their perseverance and ambition. In fact, research has shown that 4-H participants tend to be more engaged in school, get better grades than non-4-Hers and are more likely to see themselves going to college, said Sarah Hensley, state specialized 4-H agent for University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.
“An Oklahoma 4-H alumni survey showed that more than 90 percent of those surveyed had completed some education beyond high school, showing a link between their degree of 4-H participation and level of education achieved,” Hensley said. Since more education is correlated with better job opportunities, 4-H participants also tend to be more employable, she added.
In addition to her studies, McCauley is very involved in 4-H and the cattle industry, where she hopes to one day find a job. “My life is pretty busy. I travel to cattle shows, fairs and conferences across the U.S. If I’m not doing that, I’m usually volunteering with local 4-H groups,” she said.
“Like these kids, I also know what it’s like to juggle 4-H with other responsibilities,” McCauley said. “I was lucky enough to have a strong support system growing up, and that’s what I want to give future generations.”
McCauley believes that not everything can be learned in the classroom, which is participating in livestock contests and other 4-H activities are so important.
“It takes discipline to show an animal,” she said. “It’s a lot different than taking care of a pet. Growing up, I would be at the barn at 4 or 5 a.m. to take care of my show heifers before school, and I would come back to the barn after school to take care of them again. I would put in about seven to eight hours a day at the barn — on top of chores, school work and sports.”
The work of raising and showing animals isn’t just about winning a contest, McCauley said. It also teaches youth the importance of giving back to their community. 4-H members will often take money earned from selling a prize-winning animal and donate it to charity or fund a community service project.
McCauley’s passion is mentoring 4-H youth who are interested in livestock. “I would love to be a youth director for a breed association — hopefully the American Angus Association,” she said.
By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Destiny McCauely, 803-983-6804, email@example.com
Sarah Hensley, 352-294-2904, firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Destiny McCauley