Ag students explore coops, leadership at Co-ops Yes! conference

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – About 120 Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota high school students learned about cooperatives and honed their leadership skills at Cooperative Network’s annual Co-ops Yes! Youth Leadership Conference in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, March 16-17. Thirty area cooperatives fully sponsored the students, several state FFA officers, and speakers to attend this year’s event.

Co-ops Yes! participants came from 68 towns across the three states. They heard from speakers including Lisa Moorhouse, CHS Inc. communication manager, who provided an introduction to cooperatives and had students conceive their own co-ops based on a perceived need in their communities. New cooperative ideas ranged from a taxi service in the Twin Cities to the “Sweet Shop Co-op.”

Motivational Speaker Craig Hillier returned with his interactive and inspiring message on “breakthrough leadership,” helping students identify their leadership styles and learn how to work as a team to achieve their goals.

In breakout sessions, participants explored co-op careers, effective communications, leadership through cooperation, and the “credit union difference.”

At the closing session, Actor David Mann left students with some actionable ways to tap into their leadership potential. Students also enjoyed a formal banquet, followed by hypnotist Al Snyder, and a dance.

The annual Co-ops Yes! Youth Leadership Conference is open to high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Participants are sponsored by their local co-ops and spend two days learning about cooperatives through presentations, case studies, and networking with co-op professionals, while connecting with other student leaders from the region.

Rebecca Rosenhammer and Marisa Martinez, two Sleepy Eye FFA members, were 2014-15 Youth Board Members who helped to plan, organize, and present this year’s Co-ops Yes! Conference.