Finding Her Own Way

6/8/2013 7:00 AM
By Charlene M. Shupp Espenshade Special Sections Editor

Pennsylvania State Alternate Dairy Princess Uses Royal Year to Find Her Own Path

MONTROSE, Pa. — Standing out from the crowd is not easy, especially as a teenager. It would be easier to blend in and follow the crowd.

For the past year, Callie Curley, 17, a junior at Montrose High School in Susquehanna County, Pa., has stepped out from the crowd to take on the role of a lifetime — advocate for the dairy industry.

“It’s so important when you are in high school to fit in with everyone and do what your friends do. (Being a) dairy princess allowed me to step away from what my friends were doing, and (allowed) me to discover who I am and what I want to be,” she said regarding the challenges of high school life.

Curley was crowned the Pennsylvania alternate dairy princess last September. Since then she has crisscrossed the state and traveled to other states in the Mid-Atlantic region advocating for dairy farmers.

“It’s the kind of program I strongly believe in because of the skills it has given ... to help me think for myself, to communicate with other people, and to do things to express what is important to you,” she said. It’s “the empowerment of youth to stand up for what you believe in.”

It’s been the best experience she could ask for because it allowed her to spread her wings and try something new, and to talk about a topic she believes in — dairy. She credits the dairy promotion program and 4-H for showing her that she did not have to live on a farm to be passionate about the dairy industry.

“It does not matter where you come from if you are willing to put the work in,” she said.

As the daughter of Ben and Amy Curley of Montrose, Pa., she grew up around cows. Her grandparents, Bob and Mary Curley, ran a dairy farm until the early 2000s. Today, she has a string of show cows and keeps the heifers at her grandparents’ farm. The milking cows are housed at Joe and Melinda VanderFeltz’s farm in Rushville, Pa. In 4-H, she shows cows and competes in dairy judging team and dairy quiz bowl. Curley said many of her cows are related back to her first 4-H calf, a Holstein purchased by her uncle, Bill Curley.

When not busy promoting, she is active in several school clubs like the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and student council. She is also secretary for the Susquehanna County Junior Holstein Club and treasurer of the Pennsylvania Junior Holstein Executive Committee.

Curley was recruited for the county dairy promotion program in eighth grade by a fellow 4-H member who was on the dairy court. Once involved, Curley was hooked. She served several years in the junior court before running for the county princess title last May.

Her favorite promotions are ones that use the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association’s campaign, “Your Milk Comes from a Good Place.”

Curley said the logo and program captures the fact that most farms are family owned and operated. She uses the program to talk to consumers about what happens every day on the farm. She believes that as a dairy princess it’s important to share what happens on a dairy farm and to generate an appreciation for the hard work of farmers to produce a gallon of milk.

Last weekend, Curley retired her crown as the Susquehanna County dairy princess. As she sat writing her farewell speech, she could not believe how fast the year had passed. In preparation for the year, she flipped through her scrapbook and felt a mix of emotions.

“I would have never imagined this when I stood in front of all of those familiar faces in the county,” she said of the journey she has been on. “I feel so blessed to have had this opportunity. If I had not been out there giving speeches or writing milk toasts I would not have developed how I have.”

Looking back at her crowning at the state dairy princess pageant in September, Curley said the enormity of her job hit her the morning after the pageant when she and fellow state dairy team members, Pennsylvania Dairy Princess Maria Noble and Pennsylvania Alternate Dairy Princess Heather Wasson, received their schedules. Curley said it was then that she realized her life would change.

Her favorite state dairy promotion was the Pennsylvania Farm Show. Curley said the experience was a great confidence builder and helped her hit her stride in her new role.

“The variety was refreshing — that really helped me get geared up for the rest of the year,” she said of the interactions with farmers and consumers as well as public officials. She also had a wide mix of promotion activities, from larger promotions to one-on-one interactions.

Serving as a dairy princess requires a lot of time on the road. Curley said she has a 75 percent attendance rate at her high school. On average, she estimates she has between two to three state promotions per week.

She is grateful for the support of the school administration and teachers who have worked to keep her up to date with her schoolwork. Her family has also been a great support system for her. Her mother and father have stepped up to the challenge, working out their schedules so that Curley has been able to reach her commitments.

As for what the future holds, she said her immediate goal is wrapping up her state dairy princess year. Next will be her senior year of high school. And then, she’d like to go to college to study marketing and communications, eventually getting a job in agricultural communications.

“That is one thing that (being) dairy princess has shown me ... the power that a first-hand account can give someone in their decisions,” she said.

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