Young Leaders of 2017: Elizabeth Mayrose

By Denise DePaolo

Images by Elizabeth Lucille Photography

It’s time to recognize those who stand out and show great promise for the year ahead. Each year, 605 selects a group of young leaders from a pile of nominations – all qualified for recognition in their own way. This year’s honorees each bring something amazing to their community and state, through their tireless belief that they as individuals can make a difference.

“Agriculture is a huge part of South Dakota culture, and Beth Mayrose is not only a dedicated advocate for the industry, but also for developing students’ potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success.” – From the nomination for Elizabeth Mayrose

Once on a flight, a woman noticed a cow tag on Elizabeth Mayrose’s bag. Mayrose explained that she grew up on a dairy farm, and still worked on one, which prompted the woman to exclaim, “You don’t look like a farmer!”

Her fellow passenger’s reaction took Mayrose by surprise. It made her think about what a farmer looks like, and what people’s perceptions of farmers are. And it made her more committed than ever to finding her niche within the ag industry. As executive secretary for the South Dakota FFA Association, she is not only doing that for herself, she is helping the others do that as well.

Mayrose first became involved in FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) in her hometown of Salem. As a high schooler, she thrived in public speaking events, earned credit for working on her family’s farm, and eventually became president of her chapter. As an officer, she says, her focus switched from, “what can FFA do for me?” to “what can FFA do for the community?”

When she entered college at SDSU, Mayrose stayed involved with FFA, volunteering at judging events and various activities on campus. And when it came time to graduate, rather than jump into grad school, as she’d previously intended, Mayrose applied for an open position with the organization that had meant so much to her. Although she felt a little green for the role of executive secretary, leaders within the FFA organization encouraged her to go for it.

“I’m the youngest person who has ever been in this job, and I’m one of the only ones I know of that doesn’t have teaching experience. A good portion of my job is working directly with FFA advisors who are teachers,” said Mayrose. “I just knew that FFA had done well for me and I felt confident that what this job needed was stability and a fresh perspective. If we’ve done so much doing what we’ve always done, what could we do if we were to freshen that up, and challenge the status quo a little bit?”

Mayrose graduated on a Saturday in May, and settled into her office across the SDSU campus the following Monday. Her work requires her to wear many hats, from making schedules to taking 130 high schoolers into the woods for a week to hanging streamers in a gym at 2 a.m., she knows that her natural energy is helping her succeed.

It has also been a growing experience for her. She explains that it’s humbling to graduate thinking you’re ready for whatever life throws your way, only to realize that first, you must learn in order to be successful. Much of what she’s learned is an appreciation for those who made her own FFA experience possible. “I really appreciate this job, because it shows me how much work goes into making sure young people get an opportunity to learn in a way that’s relevant to what the real world is going to demand.”

In addition to local events, she and her FFA colleagues are helping students to prepare for the real world. No matter who you are, Mayrose says, there is a place for you in the greater world of agriculture.

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To read the full profile, pick up the January issue or click here.