Kendra Goplin talks to fairgoers petting a cow at a previous Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis, Wisconsin. Experiences like this have served as a catalyst for her desire to become an ag teacher.
Kendra Goplin talks to fairgoers petting a cow at a previous Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis, Wisconsin. Experiences like this have served as a catalyst for her desire to become an ag teacher. PHOTO SUBMITTED

    WHITEHALL, Wis. – At a point in life where most young adults are questioning what direction the future might take them, 18-year-old Kendra Goplin has the navigation points on her compass firmly set and is pursuing her goals with determination.

    Goplin, a senior at Whitehall Memorial High School, was awarded one of 100 scholarships – a $10,000 Herb Kohl Excellence Scholarship. Goplin lives in Osseo with her parents, Shane and Melinda, and two sisters, Vaida, 15, and Brinna, 14.
    The scholarship is awarded to recognize students who excel in leadership, citizenship, school and community involvement, and academic achievement. To be eligible to apply, students must be residents of the state of Wisconsin and intend to enroll in a postsecondary institution. To apply, students must submit a series of essays, letters of recommendation and demonstrate their leadership and involvement in their school and community.
    Goplin’s FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience helped her application rise to the top.
    Goplin, who plans to attend South Dakota State University to major in agricultural education, has spent her high school experience devoted to pursing her interest in the field. Since 2018, Goplin has served as a member of the Trempealeau County Farm Bureau Board and is the group’s Ag in the Classroom chairperson.
    Before the coronavirus pandemic began last spring, Goplin went into elementary school classrooms in her own district and throughout the county with her involvement in the Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom program. She taught fourth graders of the importance of agriculture in Wisconsin.
    “I planned and put together 45-minute lesson plans that focused on Wisconsin agriculture,” Goplin said. “I went before school administrators to share my plans and how they aligned with the state curriculum standards.”
    Before the pandemic, Melinda, who is also the FFA advisor, estimates Goplin had contact with over 2,000 elementary school students.
    Although COVID-19 threw a wrench in Goplin’s mission, she did not stop. While she was unable to continue visiting classrooms, she created digital interactive notebooks for teachers and students to use during virtual learning. With her mother’s connections, Goplin was able to make her digital notebooks available for free to teachers through online curriculum and content sharing websites.
    Goplin has not limited her sharing about the dairy industry to classroom learning. She has worked to create a video series called “AGventures with Kendra,” where she shares information about dairy cows and farms with the consuming public on YouTube.
    Informing consumers was the spark that ignited Goplin’s passion for agricultural education, stemming from her experiences as an exhibitor at the Wisconsin State Fair Junior Dairy Show and the knowledge gap she witnessed with fair-goers.
    “I was once asked how long it would take a steak to grow back on the cow after it was cut off,” Goplin. “Those types of questions were one thing, but then I would hear parents attempting to explain things to their children, giving them information that was completely incorrect. That is when I realized that not everyone has grown up like I have with the background knowledge on how food is produced.”
    While Goplin was not raised on a dairy farm, she has strong roots in the industry as both her parents grew up on dairy farms. Through involvement in 4-H and FFA, Goplin found her passion for agriculture and in particular the dairy industry.
    “I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with dairy farmers in our community to have the chance to become a part of the industry,” Goplin said.
    Goplin began her dairy career showing Holsteins and Brown Swiss that belonged to family friends Aaron Johnson and Beth Nelson at the Trempealeau County Fair. Goplin credits Johnson and Nelson, along with her parents, for nurturing her love of the dairy industry.
    “Being able to show sparked a passion for the dairy industry in me when I was young,” Goplin said. “And now that I’m one of the older members, I am able to help younger members have the same kinds of experiences.”
    A theme throughout her life, Goplin followed a desire to do something that would stand out. She set out on a mission to add the one dairy breed missing from the dairy show at the Trempealeau County Fair – Ayrshires.
    The purchase of her first Ayrshire, Old-Bankston JC Benedict Brea-ET, did more for Goplin than just introduce a new breed to her fellow county 4-Hers. Goplin exhibited Brea on the colored shavings of World Dairy Expo in 2019. Brea received an all-American nomination and was named the honorable mention Junior All-American Fall Calf the same year. Goplin enjoyed her first Ayrshire experience so much she sought out a second calf, Lazy-M Lochinvar Mist-ET, for what turned out to be an abbreviated 2020 show season.
    “The dairy industry is wonderful for all the connections you make,” Goplin said. “I know so many more people now, most of who I would have never met without the common interest in the dairy industry.”
    Last fall, those connections helped Goplin land a spot on the newly created Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Agricultural Youth Council. As a member, Goplin has attended a series of monthly virtual meetings where the participants have heard from speakers on a variety of topics including policy issues and agricultural career paths.
    “I have gained so much from the dairy industry; it has played a huge role in my life,” Goplin said. “By choosing to be involved in agricultural education, I can give back to the industry, helping others grow through similar experiences.”