An East Burke High School student earned a distinct honor as she was one of only 20 students in the state chosen to attend a youth livestock leadership conference. EBHS sophomore Madalyn Smith, 16, was the only Burke County student chosen to attend the 2020 Perry and Doris Teeter Beef Leadership Institute in Hickory, which took place from Feb. 28 thru March 1.

The Leadership Institute is a product of North Carolina State University’s Youth Livestock Program. Students were also eligible to apply through their high schools’ Future Farmers of America’s programs.

FFA’s Agricultural Education and North Carolina 4-H also served as cosponsors of the event. 4-H is the premier youth development program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), according to its website. The National FFA Organization “provides a path to achievement in premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education,” its website said.

Madalyn has had a passion for livestock and agriculture for many years. She is the secretary at East Burke’s FFA. East Burke High School career and technical education teacher and coach for the EBHS FFA cattle show team, Paige Miller, was crucial in  developing Madalyn's love for agriculture, her mother Ambria Smith, said.

"(Miller) saw how much Madalyn loved (agriculture) when (Madalyn) was in ninth grade," Ambria said. "She has pushed her to be better, she's been really good for Madalyn." 

Ambria said it's amazing to see Madalyn be rewarded after working so hard.

“She stays after school, on weekends she feeds the rabbits at (East Burke)," Ambria said. "It’s amazing -- watching her and seeing how mature she is, seeing the responsibility she takes on at 16 years old, she’s like a little adult. It’s really great to see her want to be so dedicated to something.”

The Leadership Institute is a two year event, so Madalyn will return for an advanced level next year. Additionally, she and her fellow Institute attendees will be required to “conduct leadership activities such as speaking at their local Cattlemen’s Association meeting, 4-H Club meeting, serving on a committee or conducting a training session, according to a program flyer.

Still, Madalyn will manage to stay busy with other activities. Madalyn is also a member of the East Burke High School FFA’s cattle show team and frequently attends fairs showcasing the two cows she works with, Baldy and Rosie.

Madalyn and the other members of the East Burke FFA’s cattle show team work with Baldy and Rosie at a farm in Catawba County.

“It brings me pure joy to watch her with all of these animals,” Ambria said. “She’s extremely smart in livestock.”

“I think the best thing is to see how happy your child is when they are so dedicated to something,” Ambria said. “To watch her get these awards, all she wants to be is a leader in the community. She wants to be a good, positive influence. I love to watch that about my child – to see how positive she is.”

She recently received word that she was accepted to the North Carolina Cattlemen’s Association’s Beef Ambassador Program, which offers students opportunities to earn points by participating in and speaking at community events, including school agricultural day, county fair participation, classroom presentations, speaking to civic clubs and church groups, according to a 2019 program document. Each event is worth 25 points and students are awarded a Beef Ambassador belt buckle when they receive 100 points.

Recently, Madalyn attended a North Carolina FFA Association MEGA Conference, a leadership conference for FFA school officers throughout the state. 

"She just shines when she gets in that ring with her cows," Ambria said. "She is so proud of that." 

Johnny Casey is a staff writer and can be reached at or 828-432-8907. 

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(1) comment


So proud of you Madalyn!!

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