While the President of the United States may have been inaugurated just two short months ago in Washington, D.C., the small town of Hilmar is home to a president as well. Hilmar Middle School eighth grader Londyn Brazil was elected to the office by her peers at the National Junior High Finals Rodeo, and is preparing for the competition as it quickly approaches again this summer.
In 2004, the Junior High Division of the National High School Finals Rodeo was created so that sixth, seventh, and eighth graders could experience the excitement of competing in a national rodeo. There are 48 states and provinces that compete in the NJHFR, with around 2,000 members in total fighting for a shot at a national title. Junior high students participate in a variety of events, including barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, breakaway roping, tie-down roping, chute dogging, team roping, ribbon roping and junior bull riding, bareback steer rising and saddle bronc steer riding.
“Competing with the whole United States was pretty amazing,” said Brazil, who competed on the national stage for the first time. “Hopefully I’ll make it back again.”
Brazil followed in the footsteps of her parents, who both competed individually in the NHSFR years ago. To qualify for Nationals, a rider must first be in the top five of their district, then rank within the top four at the state level. At the last NJHFR Brazil competed in two events: pole bending and goat tying. Though she did not place in either event at the competition, the young rodeo star was able to find success in the political aspect of the event.
“I saw postings for the office of president, so I contacted the girl who was President before me,” said Brazil. “She gave me an overview and I said, ‘That sounds like me, I want to try it.’”
The Junior High Division has three student officers: President, Vice President and Secretary. While at NJHFR, Brazil campaigned for the position of president, making poster, yard sticks and getting to know other children at the rodeo whose votes she needed in order to win.
“All you have to do is talk to the other kids,” said Brazil. “You just have to be nice about it and make small talk with them, tell them why you’re running and that you could really use their vote.”
Each state or province at NJHFR has two to four delegates who cast a vote for each political position, and Brazil was able to secure enough votes to be named president of the Junior High Division. As President, Brazil is able to partake in many exciting rodeo events, such as the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, as well as several rodeo board meetings and the National FFA Convention.
“At the National Finals Rodeo, I got to carry the American flag and be on TV, so it was awesome to be recognized like that,” said Brazil.
Brazil also received a $2,000 scholarship along with her presidency.
Now, Brazil is preparing for the next NJHFR and hopes to qualify once more in the events of pole bending and goat tying. She hopes to add another event, breakaway roping, this year as well. She looks forward to returning as president this summer.
“It’s teaching me how to be a real leader, and giving me really good speaking skills. Standing up in front of a thousand delegates isn’t the easiest thing to do when you’re a teenager,” said Brazil. “It’s opened up my eyes to see what I’m going to have to do in the real world one day."