HERNDON, Va. – At the annual National Grange session, three young members from across the country won honors as new members of the national youth leadership team. Kennedy Gwin of Washington and Asa Houchin of Ohio were named the National Grange Youth Ambassadors, and Mandy Bostwick of Kansas was selected as the National Grange Outstanding Young Patron. All three will hold their titles through the next convention to be held in Spokane, Washington, in 2017.
As National Grange youth leaders, Gwin, Houchin, and Bostwick will join Pennsylvania’s Charlene Shupp Espenshade, National Grange Youth Development Director, in guiding youth-aged Grange members across the nation.
“Serving as a National Youth Ambassador or Outstanding Young Patron provides Grangers the opportunity to be the voice for the National Grange Youth Department,” said Espenshade, “They will help develop programing, travel the country to attend regional youth conferences and encourage others to get involved in the Grange.”
National Grange Youth Ambassador Kennedy Gwin, 19, of Humptulips, Washington, is a member of Humptulips Grange #730. She is the daughter of Jerry Gwin and Tammy Gwin-Cork. A freshman at Pacific Lutheran University, Gwin studies political science, and aspires to be the legislative director of the Washington State Grange. Gwin serves as lady assistant steward in both Humptulips Grange and the Grays Harbor Pomona Grange, is a counselor at Camp Morehead, and serves on multiple committees at the community, county, and state Grange levels. “I am beyond honored as well as super excited to spend the next year working for an organization I am so passionate about,” Gwin said, “I am extremely interested in creating legislative policy transparency in hopes that more people will understand our policies… [and] want to join due to the changes we are making. And I hope to empower and support more youth to be “do-ers” in leading community service projects in their own Granges, towns, or universities.”
National Grange Youth Ambassador Asa Houchin, 17, is the son of Scott and Jennifer Houchin of Logan, Ohio. He is a member of Ewing Grange #2082 and a senior at Tri-County Career Center, where he studies automotive technology. Houchin is a member of the Ohio State Junior Fair Board, the Hocking County Junior Fair Board, the 4-H, Boy Scouts (Order of the Arrow), and SkillsUSA. He aspires to be increase his community involvement in agriculture and help the Grange grow by furthering his involvement in fairs, Ag Days, and more. About his new title, Houchin says, “As National Youth Ambassador, I plan to promote the Grange at many different functions, in hopes that it will bring new membership to our (Order)… I firmly believe that with the Youth we have in the Grange today, we can get the Grange name out there, we can bring the age gap together, and that we can better the Grange as a whole.”
National Grange Outstanding Young Patron Mandy Bostwick is from Ozawkie, Kansas, where she is a member of Pleasant View Grange #1459. She teaches third grade at Valley Falls Elementary School, and is a middle school track and field coach. Within the Grange, Bostwick is chaplain of the Pleasant View Grange, and is youth director of the Kansas State Grange, where she also serves on the education committee. Bostwick hopes to continue growing the Kansas State youth and young adult program, and to promote the Grange within her community. For Bostwick, being named Outstanding Young Patron is a “distinguished honor.” “Having grown up in the Grange, I knew I wanted to continue to grow with the Grange, especially in its 150th year,” Bostwick said, “as the Yong Patron, I hope to encourage more youth to get involved in the Grange at their local levels, and become a ‘do-er’ in their communities.”
To become National Grange Youth Ambassador or Outstanding Young Patron, competitors must have first held the state Grange title. Youth Ambassadors must be between the age of 14 and 20, and Outstanding Young Patrons must be between 21 and 35. They are interviewed and judged by a panel, must complete a Grange ritual/trivia test, complete a series of Achievement Awards, and are expected to attend regional youth conferences and participate in and lead youth programs at the National Grange session.
The Grange is a fraternal organization, focused on advocating for issues affecting rural America. With presences at the community, county, state, and national levels, the Grange is a leader among rural organizations, found in 2100 communities across 36 states, with programming for juniors, youth, families, and people of all ages. In 2017, the Grange will be celebrating its 150th anniversary as an organization, making it the oldest agricultural advocacy group on the national level.