Red Angus Essential to Scholarship Winners’ Futures

Posted May 25, 2021

DENVER - To advance its mission of equipping and preparing its young members to be leaders, innovators, stewards and advocates of the Red Angus breed and the beef business, the Red Angus Association of America Junior Activities committee annually awards scholarships to young men and women involved in agriculture. These scholarships are awarded to JRA members that are active in the association, as well as in their communities and the beef industry, and are planning to attend either two-year colleges or four-year universities in the coming year. Recipients completed an extensive application and interview process, and have proven their communications skills, professionalism and potential for leadership.

The RAAA Junior Activities Committee is pleased to name each of the following five JRA members as a recipient of the $1,000 college scholarship.

Emma Ahrendsen, from Sioux Rapids, Iowa, is the daughter of Brian and Karla Ahrendsen. She is a graduating senior at Sioux Central Community School where she is involved in FFA, 4-H, National Honor Society, cheerleading and the Junior Red Angus Association at the state and national levels. The Red Angus breed has influenced her career path in which she plans to pursue agriculture communications.

Mia Gibson is the daughter of Lin and Jim Gibson from Elgin, Iowa. She is a freshman at Des Moines Area Community College majoring in agribusiness. In high school, she was very involved in her FFA chapter, 4-H, county beef association, National Honor Society and the Iowa Junior Red Angus Association. Mia is passionate about the Red Angus breed and agriculture and wants to advocate and promote the Association. After college, she plans on continuing to raise Red Angus cattle and eventually take over the family farm.

Chastain Spiller of Elbert, Colorado, is the daughter of Decky and Misti Spiller. She has been actively involved in 4-H, FFA, National Honor Society and NAJRAE. Capitalizing on her passions, Chastain and business partner, Tate Welch, started Thousand Hills Red Angus in 2019 as their SAE project for FFA. They plan to continue to expand their registered herd of Red Angus. Chastain will be attending Texas A&M University to study animal science and ag journalism. She hopes to use her writing skills to educate the public on agriculture.

Mitchell VanderWal, the son of Jeff and Beth VanderWal, is a graduating senior of Northwestern High School in Mellette, South Dakota. His family operation near in Brentford, South Dakota, is comprised primarily of Shorthorn, Hereford and Red Angus cows. These cattle are bred to produce purebred calves that will either be kept as replacements, sold as seedstock or show cattle, or fed out to finishing weight in his family’s feedlot. His most vivid memory comes from the 2017 Red Angus Round-Up held in South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska where he met people and learned skills that he will use throughout his career.

Tiffany Watkins is the daughter of Andy and Sandy Watkins, from Dade City, Florida. She is currently studying livestock production at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia, where she is a member of the Sigma Alpha Sorority and the ABAC Cattlemen’s Association. She is also currently serving on the Junior Red Angus board of directors as secretary. In high school, she was involved in FFA and 4-H, and the Junior Florida Cattlemen’s Association where she held a position on the board of directors. Tiffany has been raising Red Angus for four years and is very passionate about the breed. Her goal is to continue to grow her family’s herd of Red Angus as well as one day own a cattle breeding facility in Florida.

The committee is also pleased to announce the recipient of the $500 Dee Sonstegard Memorial Scholarship.

Ali Merritt from Sidney, Montana, is the daughter of Roger and Leigh Merritt. She is a graduating senior at Sidney High School. Throughout high school, she participated in basketball, football manager, track and field, National Honors Society and Leo Club. She is also an 11-year 4-H member. She owns and operates her own registered Red Angus herd. She is truly blessed to have found her love and passion for cattle through her involvement with Red Angus. She plans to further her education and earn a degree in animal science livestock management and work in beef genetics.

For more information on the JRA Scholarship program or other JRA events, visit


The Red Angus Association of America serves the beef industry by enhancing and promoting the measurable advantages of Red Angus and Red Angus-influenced cattle. The RAAA provides commercial producers with objectively described cattle by implementing new technologies and utilizing scientifically sound principles that quantify traits of economic importance to beef producers in all segments of the beef industry. For more information, visit



May 25, 2021 

For more information, contact:
Brandi Buzzard Frobose, Director of Communications 
(785) 448-0239 •


High-resolution photos are available at the following links:

Suggested Cutline:

Emma Ahrendsen

Mia Gibson

Mitchell VanderWal

Chastain Spiller

Tiffany Watkins 

Ali Merritt