We all know the history of how the NRA began, with a post-Civil War military interest in improving marksmanship. A lesser-known fact is how those initial goals grew to include our nation’s youth. In 1903, NRA Secretary Albert S. Jones encouraged that rifle clubs at the military academies be expanded to universities and major colleges as well. By 1906, the NRA’s youth shooting program had grown to include 200 boys competing in the National Matches at Sea Girt, N.J.
Fast forward to 2008 when a similar emphasis resurfaced as the NRA National Youth Shooting Sports Ambassador program. From Chip Lohman, the program’s creator: “As a member of NRA’s Youth Programs office, I was the liaison to 12 national youth organizations such as the Jaycees, Boy Scouts, 4-H, JROTC and others. As part of the mission to educate 2 million youth shooters about NRA programs and resources, we thought it important to also remind industry leaders of the growing number of juniors in our sport. The NRA, with generous support from the industry, helped representatives from those same 12 youth programs attend the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show as NRA Ambassadors.”
Through the continued stewardship of NRA’s Youth Programs Office, the National Youth Shooting Sports Ambassador Program has remained committed to increasing youth participation in the shooting sports while reinforcing the qualities of sportsmanship, dedication and youth advocacy. On a personal note, I’ve witnessed how this program also provides young men and women the opportunity to collaborate with like-minded peers, meet industry influencers and travel to national-level NRA events.
Claudia Olsen, NRA’s current Youth Programs Coordinator said, “Participants are not only selected because they are shooting sports enthusiasts, but also because of their academic performance and community involvement. And to make the program more inclusive of all youth cooperative programs, including NRA State Associations and affiliated clubs, we’ve opened the application process to all high school sophomores, juniors or seniors who meet the program requirements.”
Folks interested in the program may visit NRA’s ambassador website and apply online in time for the annual review of applications each July. The submission process is two-tiered. Once Claudia and her team have the applications, they select 20 semifinalists who must submit a two- to five-minute video. Then from six to eight finalists are selected to be NRA Youth Ambassadors for a calendar year.
Once selected, the Youth Ambassadors assume various duties such as participating in conference calls to discuss the program and how they are progressing, writing articles which may be used in NRA publications or social media outlets, completing an NRA training program, helping to organize an NRA Youth Day and traveling to as many as three NRA events as Ambassadors. In addition to gaining valuable life and industry experience, the Ambassadors also receive NRA Life memberships and a monetary award for their service.
To learn more about this wonderful program for our youth members, to nominate someone or to apply, visit: youthambassadors.nra.org.