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Saddle Up

Through its robust scholarship program, the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo prepares students to shape the future of Texas agriculture.

star By Chrystal Houston star

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Saddle Up

Through its robust scholarship program, the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo prepares students to shape the future of Texas agriculture.

star By Chrystal Houston star

Barrel Racing Image
image frame image frame Hat Icon

Saddle


Up

Through its robust scholarship program, the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo prepares students to shape the future of Texas agriculture.

star By Chrystal Houston star

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image frame image frame Hat Icon

star star As the young cowboy backs his chestnut steed into the box, the announcer’s voice calls over the loudspeaker: “Up next, Cullen Eppright, from Gonzales, Texas.”

His head is eclipsed by a wide brimmed hat, while his small frame is clad in denim pants and a pearl snap shirt. Horse and rider are tense with excitement, poised and ready for action; both have trained for this moment through endless hours of practice.

The boy calls for a calf, and the thrill begins.

The chute opens, and a brown calf runs wildly across the arena. After a few seconds’ head start, the barrier drops, and horse and rider rocket out of the box. Eppright swings his lasso, releasing the rope at just the right moment to circle the calf’s neck, stopping it in its tracks. He pulls the horse to a halt, hops down in one fluid motion and runs over to straddle the calf, grabbing its flailing legs and securing them tightly with a loop of rope.

He throws his hands in the air to stop the clock, adrenaline rushing through his veins like a cattle stampede. The crowd whoops and hollers as the cowboy dusts off his pant legs and checks his time. There are many variables, but a good time for this event is 10 seconds. Eppright’s personal best in 12 years of competitive calf roping is 7.6 seconds.

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Gonzales native Cullen Eppright '22 is a San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo scholar who aspires to a future career in agriculture lending and finance.

While he no longer participates in the sport, Eppright said the lessons of rodeo will always be with him. “You can go from champ to chump in one second,” said the Aggie junior, a member of the Class of 2022. “You've got to be humble and keep going. Some days are good, and some aren’t. You build character during all of those hard practices when you want to give up, but you don't.”

Eppright’s dedication to the sport earned him a scholarship through the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo (also known as the San Antonio Livestock Exposition, or SALE) via the Texas High School Rodeo Association. Today, the former president of the National High School Rodeo Association is working toward a dual degree at Texas A&M University, including a bachelor’s in agribusiness and a Master of Financial Management through Mays Business School’s Commercial Banking Program. On top of his busy study schedule, he is a member of the Corps of Cadets and the Parsons Mounted Cavalry Half Section Mule Team and also serves as the vice president for finance of the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences’ student council.

A fourth-generation Aggie with a long family history of Texas cattle ranching, Eppright’s passion lies in helping farmers and ranchers succeed financially. When he graduates in December 2022, he will pursue a career in agriculture lending and finance. Rooted in the past and equipped with skills for the future, Eppright is ready to meet the challenges of a changing marketplace in Texas agriculture.

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You've got to be humble and keep going. Some days are good, and some aren’t. You build character during all of those hard practices when you want to give up, but you don't.

-Cullen Eppright '22

FROM THE
ROOTS UP

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From the


roots up

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It can be hard to make a living off the land. Market fluctuations, supply chain disruptions and weather extremes mean that Texas producers are working harder than ever, often for less reward. Fewer young people are drawn to professions in agriculture, placing many family farms at risk.

The future success of the Texas agriculture economy depends on the best and brightest minds—young people from all academic disciplines and walks of life who can couple their skills with a passion for stewarding the land and growing the food and fiber an expanding population requires.

Texas agriculture has a rich and storied history. “It's important to maintain our roots,” said Cody Davenport ’98, executive director and CEO of SALE. “San Antonio is so culturally diverse and historically significant. From cattle drives of the past to the sport of rodeo as we know it today, a lot of the Western lifestyle started here.” As more people leave rural settings and move into the state’s expanding cities, there are increasing challenges in educating young people on the value of agriculture and Texas heritage.

“Students today are less likely to be involved in agriculture at home, so there is a greater need for agriculture education in other ways,” Davenport said. “We want young people to understand the importance of the agriculture economy as a whole. The San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo is a window into agriculture for these kids.” Through participation with SALE, students develop hard work, perseverance and a healthy competitive spirit. “Youth are allowed to compete in a fair and balanced space and are rewarded for doing well. These experiences make them better humans.”

At its core, SALE is not about what happens in the arena. It is about the hard work and preparation that students pour into their event, whether they are showing goats or building robots. The effort builds their character as well as their knowledge and skills. “What we’re doing is raising good citizens through agricultural education,” Davenport added. Since 1984, SALE has raised $223 million for that purpose, funding 21,275 youth scholarships at colleges and universities in Texas. Of those scholarships, 2,000 have been awarded to Aggies, totaling $17.8 million. Originally, SALE scholarships were reserved for those majoring in agriculture, but today, they can be applied to any degree.

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Cullen Eppright '22 participating in the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo in 2014.

“Agriculture has evolved,” explained Davenport. “Now it encompasses every area of academic pursuit, from finance and engineering to education.” The agriculture sector needs a workforce with diverse skills and training. SALE scholarship recipients could become producers and politicians or CEOs and soil scientists, each with the potential to impact their chosen industry.

A network of 6,500 volunteers manages the SALE event each year. The two-week expo and rodeo with 20,000 contest entries is “a 24/7 logistical jigsaw puzzle,” said BJ Hendler ’00, a vice president of SALE. It’s a lot of work balancing his volunteer efforts with SALE and his full-time job as the chief operating officer of American Lumber, but Hendler said it is all worth it when he experiences the moving moment of presenting a scholarship to a deserving recipient.

“We need these young people to advance technology and be involved in the legal climate to perpetuate professions in agriculture. There’s an array of career options. We know that every student, no matter what they’re studying, has a role to play,” he added. “What we as volunteers hope is that they will give back and make agriculture better.”

Sarah Franklin ’11 is doing just that. Franklin majored in agricultural economics at Texas A&M, supported by a SALE scholarship. Today, she is the branch manager of Texas Farm Credit in Pleasanton and serves as a board member and chair of the livestock committee for SALE. “Why I’m doing what I’m doing is really to say thank you,” she said. “SALE has been such a big part of my life. I learned responsibility, hard work and dedication growing up through that program. Those values are part of our Texas culture. We want to keep this heritage alive.”

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We know that every student, no matter what they’re studying, has a role to play, What we as volunteers hope is that they will give back and make agriculture better.

-BJ Hendler '00

The next crop

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The next crop

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A TV commercial inspired Rebecca De La Pena ’21 to pursue a profession in agriculture.

As a sixth grader, the San Antonio native saw an ad for Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Though she had little experience with animals, young De La Pena was determined to attend Texas A&M and study animal science.

That dream pushed her to enroll at an agriscience magnet high school, where she became involved with FFA. She discovered a talent for public speaking, which led to competition in team and individual events. During her senior year, she earned a bronze medal at the national FFA competition for a speech on issues facing agriculture. Her involvement with FFA secured her a generous scholarship from SALE.

Participating in these events opened a whole new world to De La Pena, but it didn’t change her mind about where she would attend college. “Texas A&M was the only place I applied,” she said, noting that her interest shifted from animal science to agriculture leadership and development. It’s been a great fit for De La Pena, whose pursuits are varied. “What am I not passionate about?” she joked. “Agriculture impacts everything; I am thankful for the opportunity to learn about all of it.”

De La Pena’s focus is on agriculture as it pertains to international, community and youth development. She traveled to Mexico to learn farm techniques, Greece to explore leadership in agriculture, and Costa Rica to dive into natural resource management and sustainability. Through these experiences, Texas A&M connected her with others who share similar interests in various locations, providing her with a global professional network. De La Pena plans to merge her passions for youth and agriculture education by earning a master’s degree in community development. She is interested in removing entry barriers for young people considering college. “I want to make a difference for those who are underrepresented,” she said, recounting the obstacles she overcame as a first-generation college student. She now serves as a mentor in the Student Leaders of Tomorrow program at Texas A&M, helping other first-generation students navigate their college experience.

Her influence in this area started closer to home. De La Pena's mother was so inspired by her daughter’s success during her freshman year that she enrolled as well, earning a bachelor’s degree in business online. While her mother didn’t receive a SALE scholarship, her academic success is inextricably linked to the generosity of those that made it possible for her daughter to attend college.

“I could not have attended Texas A&M without the SALE scholarship. It was a direct result,” De La Pena said.

She’s looking ahead to a bright future for Texas agriculture. “It’s a growing industry,” she said. “Who’s going to step up?”

Across many majors at Texas A&M, students like De La Pena and Eppright are climbing into the saddle and backing into the box. When they graduate, they’ll be ready for any rodeo.

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To Learn more about sale

Contact Vice President for Engagement Patrick Williams ’92 below.

Contact
  • Patrick Williams '92

  • Vice President for Engagement-Division 1
  • Vice Presidents
  • Call: (979) 458-4493

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