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AVON PARK, Fla. – March 28, 2019 – Brianna Waters, a freshman at SFSC and prospective dental hygienist, began her second term as Hardee County Cattlemen’s Sweetheart in February. The Bowling Green, Fla. native originally applied for the honor while a senior at Hardee Senior High School and, this year, was asked to continue her efforts. She will wear her crown and sash for another one-year term—February through January.
“I thought becoming the Hardee County Cattlemen’s Sweetheart would be a good opportunity,” Waters said. “I could do a lot of things to promote the beef industry and expand my knowledge as well.” To apply to be Sweetheart, Waters’ father had to be a member of the Hardee County Cattlemen’s Association in good standing for two years. “My family has cattle, and I’ve raised cattle for most of my life,” she said. “I have my own herd at my house. They’re cross-bred cattle—Angus and Brahman.”
As county Sweetheart, Waters’ duties are varied. “This year and last year, I was present at the Hardee County Fair, and I carried the American flag at the Hardee County Cattlemen’s Ranch Rodeo in July. This year, I want to do as much as I can. I’d like to go to the different schools in Hardee County and promote the beef industry because so many careers are influenced by it. For instance, restaurateurs need to know about the healthier cuts of beef. It’s a great industry to be involved with.”
As a county-level Sweetheart, Waters is eligible and plans to compete for the state title with the Florida Cattlemen’s Association at its annual convention in June. Competitors make PowerPoint presentations on the beef industry and answer impromptu questions at the Youth Appreciation Luncheon. They are required to take a written exam on the beef industry and have two interviews with the judges.
“This is not a beauty pageant,” said Kim Strickland, Florida Cattlemen’s Association Sweetheart chairman. “These young women are judged on how well they know the Florida cattle and beef industry and how well they can spread the word about it. They serve as ambassadors to educate the general public about the industry. While serving as Sweetheart, they gain valuable experience—public speaking, communications, and leadership skills.”
Throughout the following year, the winner represents the Florida Cattlemen’s Association across the state. Some of their duties are teaching elementary school children about ranching, agriculture, and the beef industry; helping the Florida Cattlewomen’s Association in cooking demonstrations; and appearing at livestock shows. Upon completion of a one-year term, the Florida Cattlemen’s Association Sweetheart can earn a $2,000 college scholarship.
Although cattle has been her focus for much of her life, Waters developed an interest in becoming a dental hygienist. Currently, she’s working on pre-requisites toward acceptance into SFSC’s Dental Hygiene program. She hopes to start the program in August 2020.
“I liked the dentist as a kid and thought dentistry was interesting,” she said. “I’ve wanted to become a dental hygienist since I was a freshman in high school, so I was planning to become a dental hygienist before I became Sweetheart. It’s a career that’s needed. No matter where I end up, I can still be a dental hygienist.”
Waters chose to pursue SFSC’s Dental Hygiene program because she heard “how great it is. It’s local, too. I can stay at home and be involved in Hardee County and be with my family.”
After graduating from SFSC, Waters would like to remain in Hardee County, if possible. “I don’t know if I’ll work in Hardee County, but if a dentist’s office opened, I’d definitely try to get a job there. I don’t want to leave Hardee County. I want my family and kids to have the agricultural advantages that I did— the opportunity of being able to participate in the county fair and have their own cattle, everything that I got to do. They wouldn’t be able to do those things if we lived in a bigger town.”