The Cat Fanciers’ Association NewBee Program had its beginnings in 2007. The CFA Ambassadors Program have a goal of public outreach at CFA cat shows and Teresa Keiger had been doing some work with them. A longtime ring clerk, she was teaching several clerking schools to obtain her Master Clerk Instructor’s license. She had always believed that every single exhibitor in CFA would benefit from a clerking school, because learning the show rules in that manner would make them more knowledgeable exhibitors.
Something else was happening in show halls about that time. The general pace of living had increased dramatically over the previous 15-20 years. Exhibitors became more anxious to get out of the show hall quickly. The advent of the one day and six by six meant that the pace of exhibiting increased dramatically. There was no time for socializing in the show hall, no time to speak to and learn from experienced exhibitors, and certainly fewer and fewer Saturday night dinners where a lot of new exhibitors learned about good breeding and exhibiting practices. We had new exhibitors coming in, but none of the traditional venues for learning were there any more. Moreover, there was more focus on winning, and less learning about learning how to exhibit well.
The idea of a supportive outreach and educating new exhibitors was something Teresa found appealing. She turned to Mary Sietsema with whom she was working with in the Ambassadors Program and who was also working with the CFA Mentor Program for advice, and they pulled together the basis of what would be the CFA NewBee Program. Their first priority was making sure that the clubs even knew that a new exhibitor was entered in their show, and for them to think about benching them with experienced breeders. CFA added the “New Exhibitor” check box to its official entry form, and we were off!
If exhibitors were not connecting face to face nearly as much, the internet certainly made it easy connect online. Mary and Teresa outlined a plan for a website with most of the information that a new exhibitor would need all in one place. During this time, Mary’s job changed and she found it necessary to let go of a lot of her CFA work. Kathy Black and Sande Willen joined the program and helped continue to push it forward. Later, the NewBee Program was put under the same umbrella as the CFA Mentor Program as they are two sides to the same coin. The NewBee Program focuses on exhibitor, whereas the Mentor Program’s focus is on breeding pedigreed cats. Carol Krzanowski was the chair of the Mentor Program at that time, and she also was instrumental in making the NewBee Program what it is today.
The other big advance in the NewBee Program was the creation of its Facebook Group. Based on the idea that it was a closed group with a generous handful of experienced breeders and exhibitors included to answer all of the questions that new exhibitors would have, and in an environment that would allow them to do so openly and without fear of being “slammed” or ridiculed. That group is still alive and active, and the primary way that we reach out to new exhibitors.
Originally, the NewBee Program had a concept that it would hold physical classes at shows for new exhibitors. After a couple of attempts, we realized that that wasn’t working. New clerks are compelled to come in early/stay late for a clerking school, but new exhibitors by and large do not. Which is too bad as the few classes that we did have were very rewarding for all.
So, why IS it called the “NewBee” Program?
That actually came from an email from one of our very first class attendees. She send out an email about her being a “NewBee” (a play on the term “newbie’) noting that she was so excited about the program that she was flitting around all over the place like a bee! It was a term too good not to use, and really embodies the lighthearted spirit of the group.
What can I (or my club) do to help?
Let your new exhibitors know about the CFA NewBee Program! Did you sell a kitten to a new exhibitor? You are probably mentoring them, but send them our way too. Make certain that your club includes that ad for the Mentorship/NewBee Program in your show catalog. Place a link to the program on your club’s website or Facebook page