4-H builds confidence and leadership skills

Reflections from Michigan 4-H State Youth Leadership Council member Kennedy DeFrancesco.

Michigan 4-H State Youth Leadership Council member Kennedy DeFrancesco. Photo by Emily Heyrman.
Michigan 4-H State Youth Leadership Council member Kennedy DeFrancesco. Photo by Emily Heyrman.

Kennedy DeFrancesco of Munising, Michigan, has been a member of the Michigan 4-H Youth Development Program for seven years and is a member of the Michigan 4-H State Youth Leadership Council. DeFrancesco has completed many community service projects through her involvement in 4-H, including raking yards for the elderly, making items for animal shelters, collecting items for new mothers and raising money for cystic fibrosis by walking miles with her 4-H club.

Through her 4-H experiences, DeFrancesco has participated with the local fair and a variety of statewide events such as 4-H Exploration Days and 4-H Capitol Experience, and national events including National 4-H Congress and Citizenship Washington Focus. I took a moment to interview DeFrancesco to reflect on her 4-H experiences as she finishes her term with State Youth Leadership Council.

Jackie (J): How would you describe State Youth Leadership Council?

Kennedy (K): State Youth Leadership Council is a group of incredible teenagers who come together once a month to make an impact on Michigan 4-H. They are given super-awesome opportunities to be leaders, and they have a say in issues. I talk to anyone and everyone about State Youth Leadership Council whenever the opportunity arises. I have found that through State Youth Leadership Council, I have been able to make a bigger impact on getting more people interested and involved in 4-H, which is a big deal to me!

J: What skills have you gained through your experiences on State Youth Leadership Council?

K: I have gained confidence. It was a little intimidating being on a council with 20 other people you don’t know given it spans across Michigan, but after the first couple months, I became very comfortable with using my voice and offering my opinions. I have also become a better leader, which I think is one of the ultimate goals of State Youth Leadership Council. I am no longer nervous to speak to people I don’t know about things that matter to me, and State Youth Leadership Council has really given me that ability.

J: Are there any other 4-H experiences or events that were especially meaningful to you?

K: Through my 4-H career, I have been fortunate enough to travel all over the country and attend several 4-H events. It was through these events I found a passion for government and policy. I believe 4-H Capitol Experience was really the event that kick-started my love for how the government works. My absolute favorite trip was to National Congress in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2016. I made so many friends on that trip and learned so much, it was incredible. Without these experiences, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

J: What goals do you have for college, higher education or future careers?

K: Thanks to 4-H, I am pursuing a degree in political science. I hope to focus on international affairs with women’s study so hopefully I can help women in countries that aren’t as prosperous as ours. It’s going to take some work, but it’s a combination of all the things I am passionate about, so I am very excited for my future.

J: What advice do you have for younger 4-H members?

K: Don’t be afraid to speak up and voice your opinion, and certainly don’t be afraid to ask questions. 4-H is a platform that can be used to voice opinions of kids who wouldn’t necessarily have a voice. State Youth Leadership Council is a great output for that. Any volunteer in 4-H is there 100 percent to help you and make you a better leader, so never ever be afraid to ask them anything. Know that you are an important person and your opinion does matter; don’t be afraid to stand up and use your voice!

The Michigan 4-H State Youth Leadership Council involves 24 Michigan 4-H members ages 15-19 from across Michigan tasked with promoting 4-H programs and working with staff to improve Michigan 4-H program offerings.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our 2016 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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