4-H experiences shape career goals

Reflections from Michigan 4-H State Youth Leadership Council member Emma Young.

Emma Young was a member of the Michigan 4-H State Youth Leadership Council. Photo by Melanie Reyes.
Emma Young was a member of the Michigan 4-H State Youth Leadership Council. Photo by Melanie Reyes.

Emma Young of Dexter, Michigan, has been a member of Michigan 4-H Youth Development in Washtenaw County for 11 years. She has shown many livestock species and still projects at the county level—“Everything except llamas,” she says. Young has also been active in many statewide programs including 4-H Capitol Experience, 4-H Exploration Days and the Michigan 4-H State Youth Leadership Council.

I asked Young to summarize her 4-H experiences in the following interview that is part of a series featuring members of the Michigan 4-H State Youth Leadership Council.

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

Emma (E): State Youth Leadership Council is comprised of a group of youth chosen to help solve some of the problems 4-H faces. As State Youth Leadership Council is still relatively new, we are mainly trying to do outreach programs and get as many people involved in 4-H as possible. The Council is able to help youth continue to grow through 4-H, as it gives them a larger voice. We strive to help more people understand what 4-H is, how they can get involved and how they can start making a difference.

J: What types of activities have you participated in as a member of State Youth Leadership Council?

E: I have been able to attend the National 4-H Conference in Washington D.C., which is a conference for youth all around the country to meet each other and share their experiences. State Youth Leadership Council was also invited to the president of MSU's house for a tailgate event. During this, we set up booths to help do more outreach for 4-H and share our experiences in 4-H. The Council has gone to countless other outreach events to increase awareness about 4-H.

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

E: One of the most important skills I have gained was the ability to listen and step back from the leadership position. I am normally the person who constantly jumps in with their opinion; however, the Council has taught me how to be a better listener so that everyone has a chance to get their voice out there. It has also shown me that sometimes it is better to stand back and let people figure things out for themselves instead of always being there to correct them. State Youth Leadership Council has definitely strengthened my leadership skills by showing me that as a leader, it is important to listen to what everyone has to say and then help everyone mold their ideas together to come up with a solution.

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

E: One of the most meaningful programs I was able to do through 4-H was Capitol Experience. Capitol Experience is a program that teaches youth parliamentary procedure and civic engagement. I have been participating in Capitol Experience for four years, three of which I have been on the steering committee. During Capitol Experience, youth choose an issue group such as agriculture, education, civil rights, etc. Then, with the other youth in your issue group, you have to write, lobby and pass a bill that involves your issue. My first year of this program, I was extremely nervous because I knew nothing of politics; however, my mom signed me up anyways. Now, after four years of this program, I have realized I want to pursue a career in politics. This program helped me realize a passion that I would not have known about otherwise.

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

E: Currently, I am taking a gap year and backpacking Europe. When I come home, I hope to attend Michigan State University to pursue a degree in political science and international affairs. After I graduate, I hope to become involved in our state government, all the while advocating for 4-H and youth engagement.

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

E: Participate in everything 4-H has to offer. Only a few years ago I learned 4-H had so many other programs than just the county fair. I wish I had researched all of the different programs so that I could have been involved in them at an earlier age. There are so many programs you can do, and all you have to do is ask about them. Go to your local Michigan State University Extension county office and ask if there are any new programs or councils in which you can get involved.

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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