Alpena County youth takes unique approach to leadership

4-H proven to empower area youth through life skill development.

It’s no secret that today’s youth feel pressure. Pressure to excel in school, to go to college, to get a job, etc. How they overcome those pressures, is a true testament to their character. Take Alpena native Demi Oliver for example.   

Oliver, 16, credits her enrollment in Michigan 4-H, a program of Michigan State University Extension, with helping her overcome adversity and build confidence along the way. The life skills taught through 4-H helped Oliver learn to work with others, overcome challenges and complete jobs once she started them.

Oliver’s mother was in 4-H when she was younger, which encouraged Oliver and her siblings to get involved.

While Oliver’s involvement with Michigan 4-H began with just a few rabbits, but before long she was taking advantage of the breadth of programs 4-H offers, from science and agriculture to business and creative arts. Her livestock experience expanded to poultry, sheep, and goats, and she participated in crafts and education projects as well. She was also elected as president of her 4-H market club.

“I am a goal setter, so once I am involved in something, I like to take advantage of everything available,” Oliver explains. “Everything in 4-H teaches a life lesson. Livestock taught me responsibility. I also learned that to be a leader you must combine communication skills and self-confidence to help other people grow their strengths.”

America needs more true leaders focused on today’s challenges, as well as the issues of tomorrow. A recent survey by National 4-H Council found that 71 percent of today’s youth view leadership as something they can practice and improve over time. But those same youth need supportive adults to help them along the way.

4-H brings a community together to grow true leaders in today’s youth – helping build confidence, teamwork, curiosity, and resilience. Oliver cites her mother Dione, who is also her 4-H leader, and the supportive 4-H community leaders as role models who have inspired her love of working with youth, a path she intends to pursue as a career.

“You wouldn’t expect that 4-H would help you decide your future career,” says Oliver. “I love when people take what they know and share it with others and I really enjoy being able to work with youth and help them become better.”

Any child can grow with 4-H, an organization that has something for every interest. But 4-H is always looking for adult volunteers and funding to help expand their reach and empower young people through doing. For more information about Michigan 4-H programs and volunteering opportunities, visit the Michigan State University Extension website. 

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