Beyond the ribbons and awards

4-H member Bailey Welshans reflects on her 4-H experiences.

Bailey Welshans poses with her steer, Joey. Photo by Shelby Welshans.
Bailey Welshans poses with her steer, Joey. Photo by Shelby Welshans.

As cooler weather approaches, another Michigan 4-H fair season comes to a close. Seventeen-year-old Washtenaw County 4-H member Bailey Welshans takes a moment to reflect on her experiences as a 4-H member and the impact participating in the 4-H fair has had on her life.

Welshans has been in 4-H for 12 years and has participated most heavily in rabbit and cattle projects. She currently serves as a Washtenaw County 4-H ambassador, where she assists with county-wide recognition and promotion activities, and volunteers for a variety of county-wide events.

Jackie (J): What’s been the most memorable experience you’ve had in 4-H?

Bailey (B): My most memorable experience in 4-H was the first time I showed a steer calf. I remember very clearly as a cloverbud how excited I was that the judge talked to me. I also remember the mentor who took me out that first time and gave me confidence in the ring. From that day forward, I intended to give back. I have been able to mentor other kids in my rabbit and cattle projects ever since. It gives me so much joy to see their broad smiles and ambitious attitudes for their projects!

J: What impact has 4-H had on your life?

B: 4-H has had a huge impact on my life. Because of my experiences, I have developed skills to become a stronger leader within my community, school and county. I have also learned how to be a positive role model to the younger generation of 4-Hers. Personally, my 4-H projects have strengthened my determination and business skills. I have developed a market for my rabbits as well as my cattle. Through activities such as skill-a-thons and expos, I gained confidence in public speaking as well as knowledge in my project areas.

J: What has been your biggest take away from your time as a 4-H member?

B: Life is not about getting every ribbon or trophy you can. The memories made in the barn with animals, in the kitchen cooking, sleeping in the barn on security duty (and playing cards or games all night) or simply volunteering to help are far more important than any ribbon to me at this point.

J: If you were to give an aspiring youth leader some advice, what would that advice be?

B: Enjoy every minute of every experience. I would also encourage them to be involved with more than just one program area; get involved in activities that involve helping youth experience this adventure to the best of their ability. Building community is utmost, and while fair week in particular can be challenging, it is also the culmination of a year long journey with friends.

J: Where do you go from here? What goals are you hoping to achieve in the next five or 10 years?

B: I plan to help as many youth as I can influence with their 4-H projects and experiences. I aspire to help them develop the skills they need to become a great leader by teaching them as much as I can, because that’s what my leaders have given me.

In addition to being an accomplished 4-H member, Welshans is also a blogger. You can learn more about her experiences in 4-H through her blog entry, “Dear 4-H, Thank You For….”

This article is one of a collection of articles featuring young leaders excelling in Michigan 4-H Youth Development programs hosted by Michigan State University Extension.

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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