Mecosta County youth takes unique approach to leadership

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

Rebecca Herzog with her Grand Champion Steer at the 2015 Mecosta County Fair
Rebecca Herzog with her Grand Champion Steer at the 2015 Mecosta County Fair

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 Paris native Rebecca Herzog for example.

Herzog, 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 Herzog learn to work with others, overcome challenges and complete jobs once she started them.

Herzog took advantage of the breadth of programs Michigan 4-H offers, from science and agriculture to business and creative arts, but spends most of her time focused on livestock, including horses, cattle, pigs, goats, lambs and rabbits.

 “4-H has made me more confident,” said Herzog. “I no longer have any problems speaking with other people. It also teaches responsibility and how to lead by example. I think to be a true leader you have to help others reach their goals. I feel like if I can make one person’s day better, I have done my job.”

Through 4-H, Herzog participates in many volunteer and community improvement projects. She helped lead the Pillow Case Challenge, an effort to make pillow cases for local homeless shelters, in Mecosta County. She has also given time as a 4-H camp counselor. Additionally, she enjoys volunteering with Proud Equestrian Program (PEP), which is a horseback riding program for kids with disabilities.

“When I first started with PEP, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” said Herzog. “But I have found that there is no greater joy than watching the participants ride. You create such a bond with the rider. It’s really amazing.”

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.

“My mom, Trudy Herzog, is my 4-H leader,” said Herzog. “She is a really great role model. She pushes me to do better, even when I want to quit. She is always one step ahead and constantly coming up with new ideas to improve the knowledge of everyone in the club.”

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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