Traverse City 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 Traverse City native Granite Winowiecki for example.

Winowiecki, 16, credits his enrollment in Michigan 4-H, a program of Michigan State University Extension, with helping grow his leadership skills and passion for volunteerism.

“One of the 4-H mottos is ‘Make the Best Better’ – and I took that to heart,” Winowiecki says. “4-H gave me amazing opportunities, and I try to use these experiences to give back to my community.”

Winowiecki took advantage of the breadth of programs 4-H offers, from science and agriculture to business and creative arts. His participation began with showing rabbits, and later lambs, which he said taught at an early age how to budget and market a product. He had many great 4-H experiences, but says teaching robotics and attending Citizenship Washington Focus, for which he spent a week in Washington, D.C. learning about government on both the state and national level, were among the most valuable. He plans to one day pursue a career in either politics or engineering.

Leelanau Livestock Lovers, Winowiecki’s 4-H club, was led by several mentors, including his mother, Laura Kirby. Each leader had a unique niche and helped members find a number of ways to better the community, from building a new show barn at the local fair to visiting retirement homes or participating in Toys for Tots, a program for which Winowiecki alone volunteered more than 70 hours.

“4-H is a lot like high school in the fact that, in the beginning, you participate in general activities to get a feel for them and decide which fit you best,” Winowiecki says. “As you progress, you get more involved in those that interest you most. You learn from your wins and your failures, and you grow in ways you never imagined. And that’s a wonderful thing.”

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.

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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