Youth Voices in 4-H Committees
June 17, 2021
Six youth from around the state of Michigan talk about their experiences working with 4-H committees, and what skills they gained from these experiences.
I think serving on these leadership roles at the county level shaped who I am in many, many different ways. Because before you can go to the state level and do all these cool things that we talk about. You have to be able to practice and learn a little bit about yourself. And the county level is a great place to do that. When I was in middle school, I was pretty shy. I was not much into you know, talking or engaging in those meetings. But it was the county level events and things that I did that really helped me get out of my shell. It was those mentors at the county level who really helped me see who I could be as a leader and who I could be as a 4-H member. And it was also really valuable because it took what I was interested in at the time. So my chickens and my rabbits in middle school was all about my poultry and my rabbits and helps me apply it to leadership and other things. Those really important soft skills that we know 4-H teaches. But might not necessarily be super exciting for a kid to want to learn about in the beginning, it gave me an avenue to learn those things. So I would say my involvement at the county level has really shaped who I am. Because a lot of people that I work with at the county level, are volunteers, like myself or members. So it's more of a friendship than a professional working relationship, which makes it really unique. So this group has really helped me develop better social and leadership skills. These leadership skills have shaped who I am through many ways including getting a job and encouraging others. These roles helped me shape who I am by helping me gain the confidence to go out and apply for a job. I currently work at McDonald's and there I am able to speak out for to help make sure that everything works smoothly. Serving in these leadership roles has really allowed me to build my confidence and expand my horizons. It's allowed me to build my confidence through being a better person and learning just what being a leader is. This will be shown by me running for president for our Madison Hosta Chapter. Expanding my horizons has been through looking at my community and seeing what can I do better and what can I help other people with? Serving in these leadership roles has shaped who I am today by making me a creative, innovative, on-my-feet thinker and leader. When being a part of these advisory groups, a lot of things don't go as planned. Something I know a lot of us are experiencing right now. I have planned clinics where our main speaker canceled last-minute, fair last year where we had to get a sheep judge the day before show because our other judge couldn't make it, or simply having to make quick decisions about what would benefit our county the most. These experiences have allowed me to think in new and imaginative ways, something I wasn't able to do before being a part of these advisory groups. In addition, I've learned how to collaborate with others in an efficient way to create new opportunities for the youth in our county. Some skills that I've gained through that experience includes being hardworking, dedicated, and motivated. The skills that I'm using today that I gained from these experiences is leadership and the ability to speak in front of others. Because I have to speak in front of large groups of people, it's given me the confidence to do so in a group project. If there isn't a leader or somebody to speak up, I'm able to do that if need be. This experience has really helped me be a motivated leader. It's helped me drive toward success every single day, drive for success for myself and for the people I'm helping. This can be seen as me taking contests as a freshman, and just going around and seeing if anyone needs help. And what I can do better, through academics and through sports. Today, I'm still a quick creative thinker and leader and can apply those skills in the classroom and my everyday life. In addition, I have been equipped with a toolbox full of skills ranging from how to plan an event to how to find middle ground during a disagreement. I've also become a stronger person overall and know how to communicate with others in a professional manner. These skills will follow me throughout my life, and it's thanks to being a part of these advisory groups that I have learned these skills so early on. So I'm actually using quite a few of the things that I learned at my county level advisory boards. I'm applying a lot of those things I learned in my college career and in internships and work. I'm using a lot of those things. And the first thing I would say that I'm using is facilitation skills. So the county level is kind of interesting because the decisions you make on your respective boards really can affect how everyone moves and how it works and it affects everyone. And a lot of people have strong opinions about it. So the advisory boards were really good for me to learn how to facilitate. Because there was a lot to facilitate. And I feel confident coming out of some of those committee meetings when I was president of my small animal committee, I feel confident that, you know, hey, I made it out of that one and I was able to facilitate that. I can, you know, I can deal with this problem I have here. It was a good place for me to practice facilitation. The other interesting thing that I think I learned at the county level, on my advisory boards, a lot, was knowing how to be very intentional about social structures. And, I got a lot of practice watching people and learning things and observing things. And applying that to how it was as a leader. And it was a really good way for me to see like, oh, okay. You see this person over here has this problem and they're kinda back-biting over here. And we see how this kind of snowballed into this big deal over here. And that I think is especially pronounced at the advisory level and the county level. And it was really, really good for me to learn that. So when I got jobs, I can know like okay, you know, I've seen how this social situation goes before. I'm going to avoid doing A, B or C. So I think that was really important and I still use that. But then there's also a really practical aspect to what I learned at the county level versus what you learned bigger, like state boards and everything. Very practical things of if your club wants to get t-shirts. How do you order T-shirts? How do you find the best deal on this or that? Then doing that all by yourself too. I can't even imagine how many things I have learned about budgeting and taxes and insurance and all that stuff by just sitting in on our council or committee meetings and not necessarily always understanding all of it, but at least absorbing little bits. And just really getting that function for how these different groups work and how that applies to businesses and other groups that you're in. So I learned a lot of very practical things that I still use that I don't think I could have learned in the same way if it wasn't for the county level advisory boards that I was on. So yeah. A lot of important things. These committees would still be valuable to me if not connected to the fair, because I have gained so much useful knowledge through them. These committees would still be helpful to others if, even if they weren't part of the fair. Because it would allow others to be able to speak up and be a leader in their personal groups, such such as their football team or any other sports team, or any other extra curricular activity. These committees have really allowed me to develop and comprehend what it means to be a great leader. These have allowed me to understand what it takes to be the leader of tomorrow. As youth in our county, we kinda wanted to come together and create a better place where we can not only voice our opinions, but help plan events. Since we're the ones that have to take part in these events, we want to make them not only educational, but fun. Throughout this pandemic, it's been difficult to plan fun events. It's hard to have fun over Zoom, but we've made it work. And we had a virtual showmanship clinic earlier this - this past year. And we kind of all came together And we picked people that we thought were some of the top showmen for each species. And then we each held our own zoom, and we showed our animal, and we represented how you're supposed to show that animal. And it was pretty successful. We had people from all over the place come and watch us. And it was really kind of fun. Then we ended up having a costume contest that we held over Facebook. We all posted pictures. Or, we had pictures posted of our animals dressed up and we had people vote. Another really, really cool thing that we actually did, was we had a virtual feed clinic. And so we got a representative from Kalmbach Formula of Champions who came and showed us, you know, good feed plans to put your animals on. And it was very interesting, very educational, but it was, it was fun and it was enjoyable to watch. Another really cool thing that we've actually taken on recently is we're redoing our record keeping books. So since the youth have to fill them out we kind of want them to be something that we enjoy filling out. You know, somewhere we're going to actually learn stuff about our animals and we're going to be able to fill it out accordingly. So we redid them. We looked at every, different counties, or we looked at a lot of different counties' layouts. And we were like, oh, we like that. So we brought it together and we composed a nice book that we all enjoy. So it's been really cool and I'm very grateful that I get to take part in this council. So thank you. I acknowledge that it is a difficult time for these kind of advisory groups, especially when many can't be connected to fair. However, you are still valuable. Remember that fair isn't the "end-all be-all." 4-H is about learning by doing and making our best better. And that's exactly what your advisory groups can do. Try having a virtual learning experience. Your group could work to find expert guest speakers on a variety of subjects ranging from livestock nutrition to showmanship to fitting. You could also provide contactless activities for the youth in your county that are focused on small and large animals. Maybe it's putting on a virtual show for your county, or even just getting all the livestock showman together to have a virtual game night. There's so many amazing opportunities that aren't related to fair that your advisory group can provide for the county to have fun and grow. Use your creative tool set to think outside the box. You are important and you are valuable to the education, engagement of youth in their projects year round. There are tons of ways that these advisory boards, I think are important even when they're disconnected from the fair. We all know that 4-H is not the fair. But it's sometimes hard to see that in practice, but I've seen it in my own county in so many ways. I think of some of the best memories I have at the county level of things that I got to do. And some of them are connected to fair, for sure, but a lot of them actually weren't. For example, our county had a goat Quiz Bowl team and a rabbit Quiz Bowl team. And we would meet weekly, had nothing to do with the fair. We would go to the 4-H competition in East Lansing. It was separate from the fair. And I had so much fun at those meetings, learned so much and those are some of my, you know, best memories in 4-H. It was something that wasn't necessarily connected to the fair, but was still a county level thing. And I think it's also really important because if you want to move on to do the really cool things that the state has to offer. You have to start somewhere. I would not have been able to do different things with the State Youth Leadership Council or the Michigan 4-H Foundation. I wouldn't have been able to do that if I hadn't had a good foundation at the county level with Livingston of, you know, sort of sanding over those rough bumps of my leadership skills of learning how to facilitate, learning how to do A-B-C. So I think there are a lot of ways that counties can be really valuable, separate from the fair.