4-H Offers Chances to Lead

Amanda Simmons  |  3/10/2015 7:23:04 PM

Amanda J. Simmons is the Lincoln Parish 4-H Agent with the LSU AgCenter.

I pledge my head to clearer thinking
My heart to greater loyalty
My hands to larger service
And my health to better living
For my club
My community
My country
And my world.

The 4-H Pledge is said by many 4-H youth numerous times each year. If we ask our youth to make this pledge we must be willing to provide these youth the opportunity to fulfill the pledge they make. To do this, we need to allow our youth a chance to voice their opinion about their needs as citizens and to listen to their opinions. We, as adults, consistently search for ways to encourage youth to be involved in the community they are being trained up to lead someday, become active stewards of the environment, and to instill a value in them for good citizenship to ensure well-being for not only themselves but for all citizens of their community.

A community is a group of interacting individuals sharing a populated environment where there is joint ownership and/or participation. This environment includes not only their local surroundings but their state, nation, and world as well. It is our responsibility as adults to offer youth an opportunity to have a voice in decision making affecting their community. We need to be sure that we are not just pretending to listen to youth voice but exhibit practices that prove we are truly hearing what our youth are saying and follow through with action that shows we value youth voice and that they can make a difference. 4-H, as the number one youth development organization in the world, does an excellent job of encouraging youth voice and actually implementing suggested plans from youth to foster their leadership skills, life skill development, and active involvement in citizenship. 4-H does this in many ways and through many different methods.

For 4-H teen members that are 7th though 12 grade, we offer the 4-H Jr. Leadership Club. 4-H Jr. Leaders are youth volunteers that are involved in community service, leadership, and program growth. Our Jr. Leaders participate in community events like the Ruston Junior Auxiliary Dinner and a Movie. They set up a booth with games to share research based educational information with children and adults on the subjects of healthy lifestyles and anti-bullying. They also participate in service learning projects. This year they made dog toys and raised funds for donation to local no kill animal shelters. These are just a couple of the many local events that they volunteer for. The 4-H Jr. Leaders also volunteer at Lincoln Parish 4-H events to assist the younger 4-H members during these events and are actively involved in growing the 4-H program.

4-H is committed to developing leadership skills in youth beyond the local level as well. More than 100 youth serve on one of six statewide youth leadership teams, including the Executive Board, Fashion Board, Food and Fitness Board, SET (Science, Engineering, and Technology) Board, Shooting Sports Ambassadors, Citizenship Board, and Performing Arts Troup. These leadership boards provide valuable leadership and guidance to the positive direction of the 4-H program.

Results from a survey of youth who have served on these boards indicated the following:

    100% were able to think independently.
    100% have a positive feeling about their future.
    100% mastered skills related to the board they served on.
    97% increased subject matter knowledge related to the board they served on.
    97% mastered leadership skills.
    97% improved their ability to communicate with others.
    95% increased their organizational and planning skills.
    91% felt their voice were valued.
    89% increased their public speaking skills.
    91% increased their decision making skills.

Board members said:

“I met so many new people, and I felt that my voice and ideas were really heard. It was the greatest leadership experience yet.”

“As a result of serving on a leadership board, I am definitely a more confident person.”

“I had the opportunity to help out my parish’s 4-H program from my knowledge gained from the board. This includes using my leadership skills, teaching younger students about my experiences on the board and using my public speaking skills that I attained from the board by serving as a junior leader at parish events.”

State 4-H Board hopefuls must fill out an application and go through an interview process to be considered as a state 4-H board member. Lincoln Parish 4-H is proud to have two of our teen 4-H Jr. Leaders involved with these state boards. Zoria Findley from Ruston High School serves on the State 4-H Fashion Board and Devin Rowland from Ruston High School is a 4-H State Shooting Sports Ambassador. We look forward to adding more of our Lincoln Parish 4-H Jr. Leaders to State 4-H Boards for the upcoming year.

Get your teens involved. Give your teens a voice. Give your teens leadership experience. Call the 4-H Office at 318-251-5134 to find out how to enroll them in the number one youth development organization in the world – 4-H.

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