By Karen Martin
Cameron Parish class of 1994
In her 4-H club in Cameron Parish, Kimberly Sturlese Seymour learned to lead. As the president of her club and a winner of 4-H Short Course, Seymour developed skills that would benefit her as the chief accounting officer of LHC Group Inc., a hospice and home health care company in Lafayette.
“Being involved in 4-H allowed me to gain the confidence and professionalism needed to be successful in the business world,” Seymour said. “It taught me the value of a strong voice, positive attitude and hard work. Nothing could prepare a young adult better for a bright future.”
Concordia Parish class of 2001
Despite growing up in a small town, Maurice Gipson found opportunities to broaden his horizons through 4-H. Those experiences set him on a path which led to his role as the Vice Chancellor for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity at the University of Missouri where he works to create an inclusive environment for all.
“My experience in 4-H was truly transformational. The ability to work with 4-Hers from around the state and around the country aided me greatly during my leadership journey,” Gipson said. “Coming from a rural parish, I did not have access to many of the advantages of an urban city. Yet, 4-H helped level the playing field. Louisiana 4-H exposed me to leadership opportunities that I would have never imagined. 4-H taught a rural kid from Ferriday, that no matter where you come from, you can still have a chance at success.”
St. Bernard Parish class of 2008
Gary Decossas joined 4-H in elementary school and has fond memories of raising and showing chickens, growing a garden, attending 4-H camp and making lifelong friends with people from around the state and the country.
“My time spent at 4-H University in the summertime was incredible and paved my way to go to LSU for my undergraduate and graduate studies,” Decossas said. “The wetland science programs and Marsh Maneuvers contributed immensely to my past and current line of work in the coastal and oceanographic sciences.”
Now Decossas uses those skills in his work as a mathematical statistician for the National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Center, Commercial Observer Program. There he develops surveys to monitor commercial fisheries’ bycatch, or species caught unintentionally, in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic.
St. Martin Parish class of 1976
After her time spent in 4-H in her school years, Alice Lynette LeDoux-Abraham was chosen to participate in an International 4-H Youth Exchange in 1981 to Barbados. To launch her career, she joined the Louisiana National Guard as a medic and has since retired from the Army as a major.
“The spark 4-H started in me became a torch which led to my involvement in my country and my world,” LeDoux-Abraham said. “4-H started me on a path where I always did my best. I incorporated the methods used for demonstrations into my college and military briefings.”
Lafayette Parish class of 1999
Saul Dupuis focused his 4-H student journey on livestock and leadership. He is now a sales manager for the spirits and wine wholesaler Republic National Distributing and owns Gourmet Road Sauce Company which specializes in locally made barbecue sauces.
“4-H was a huge part of my life growing up. It taught me the value of hard work and dedication to a project. Through my judging teams experience, I also was able to learn to shape my public speaking ability which has greatly helped my career in sales.”
Vernon Parish class of 2009
Charles Koch first decided to give 4-H a try in high school and quickly discovered the opportunities beyond simply growing animals and plants. He gravitated toward leadership positions, work as a camp counselor and service as a local volunteer. Those early influences led to him attending the United States Military Academy and a career as a U.S. Army Officer currently serving in the Republic of Korea.
“I embraced the 4-H pledge, and my love for 4-H sparked the kindling that grew into my passion for service after introducing me to civic involvement and leadership at an early age.” Koch said. “I am forever in a debt of gratitude to the Vernon Parish 4-H program because it undoubtedly shaped me into the person I am today. I still find myself committing my head, heart, hands, and health to my community, my country, and my world.”
Vermilion Parish class of 1996
During Tamika Ann Webb’s time in 4-H, she was drawn to the topics of public speaking and entomology. Those interests eventually found her taking first place wins in competitions at the local, district and national levels. She now owns and manages a thriving skin care line and medical aesthetics skin care institute.
“4-H is the reason that I was able to lift myself and my entire family out of poverty. It was a safe space in my home,” Webb said. “I am eternally grateful for everything that I was taught and experienced in 4-H and grateful for Mr. Andrew Granger who spent an immense amount of his personal time shaping my life.”
Winn Parish class of 2018
During her time in the Winn Parish 4-H program, Samantha Taylor was a member of the fashion board, served as a delegate for the National 4-H Congress, and traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend both the National Youth Summit on Healthy Living and the Citizenship Washington Focus, which is the National 4-H Council’s premier leadership and civic engagement experience for high school students. She is now working on her Master of Business Administration at Louisiana Tech University.
“My years of involvement in the Louisiana 4-H program provided incredible opportunities to grow as a young adult while being supported by intentional mentors and supportive peers” Taylor said. “4-H remains one of the most impactful organizations I have ever been a part of because of the significant growth I experienced.