Creating a Better 4-H

When I think about 4-H, I think about a place that I found belonging in, somewhere that I could discover who I am, a place to learn, grow and make friends for a lifetime. Something that would change my life forever by teaching me what it meant to be a role model, a leader and exposing me to the topics that I would later become a passionate advocate for.  My 4-H community has been a place that I felt valued and surrounded with supportive people and positivity when the world outside of it did not feel the same. When my anxiety and depression were in a rough spot or school was just taking it out of me, 4-H was and is my happy. 

4-H is about using our heads, hearts, hands, and health to create a better future and teaching the next generation skills to do so. 4-H is about belonging, growth, and becoming a leader. Our taskforce embodies all of these and holds 4-H to its mission of being for all young people. 4-H is a place where you can ask yourself, “Do you know who you are?” and then shine and step into the light. 

My 4-H story begins as a shy middle schooler who absolutely loved animals. I was so excited and eager to start to learn about livestock, something that I never thought I would be able to do growing up in urban Fairfax County, VA. Throughout the majority of my time in 4-H, I took on local leadership opportunities at my club and county levels in the areas of leadership and agriculture. 

In the Fall of 2019, I took a jump and decided to attend my first ever state 4-H event, Teen Summit. Attending the summit opened my eyes to how much broader 4-H could be (even coming from a non-traditional urban 4-H program!). My passions for 4-H and what I would later define as equity and inclusion were now put together in such a magical way that I fell in love with.  

Throughout 2020 I became very close with my now taskforce co-founder, Alexa, and connected with the Washington 4-H Teen Equity and Inclusion Taskforce. I co-founded this group to help ensure that we have a 4-H program where all youth could find their place, no matter their gender identity, race, socio-economic status, or any other factors. While also lifting up youth voices and empowering other teens to create a robust youth-led movement. Holding each other accountable to 4-H’s mission, an organization that supports ALL youth.  

Through lots of brainstorms, late-night Discord calls fueled by some good music and laughter, conversations with VA 4-H leaders and friends from WA State, our group went from some crazy idea that Alexa and I dreamed up in the middle of a pandemic to an official state leadership group. A taskforce full of passionate individuals that I am so grateful to call my teammates and friends and forever proud of. 

Our taskforce believes that 4-H is a place that all youth should be able to shine, step into the light and know who they are. A place where they feel that they belong fosters empathy and understanding to treat people with kindness. A place where we’ll all belong, find a place to feel good in our skin, and be treated with kindness to make the best better for all, just as 4-H teaches us to.