Whether you are a current or former 4-H member, 4-H parent or a 4-H leader, we’d love to hear about your 4-H experiences! Send stories about your successes, your challenges, and the kind of difference that 4-H makes (or made!) in your life to Shirley.firstname.lastname@example.org. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, so feel free to send pictures, too, and be sure to let us know if it’s okay to use them in 4-H educational materials and publications.
How 4-H Helped Me
by Kristen Bumcrot
Six years ago I sat on a bench, next to my 4-H llama project at the Clark County Fair, discussing college plans with some of the parents in my 4-H club. I had shown llamas through 4-H since the fourth grade, and was about to start my senior year in high school. Little did I know how often I would use the lessons I learned through working with both people and animals. From deciding what to do with my life, to making it through college, 4-H has had more of an impact on my life than any other activity and I highly encourage youth and parents alike to stay involved with the program.
I considered several options for life after high school, including enlisting in the army, going to a normal college, and going to West Point. During my time in 4-H, I had learned the importance of helping others, whether it be your peers or your community, and I wanted to make this part of my future. So, I had pretty much decided that even if I went to a college without military ties, I would enroll in ROTC, so that when I graduated I could have spot secured in the military.
4-H also taught me to enjoy a challenge. I may not have been great at something, but that didn’t mean I would not get better. So, I decided to choose the path that would be the most challenging. I applied to the United States Military Academy at West Point. This ended up being a huge challenge. I did not get in to West Point right after high school, but I went to New Mexico Military Institute for a year and applied again. This time I was accepted.
Now that I am getting ready to graduate next semester and begin my career as a second lieutenant in the US Army, I realize how my 4-H experiences have helped me get to this point. It taught me responsibility, something that is needed by all adults.
4-H also taught me a little about leadership and a lot about self-confidence. Developing these skills has made my learning experience at West Point much easier. Had I not gotten the confidence that speaking to the public at the fair and other events gave me, I probably would have quit the first time I was grilled by an upperclassmen for not knowing what was on the front page of the newspaper (This is one of the duties of a freshman or Plebe). Instead of freaking out, I knew that if I did not want that situation to happen again I would just have to be better prepared.
I think the biggest leadership lesson 4-H taught me was leading by example. As junior in 4-H, I always looked up to the older kids, and eventually I became one of the older kids. I always wanted to do more or try a new project because the “big kids” were. This may seem too simple to work in real leadership, but I found that it is the most important part. As a sophomore or yearling you are responsible for one or two freshmen. This means making sure they know what they need to, that they have everything they need, and trying to keep them out of trouble. From watching my peers and my subordinates, it definitely showed in the ones who didn’t set a good example. This was a leadership lesson I learned growing up in 4-H, that some of my classmates were still figuring out.
Looking back on it, I owe a lot to my parents and 4-H leaders who encouraged me to stay with it. They gave me countless hours of help with projects, rides to meetings and the fair, and the resources I needed to participate in 4-H. Any kid with the opportunity to get involved with 4-H should do so, and parents should endorse the venture. I know that I plan on doing so, should the opportunity arise.