Seven years ago, a friend of mine suggested that I join her 4-H group. Eventually, I was convinced and decided I would try joining the group and “test the waters” so to speak, in order to decide if I wanted to be a part of it permanently. To be honest, I didn’t go in knowing much about it or having very high expectations. I didn’t know if I would want to officially join, if I would event like the people in it, and I definitely didn’t know it would change my life.
I never would have imagined what an impact this program would have on me. I grew up afraid of my own shadow and I don’t think I said a word at the first meeting I went to. My silence didn’t last long. Since I’ve been in 4-H I have done things I never would have and come further than I could have ever imagined. It might sound cliche, but I don’t think I would be where I am today without my club. My group is nothing short of extraordinary. Small but mighty I believe is the expression. We might not be big but I have never seen any club as united and driven as ours. I have worked my way to being confident in myself to the point of leading our group as President for the second time. I have also been secretary, treasurer, and have extended my reach to Fairfield County 4-H Teen Fair Board as the member and then chair of the Workshops Committee. There isn’t a person in the program that I don’t absolutely adore.
The setting that 4-H provides is unparalleled. I have learned how to set goals and work towards achieving them each day. 4-H has taught me not only to be a good friend, role model, and citizen, but also to speak up for myself and not give up on anything. It seems like once I got the confidence to speak up through 4-H the floodgates opened. Today, in addition to 4-H, I am a part of my school’s Writing Center as a tutor, Art Club, Debate Club, Key Club, Big Brother/Big Sister, Spanish Honor Society, and National Honor Society. I have become not only proud of my accomplishments but proud of who I have become. Not only do I excel academically but I tutor and help others do the same. 4-H has made me more motivated, conscientious, driven and generally confident in myself. I tell others all the time that without this organization, I would still be sitting in the back of a classroom trying not to be seen.
These leadership experiences that I have acquired through 4-H have made it more likely for me to have a greater purpose in the future. I no longer picture my future as being one in which I will work under someone else’s thumb. BY leading a committee on the Fair Board and even heading my entire club, I have become a new person. I know how to organize projects, speak up and represent myself and others well, as well as speak tactfully while still communicating a message. I have even transferred the leadership skills. I have learned from 4-H to other areas of my life. I lead discussion in class, represent a side in debates, and have event become a tutor in my school’s Writing Center, helping kids who are often older than me with their assignments. I have been an editor for a school newspaper and yearbook, and participate in clubs where I contribute heavily to committees and discussion. Without 4-H I don’t think I would know how to be an effective leader and example for others.
Public Speaking was horrifying to me. I couldn’t even fathom how I would possibly be able to stand up in front of twenty people and speak. I was sure that I couldn’t do it. Even in classes at school when my grade was on the line I panicked if I had to speak. Today, I can proudly say that I have been in the public speaking honor group four times. Not only is this a huge honor that proved to others I was capable, but it proved to me that I could do anything I set my mind to. My latest speech was about introverted confidence and how you really don’t need to be loud and forceful to be thought of as confident. I have been invited to present this speech to another 4-H group because it might help others to believe in themselves just a little bit more. I have never been more proud of a presentation that that one. I was thrilled to be able to advocate for the club that I believe gave me a voice.
I always knew that community service was important. I genuinely care about others and my parents constantly told me how important it was to care about something bigger than myself. The problem was, I was scared to even go help out at events by myself. Then, 4-H came along and made me go with my club and help someone else. We did the Rake N’Bake and cleaned up leaves in the yard of an elderly person and I will never forget the smile that we got from the recipient of this small act of kindness. Later we handmade dog bandanas to sell and raise money for a local animal shelter. I remember thinking that all I wanted to do was keep helping and finding new causes to support. Before I knew it, I was taking on leadership roles within community service even without my club. I became a counselor for the Brookfield Vacation Bible School and had thirteen kindergarten kids to take care of and be responsible for. I cannot explain the feeling of seeing the smiles on their faces when I danced with them or let them throw water balloons at me. I would have given anything to see those smiles, even if it meant a thousand piggy back rides. Since 4-H game me some courage I began to talk more in class and participate, which got me recruited for the Writing Center. I began to tutor and at times had five students waiting in line for help on essays. The feeling is inexplicable when you know that you are helping someone achieve their own goals. Community service is what I love to do because I can be proud of the difference I make.
As a result of my leadership experiences I have run into some problems. While I have learned to stand up for myself and have a bigger voice, this comes at a price. The more we involve ourselves the more we interact with others in good and bad ways. I have had to fight for leadership positions against friends and sometimes have felt the burden of knowing that I deprived someone else of something they really wanted. I have also unfortunately run into more competition with these friends. When everyone wants to be heard and feel important in a club or class, it is truly a hard task for me to separate feelings and my own desires. Sometimes I feel the need to back down to avoid crossing a friend. However, 4-H has also taught me that I deserve to achieve anything I have earned just as much as anyone else. Real friends won’t risk the relationship for a title. During community service, I have run into problems with emotions I feel when I hear of other’s intentions during an activity. I have listened to others speak of how they need community service hours and don’t actually want to be doing the task at hand. This truly makes me sad and is a big problem for me. I feel like I don’t want to be working side by side with people who have no desire to be helping someone else. Nevertheless, my outlook on this situation is simply to show these people the joys of citizenship and change their perspective on lending a helping hand. Regardless of the problems I have faced due to my leadership and citizenship experiences, I have learned to focus on myself and if I am doing what I believe and know is the right thing to do.
There are many things that I can still learn to improve my leadership abilities and myself in general. I think the biggest thing for me to remember is to always be learning and bettering myself. The 4-H slogan is “learn by doing” and I definitely live by it. Even in my classes, there is always something more to learn and strive to understand. 4-H has taught me that I should always try to be the best I can be and do what is right for me. I can still be a better speaker and work on this important skill. I can also work on becoming even more confident. Although 4-H has made my confidence sky rocket from where it once was, I think I still have timid tendencies that could be reduced to make me an even stronger leader. Regardless of the lessons I still have to learn, the value of learning and developing is an extremely important life lesson that I might not have learned had I not joined my club.
In the future I have big dreams for myself. I want to go to a good college and hopefully have a career in the science or math field. The skills I have learned in 4-H will be invaluable when I move on to the next phase of my life. Since having leadership roles in my club and fair board, I am not afraid to speak up and manage a group. I know how to hear everyone’s ideas and be open to those that are different than mine. I have also been taught how to make a schedule and stick to it, as well as run a proper meeting and an organized event. These skills will help me get into a good college, get a good job, and get promotions in the future. I am so excited for everything that I can now strive for, and I have to thank 4-H for giving me the courage I desperately needed. Also, in the future I want to focus on always looking to better someone else’s life. I never want community service to be less of a priority and I want my future kids to have these same values. Citizenship will never cease to be important to me. The experiences I have had in 4-H and the opportunities my club pushed me to take have shaped the person I am today and will continue to shape my future.
When I joined 4-H seven years ago I learned that it is a “global network of youth organizations” looking to help kids reach their potential. This is not what it is to me. 4-H has become a second family for me, a motivator, a brighter future, and a more amazing experience than I could have even imagined. I have truly “learned by doing” and I now know how to be myself, to lead, to be a role model, and to dream big because now I know nothing is out of reach. I believe in 4-H and everything it stands for and I am so appreciative of the opportunities it creates for myself and so many others. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this program is nothing short of life-changing.
By Hailey Osika