The National 4-H Youth Advisory Committee is a group of 11 passionate 4-H alumni who work alongside National 4-H Council to promote the 4-H program. We represent a wide variety of 4-H leadership experiences, from agriculture and fashion to healthy living and STEM, and our career aspirations are equally diverse. Yet we all have one thing in common: 4-H made a difference in our lives. As former 4-H’ers, we know the powerful impact that the program has in the lives of those it touches, providing young people with the life skills they need to become confident, compassionate, and well-rounded leaders.
It’s our chance to give back. This month, we are launching our first digital fundraising campaign, inviting our friends and family to raise their hands and help us bring life-changing 4-H experiences to more youth around the nation. Why? Because 4-H played a significant role in shaping us as leaders.
4-H helped me become the person I am today. As a shy eleven-year-old homeschooled student, the thought of speaking in front of people terrified me. I was always told I could follow my dreams, but I doubted that I had the confidence to do so. I was often slow to make friends, and struggled to find groups of peers where I fit in.
That is, until I joined a local 4-H sewing club in a rural county in North Carolina. In addition to learning how to sew, which I had wanted to try but up until then hadn’t had the opportunity, I was immediately surrounded by a group of people who treated me as family. I suddenly found my place, and with that came a self-assuredness I didn’t know I lacked.
Within a year, 4-H had become so much more than just sewing. 4-H inspired me to do. From the encouragement of my newfound friends, I found myself (against all odds) trying out public speaking competitions. From the confidence that grew there, I began seeking opportunities to give back through leadership and community service opportunities, as well as any projects that challenged me to learn something new. Through these experiences and the positive mentors I had along the way, I discovered my passion not only for learning, but also for teaching. I found that I absolutely loved being able to use my voice to share about things I cared about. When it came time for college, I was able to take the life skills I had developed through 4-H and apply them wholeheartedly in the pursuit of my dream, which is to harness that passion for teaching and serving others and channel it into teaching college-level mathematics.
I owe my empathy towards others, my positive worldview, my success in college, my love of learning, and the discovery of my passions to 4-H, and as a 4-H volunteer, I continue to witness its positive impact, watching quiet kids become powerful public speakers, timid students become confident leaders, and complete strangers become like family. Every new experience reinforces my belief in this program and its power to change lives.
Sadly, too many young people today don’t share my story. Studies show that only one in three young people says they have the skills they need to be prepared to lead, and half of all high school students report that they aren’t prepared to lead in their life after high school…for either college or a career. However, with the new challenges that face our nation every day, there is so much potential for our bright young people to be a part of the solution…if only given the opportunity and the skills they need. We can help.
Please join me in raising your hand. You can play an active role in giving more kids the experiences that will help them grow the skills they need for life today and leadership tomorrow. Even $5 makes an enormous difference, and $20 is enough to support one additional 4-H’ers experience. When you give, 60% of your donation will support the 4-H Grow True Leaders campaign to grow 4-H nationwide; 20% will directly support North Carolina 4-H, the program that impacted me; and 20% will support the YAC Cause for 2018: helping the Puerto Rico 4-H program that is still recovering after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. I hope you’ll consider helping me give back to the program that played such an important role in my life and can do the same for countless others.
Thank you for helping me make the best better!
Anna Marie Vagnozzi
National 4-H Council Youth Advisory Member