Parker County 4-H ambassadors shared their experiences in gaining necessary life and leadership skills through the organization in honor of the upcoming 4-H Week, which will run Oct. 4-10.
“I pledge my head to clear thinking, my heart to loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world. This is the 4-H pledge I’ve been saying since I was 6-years-old and joined the Springcreek 4-H as a Clover Kid," Connor Cowdrey said. "I had no idea the impact that 4-H would have on my life and who I would become over the next 12 years and beyond — from attending meetings, being a club officer, showing livestock and participating in district contests and finally becoming a Parker County 4-H ambassador, I would have never had the opportunities to learn, grow and mature into the person I am today.”
Cowdrey said he learned his purpose throughout 4-H was much greater than participating in one project.
“4-H teaches us to step outside of our own club, to make a difference in the lives of those who may be in need or less fortunate than ourselves," he said. "Throughout recent years as a senior 4-H'er, I have had many opportunities to mentor and work with younger 4-Hers. It brings me great pleasure to see a young 4-Her become excited about their project and improve upon their skills as they learn and as they grow.
Cowdrey added that that leadership, like community service, allows him to focus helping others achieve their goals and improve their skill sets.
Kynlee Winkelman said many do not understand the amount of life skills 4-Hers absorb from participating in projects.
“Responsibility, effort, morals and dedication are skills that 4-H instills in our members," she said. "These are all experiences that we go through and things that we hold close in our hearts. Things like putting livestock before yourself every day, organizing your year around completion of a record book or coping under pressure are overlooked and outspoken to say the least. I’m proud to say today that we as 4-H are a community of youth across America who are earning knowledge in regards to leadership, citizenship and life skills to prepare us to march confidently through any door that life opens.
Winkelman said the opportunities she gained through 4-H helped shape her into who she is today and prepared her for many difficult situations as well as life.
“High school has never been easy for anyone, we all face challenges at one point or another," she said. "One thing that has helped me along the way is being able to reflect on my livestock project. When I walk into the show ring with a participation ribbon I hold my head high knowing that I completed my project independently and I had fun in the process.
"I use this same concept every day when I become discouraged about something. I tell myself to do my best and be proud of the effort I gave despite the outcome.”
Mariah Dyson said as she wraps up her final year in 4-H, she looks forward to the next chapter of her life with confidence and excitement.
“While there’s always going to be some stress when entering the next stage of life, I definitely feel more prepared because of the tools I’ve gained through 4-H," Dyson said. "The heart of the 4-H program is found by participating in the projects where we learn practical skills that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives. I’ve been taught discipline through my recording-keeping, animal nutrition through raising livestock and getting out of my comfort zone to try hard things such as public speaking.
“In 4-H we pledge to keep our minds filled with wholesome knowledge and we strive to pursue wisdom. Through 4-H projects and competition, I’ve had a multitude of opportunities to develop character. I’ve won a little, lost a lot and I’ve learned to be gracious and humble in both instances.
Dyson said the program has helped instill in her an importance of becoming a productive citizen and volunteering in her community.
"When I advocate for 4-H, the topic of leadership naturally arises because the 4-H program develops leaders by making the best better,” she said.
The Parker County commissioners court approved proclaiming Oct. 4-10 as 4-H Week in the county.
“I think it’s obvious the leadership and passion that these individuals show. We have been faced with uncertainty these past six months and I want to ensure [the commissioners court] that your Parker County 4-Hers didn’t stop working during that time,” Parker County Extension Agent for 4-H and Youth Development Kayla Neill said. “These young people organized drives for the local animal shelter, they built free little libraries for different businesses here locally. When we were unable to meet to help young people prepare for the livestock show, they started shooting instructional and educational videos to help those younger members or those that it was their first time to show gain knowledge in preparing for the show ring. I hope you are continually impressed with the young people that we produce in the 4-H program and I appreciate [the county’s] support.”
County Judge Pat Deen said impressed is an understatement.
“What a great example of leadership you’ve just shown from the 4-H youth development program,” Deen said. “It’s outstanding.”