A Michigan 4-Her’s journey to becoming a 4-H ambassador
The love for 4-H and family is in this 4-H teen leader’s genetics.
What does it take to be a 4-H teen leader? How do young people become leaders in their community? What role does family play in nurturing a young 4-H leader? The following is a story of one Michigan youth’s experience with 4-H.
Fifteen years ago, a little girl was born into a passionate 4-H family. Quickly, her parents realized their hopes for their daughter to carry on the family’s love for 4-H would not be diminished. Even though this story could be about many young girls born to extraordinary 4-H families across Michigan, this article is about a young leader, Alexandria Root, in Mason County, Michigan. The dedication to hard work, 4-H and community engagement is in Alexandria’s blood. She shares her journey on her 4-H path to being a Mason County 4-H Ambassador:
D’Ann (D): How did you become involved in 4-H?
Alexandria (A): 4-H was my grandfather’s life. He raised my father with the same love for 4-H and I remember hearing stories about how much fun 4-H was for them. My grandfather was the most intelligent person I have ever met. He attended Michigan State University and graduated with an engineer degree. Both my grandparents grew up in the Lansing area then moved to Iowa where they were involved in 4-H before moving back to the Kalamazoo area for an engineering job. My grandfather decided engineering wasn’t for him and moved to Ludington and opened a feed store. This was the early 70s. I remember him owning 400 sheep. So, of course, he helped create a 4-H Large Animal Council. My grandfather also held the president position on the fair board several times. He worked so hard on everything at the fair. The fair would not be what it is today without him and the other people or without 4-H. I worked so hard in 4-H because I wanted my grandfather to be proud of me; he passed away last November. At the funeral, people would say, “Your grandfather was so dedicated and his work ethic was what made our local fair grounds what they are today and 4-H was his passion.”
D: It sounds like your family played an important role in your involvement in 4-H. Tell me about your first 4-H experience?
A: My family always attended the county fair, but when I was 8 years old we got our first chickens. My father asked if I wanted to get involved in 4-H. He told stories about Exploration Days, Kettunen Center and showing at the county fair. His stories were amazing, so I decided I would like to be part of 4-H. My parents signed me up and we started attending Small Animal Council meetings every so often. I participated in my first fair where I showed chickens. After that I was hooked.
D: What made you hooked?
A: The entire experience. I do not do sports. I loved being judged, gaining knowledge and now teaching kids how to show.
D: So was this positive experience at fair what lead you to be on two local councils?
A: I became involved with Small Animal Council because they were looking for more kids to participate. I remember being at the meeting during elections and they were looking for someone to be president; I was the only youth old enough to hold a board position, according to the bylaws, so I was voted in as president at 12 years old. After that, I got hooked. I recently became involved with our county Advisory Council because our program coordinator encouraged me to attend. I love 4-H. I want to do anything I can to make it better.
D: What has been your greatest takeaway from your leadership experience?
A: My greatest takeaway is how I have learned so much from teaching someone else. I have grown so much in chicken showmanship because I teach about chickens. I have grown so much just from teaching other 4-H’ers.
D: If you were to give an aspiring youth leader some advice, what would that be?
A: Find a mentor! Find someone to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes it is scary to go outside your comfort zone, but it is part of life.
D: What are your future goals?
A: Well, one of my goals was to be a 4-H ambassador, which I just achieved this summer. That was important to me because I love talking about 4-H, l love when people ask me questions about 4-H. I just love 4-H. I plan to be a 4-H’er until I age out and then I will become a 4-H leader. 4-H is my life. I also plan to go to the Michigan State Fair, attend MSU and study human medicine.
Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program helps to prepare youth as positive and engaged leaders and global citizens by providing educational experiences and resources for youth interested in developing knowledge and skills in these areas. To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, civic engagement, citizenship and global/cultural programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.”