Alcona County youth takes unique approach to leadership

4-H proven to empower area youth through life skill development.

Alcona County youth Alex Stephenson.

Alcona County youth Alex Stephenson.

It’s no secret that today’s youth feel pressure. Pressure to excel in school, to go to college, to get a job, etc. How they overcome those pressures, is a true testament to their character. Take Barton City native Alex Stephenson for example.

Stephenson, 16, credits his enrollment in Michigan 4-H, a program of Michigan State University Extension, to helping him overcome adversity and build confidence along the way. The life skills taught through 4-H helped Stephenson learn to work with others, overcome challenges and complete jobs once he started them, a lesson Stephenson learned early in his 4-H career.

“When I think of overcoming challenges, one story comes to mind. My chicken was disqualified by a judge for being over the market club’s weight limit,” explains Stephenson. “I didn’t agree with the rule and ended up getting everyone on board to change the bylaws. It was major accomplishment for me in 4-H.”

 Stephenson took advantage of the breadth of programs 4-H offers, from science and agriculture to business and creative arts. In addition to chickens, he shows turkeys and pigs and serves on the county’s 4-H council.

“4-H has really improved my public speaking,” says Stephenson. “I had to give a speech in front of my whole school, and I was comfortable and confident doing that. 4-H helped give me the confidence to share what I know with others. I can’t stress enough how much 4-H has helped me in so many different situations.”

America needs more true leaders focused on today’s challenges, as well as the issues of tomorrow. A recent survey by National 4-H Council found that 71 percent of today’s youth view leadership as something they can practice and improve over time. But those same youth need supportive adults to help them along the way.

4-H brings a community together to grow true leaders in today’s youth – helping build confidence, teamwork, curiosity and resilience.

“Les Thomas, with our county’s Michigan State University Extension office, motivates me to be more involved,” says Stephenson. “He puts everything he has into making 4-H better. It doesn’t matter to Les if kids are 4-H’ers or not, he opens up to them and includes the whole community.”

Any child can grow with 4-H, an organization that has something for every interest. But 4-H is always looking for adult volunteers and funding to help expand their reach and empower young people through doing. For more information about Michigan 4-H programs and volunteering opportunities, visit the Michigan State University Extension website. 

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