From a small seed grows a mighty oak

Community service: Youth gain leadership skills from government experience.

On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., with Citzenship Washington Focus, I was able to take some time to experience much of what our national capital has to offer. I visited the U.S. Capital Building, many of the monuments and war memorials, and a few of the museums on the mall. I also had the privilege to meet with Michigan’s representatives and senators. I even had the opportunity to tour the hollowed grounds of Gettysburg. These were all magnificent experiences and I felt honored to be an American, proud that we have maintained and promoted these treasures from our past to share with  future generations like the current members of 4-H. Although, one thing seemed to resonate again and again at these stops along our capital tour, it is that a smallvariance and diligent acts of helping others can make a big impact.

A soldier on a battlefield many miles from home makes a decision that turns the tide of a battle that turns the tide in the war. A small act of defiance, when one person refuses to sit in the back of a bus, fuels a movement.  A small town woman runs for a county seat, wins and now is an agent of change as a U.S. senator.  Or a small donation that snowballs into an educational enlightening institution that helps preserve our history and the heritage of other cultures. These seemingly small individuals or minor acts had such a large impact on our lives and in the development of our nation. And, there are countless other individuals that continue to do this.

While attending the 4-H youth conference in D.C., I toured with young adults (delegates from our state) and I couldn’t help but think who is going to be next? Who is going to be the catalyst of change? Is there one in this group that will be a major influence on our future? Is there a future leader among us? And then I realized they all have that potential and they all will share in shaping our future if they too diligently act to help others.

Michigan State University Extension can provide the opportunities for youth to help give back to the community and help cultivate skills to be future leaders and model citizens. Conflict Resolution, Economic Development, Global and Cultural Education, and Leadership and Civic Engagement are just a few areas that MSU Extension offers for youth and adults to get involved in their community. Citizenship Washington Focus is just one program in many Extension offerings. These programs, and programs like it, are the small seeds that are planted in the rich soil provided by experts in their fields at MSU. And, these fields are there to help our youth gain knowledge and understanding that they too are citizens, community members and future leaders that can make a difference. Communities will grow strong; as strong as an oak for future generations to lean upon and learn from, a monument grown from many small acts unselfishness.

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