Kent County youth takes unique approach to leadership

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

Kent County youth, Emily Kropf.

Kent County youth, Emily Kropf.

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 Lowell native Emily Kropf for example.

Kropf, 16, credits her enrollment in Michigan 4-H, a program of Michigan State University Extension, with helping her overcome adversity and build confidence along the way. The life skills taught through 4-H helped Kropf learn to work with others, overcome challenges and complete jobs once she starts them.

Kropf takes advantage of the breadth of programs 4-H offers, including science, agriculture, and crafts, but focuses much of her efforts on showing her two dogs, Amber and Luc.

“I had no idea eight years ago I would have come this far,” said Kropf. “The first year of 4-H I had such a hard time training my rambunctious Labrador puppy, Amber. I would need new jeans every week due to grass stains trying to keep up with Amber during practice. Now, I can’t believe it, but we are working off leash and competing at the highest level at our fair.”

Today, Kropf helps out with younger members, serves with her mom as treasurer of Working Paws 4-H Club and is involved in FFA and other community projects.

“When I joined 4-H I was very shy and didn’t speak up for myself as often as I should,” said Kropf. “As I learned the ropes I began to gain confidence. Being around so many powerful, positive environments helped me blossom.”

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. According to Kropf, the leaders and other members of her club are like a family.

“My 4-H leader Gail Roderick works so hard to help us achieve our goals and treats us all like her children,” said Kropf. “She grew up showing in Working Paws 4-H Club. Sarah Fosburg and Emma Roderick are also volunteers with our group and have been my supporters and mentors through it all. I call them my sisters. Gail, Sarah and Emma are always there for me.”

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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