Livingston County youth takes unique approach to leadership

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

Lansing youth Kendra Rocha and her dog Nova

Lansing youth Kendra Rocha and her dog Nova

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 Hartland native Kendra Rocha for example.

Rocha, 19, credits her enrollment in Michigan 4-H, a program of Michigan State University Extension, for helping her develop the discipline and confidence needed to pursue a future career working for a non-profit and eventually running for local and state government.

“My 4-H family kept me going after our family home burned down,” Rocha recalls. “Their support during that challenging time in my childhood made me want to help others. It taught me that, even when times are difficult, we can think of ways to give back. This began my passion for community service and development.”

Rocha also competes in pageants; with her platform “helping kids overcome homelessness,” a value she attributes to her 4-H experience.

Rocha took advantage of the breadth of programs 4-H offers, from science and agriculture to business and creative arts. Through the Awesome Paws club, she began working with and showing dogs when she was 12. But it was 4-H Capitol Experience, through which she got to see the workings of local and state government in action, that affirmed her decision to pursue a career in government.

“My 4-H mentor, Roxanne Turner, saw my talents and helped me develop them further,” Rocha says. “This shaped everything that I want to do, from volunteering to obtaining a college degree and using that knowledge to better communities.”

Rocha currently attends Grand Valley State University, where she is majoring in Human Resource Management and minoring in Public Administration and Political Science.

America needs more true leaders like Rocha who are 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.

“4-H mentors teach youth how to advocate for themselves to identify and take advantage of development opportunities in their communities,” says Rocha.

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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