We continue to share the amazing stories of adults who credit their experience and life lessons learned in 4‑H for influencing their lives and careers today. In this month’s Alumni Spotlight, we feature Ph.D. candidate and former California 4‑H’er Ariel Rivers.
Ariel’s 10-year involvement in 4‑H has inspired a life in agriculture. Currently, she is a Borlaug Fellow in Global Food Security for Pennsylvania State University’s College of Agriculture Science. She has previously worked in various positions within the Cooperative Extension System and agriculture sector: as an intern in Yolo County, California; as an AmeriCorps member in Clark County, Washington; and as a researcher at Pennsylvania State University in Centre County, Pennsylvania.
“In our county, we were required to be in the county-wide leadership project to serve on [camp] staff,” she explains, “and it was in that project that I cultivated many of my lasting friendships. I attribute a lot of the development of my personality to camp, as well.” Ariel notes that it was at camp, specifically, where she was challenged to explore, socialize, be creative, and learn about her environment.
Today, Ariel says it was the constant collaboration enforced in 4‑H that defined her personality as an adult.
“Many people think of me as an incredibly enthusiastic individual, constantly looking for ways to help others and make a difference,” says Ariel. “I think so much of this comes from the early lessons we learned showing animals and at camp, as everything was a collaborative effort in a happy and supportive environment. Establishing this community based approach to everything has been so important to me as an adult; it’s the only reason I am able to do the work I am able to do now. Even though we were inherently competing in showing our animals, it never felt that way, and 4‑H was such a safe environment where we could learn and grow and become the best versions of ourselves.”
When it comes to the life lessons she has learned, Ariel refers back the 4‑H Pledge.
“I think the 4‑H pledge is permanently instilled in me,” she says. “I am currently a doctoral student in Entomology and International Agriculture, studying sustainable agricultural systems and the conservation of insect and spider biodiversity. One has to think clearly to be in school as long as I have! (I pledge my head to clearer thinking…)
“I am incredibly loyal to my family and friends, and to my work and the institutions I represent. I think as a former 4‑H’er, it is important to represent the institution of 4‑H and Cooperative Extension. In the times that I have worked with Cooperative Extension, I have felt that much more pride in the work I was doing as a product of the Cooperative Extension system. (my heart to greater loyalty…)
“I have more or less dedicated my life to service. For example, I served as an AmeriCorps member helping others learn to grow food in our country. I also attempt to help others produce food in a sustainable way internationally, as well. (my hands to larger service…)
“This also connects to the idea of better health, as I believe strongly in living a happy and healthy life, and so much of that is relevant to sustainable agriculture and helping others to grow their own food (my health to better living).
“I had no idea as a child that the pledge would become so true for me later, as I continue to make my community, my county and my world a better place.”