It was the week before Christmas Day 2018. My family and I were in our vehicle, traveling to Illinois to visit family over the holidays. Still a bit groggy as I had just woken up from a great nap, I received a phone call from a number I did not recognize. I had been expecting a call, and the suggested caller was National 4‑H Council. Anxiously, I answered. Suddenly, my jaw hit the floor, as I received the news that I had been named the 2019 4‑H Youth in Action Award Winner in Civic Engagement. My mind began racing at the thought of all the grand opportunities and individuals I knew I would encounter along this journey, and the reality is… I was not wrong.
I had just started the Alma Entrepreneur Tour, a project that connects rural youth to successful entrepreneurs in our community to highlight the importance of persistence, resilience, and individuality—specifically in the workplace. My fantastic 4‑H agent, Leah Wooddall, approached me about applying for the Youth in Action Awards, but I quickly declined and told her I was not qualified and would never stand a chance against the other applicants. Meanwhile, I continued with my project, and it was extremely successful! I had known about the 4‑H Youth in Action Awards program for a few years; especially because my biggest role model of all time from Georgia 4‑H was named a pillar winner in 2018. However, never in a million years would I have thought that I could accomplish the same thing. Zooming up to present day, I stand in awe of the fact that I am being seen by others in the same light that I still view my biggest role models.
If you have ever considered applying for the 4‑H Youth in Action Awards program, I strongly recommend you do, regardless of how qualified or experienced you are! I decided to apply two-and-a-half hours before the deadline and clicked “submit” 30 seconds before it was due, and look where I am today. I am just a South Georgia boy with a passion for empowering others to be confident in themselves and a story of self-love and acceptance. To think that something as simple as making the decision to live my truth has earned me the platform I have today is mindboggling. You see, I did not have to do anything bizarre to earn this award. I just decided to be myself and take action for something in which I believed. Sometimes, though, that is the most bizarre thing one can do. You might be surprised by how much good can come from making the decision to shine your light. I know I was.