I’m proud to be the 2019 4‑H Youth in Action Agriculture pillar winner (sponsored by Bayer). Since my friend Pearl and I founded our hunger relief project, Meating the Need for Our Village, five years ago, one of our guiding values has been to empower youth to make a change in their communities. To me, this award means a platform to encourage others to make change wherever they see fit, and I’m excited to give back to the organization that has shaped the person I am.
Staying true to my years of 4‑H experience, I made lifelong friendships and developed lasting support systems during my time at the National 4‑H Conference Center for YIA training and the Legacy Awards. Clyde Van Dyke, the 4‑H Youth in Action STEM winner, was the first 4‑H’er I met. Within seconds of saying hello, I found myself engulfed in a genuine “I’m happy to see you” hug. After minutes of conversation, I knew he was the real deal. The same held true shortly after when I met Mason McClintock and Elisabeth Watkins, the Civic Engagement and Healthy Living winners. Many more 4‑H’ers joined us for the Legacy Awards, and one thing bound us together: we were all the real deal. Every 4‑H’er I met was genuine and committed to pursuing their passions without question.
Of course, you can’t get too close to our nation’s capital without taking a monument tour, and the best tours have a tour guide. Who better than a 4‑H alum, Citizenship Washington Focus program assistant, and Youth Advisory Committee member? Noor Alshafie was incredible. She illustrated our tour with stories of Pierre L’Enfant and the building of our capital, as well as shared neat facts at each monument – complete with expertly crafted jokes. By the end of the day, Noor managed to make our group of teenagers and parents feel like a second family. I don’t know what she did, but I know 4‑H helped teach her how.
I’m a nerd. There’s no denying it, and yes, I’m going to blame 4‑H for that, too. Quite possibly my favorite part of our DC trip was our media training day. I’ve developed a love for agricultural communications, so it was exciting for me to work alongside National 4‑H Council’s communications professionals. Even though this day was technically our workday, there was never a dull moment because now, we were friends.
The capstone of our DC experience was the Legacy Awards. For that night, we dialed down the service-mindedness 4‑H taught us to never lose, because for that night, we were royalty. We met at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and were led to a room stuffed with delicious refreshments to serve as our green room for the night. We put on our fancy outfits just before going to hair and makeup, and enjoyed an incredible night at the gala.
No 4‑H experience is complete without a late night with good friends you just met. That’s exactly how this trip ended – sitting around until the early hours of the day munching on now-cold pizza, reminiscing on our past 4‑H experiences. Hundreds of 4‑H experiences led to that night, each of them ending similarly. I wish my time as a 4‑H’er never came to an end, but when it does, I hope it ends like just like that.