As I reflect on 2022, the biggest highlights for me involved spending time listening and learning from 4-H'ers again post-pandemic. Their insights help me understand how we can continue to meet the very real and changing needs of young people. I am inspired by Gen Z and their willingness to tackle some of our most pressing issues and their commitment to making a difference in their communities.  

Here are a few of my favorite moments from the past year and the amazing youth and adults I met along the way.  

Digital Divide


4-H'ers are doers who are making a difference in their communities, and many participate in the 4-H Tech Changemakers program. Stephen Hayes is a part of Florida A&M's 4-H program, (4-H Youth Development (, where he joins thousands of 4-H'ers around the country who are working to bridge the digital divide in their communities by teaching digital skills to adults. You can watch Stephen and his mom, Sabrina, (an Extension agent!), interviewed on The Tamron Hall Show where they talked about their work and impact. 4-H Tech Changemakers was also featured in this New York Times article, which highlights 4-H's efforts to close the digital divide.  

Workforce Readiness


Connecting with young people and hearing what's on their hearts and minds is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. I met with these 4-H'ers during the 4-H Youth Ag Summit where I learned about their aspirations - in high school, college, and beyond. Preparing the next generation with the skills needed to succeed is a significant focus of our mission. And we're grateful to partners like Google, Verizon, Microsoft, Nationwide, Bayer, Tractor Supply Company, Hughes Net and others for preparing the future workforce. Recently, extended its partnership with a $5 million computer science education grant to support thousands of young people with computer science education. Check out this article to learn more about the Google partnership. 

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion


As part of 4-H's mission to create opportunity for all young people, we convened the True Leaders in Equity Institute as part of our Youth Summit Series. 4-H'ers learned leadership skills to tackle local equity issues they identified in their communities. This leadership opportunity will foster welcoming and inclusive environments for all young people in 4-H. Trustee Tiffany Atwell and I were inspired by our time with teen leaders from the Virginia 4-H Equity and Inclusion Task Force.  You can learn more about the 4-H True Leaders in Equity Institute here. And the Virginia 4-H task force here. 

Climate Change/Sustainability


In December, I traveled to Hawai'i to meet with Cooperative Extension leaders from the University of Hawaii , Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and American Samoa. These impressive 4-H programs prioritize youth voice as they serve many families who identify as Native Hawai'ian and Pacific Islanders. I was honored to meet 4-H'er Jenna (above, left) and learn about how the Kona 4-H Program has helped her build confidence, set college goals, and share her Native Hawai'ian culture through dance and art. Extension leaders, including Tayna Belyeu-Camacho, Northern Mariana Islands, (right), also shared about the effects of climate change and natural disasters on their campuses and programs, how important environmental stewardship is to their 4-H youth, and what they are doing to be part of the solution in their local communities. These sentiments mirrored the data in our Teen Environmental Survey that we released earlier this year. 

Mental Well-being


Here's a fun photo from a hike I took with 4-H Youth in Action Agriculture winner Tashina Red Hawk during the Agriculture Summit at the Summit in Colorado. One of the things we talked about was our own emotional well-being, as Tashina and I both shared our own challenges and how young people and adults in our lives are struggling after the pandemic. I'm grateful for Cooperative Extension's 4-H programs that support the emotional and physical well-being of young people by encouraging positive social interactions with peers and adults.   

Food & Agriculture


There are thousands of Gen Z youth who represent the future of agriculture and food security. Equipping teens with the resilience and skills to build and run our country's agricultural system has always been a core purpose of 4-H. I was so excited to visit the New York State Fair this summer, one of thousands of events where 4-H gives young people the opportunity to showcase their projects like livestock, nutrition, leadership, art and public speaking while developing a lasting sense of belonging and purpose.  

Civic Engagement

Providing youth with opportunities to build leadership and civic engagement skills in the real world is another 4-H priority. And there's nothing better than a live classroom during 4-H Day at the Georgia State Capitol. I hope you'll enjoy this video I took in February as the Georgia State Speaker of the House led a huge stairway full of 4-H'ers in the wave. This event was special to me because it was the first large gathering of 4-H youth I attended since 2020 and it was great to see them all together, learning about leadership from 4-H alums.

My time with 4-H youth this year made me more grateful than ever for the dedication and commitment of the 4-H staff, educators and volunteers who deliver Cooperative Extension's 4-H programs locally. Thank you - you are heroes of youth development. I am excited to see what the future holds as we continue to empower youth to make a positive impact on the world around them.  

If you'd like to see and learn more about 4-H, be sure to visit our website at and/or visit our social media channels @4H and @JSirangelo. I always love connecting with people who are interested in creating opportunity for all young people through 4-H. 

We're proud of the cultural diversity throughout 4-H and are made better because of it. Join us as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, and embrace the diversity of multiple origins, cultures, and traditions. UNIDOS, we grow together! #Thisis4H

Juntos 4-H: Bringing Communities Together

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated on September 15-October 15. During this time (and beyond), we highlight the programs and partners that significantly impact Latino youth, families, and communities. One program, in particular, is Juntos 4-H.

Cassey Carrillo Flores

A 4-H member since moving from Puerto Rico at age 10, Cassey loves working with people and discovering common interests. Equally proud of her 4-H community and Puerto Rican heritage, her enthusiasm is contagious and drives her love of volunteering and helping people.

Clothing That Speaks Volumes

Make a statement. Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with our new Shop 4-H collection shirts and hoodies. Get your style now.


Walmart & 4-H at Home Cooking Demo

Join chef Aarón Sánchez, award-winning chef, TV personality, author and philanthropist for a cooking demo.

Matias Habib 

With wind-swept vistas, grassy hills and wide-open spaces, Matias holds a lifetime of memories of visiting his Abuela on their family farm in the Patagonia region of Argentina. Having travelled there since he was a baby, Matias cherishes his heritage and enjoys exploring the vast countryside via horseback.   

Growing up abroad and with language difficulties, life wasn't easy for Matias. Feeling like an outsider, he struggled to fit in. Not until he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder did he understand the source of his anxieties. After joining 4-H and winning a science fair ribbon, a spark ignited in him. Opening his eyes to a new world, 4-H provided a place where Matias not only felt welcome but was able to pursue his passion for science.    

As an Illinois 4-H'er and an Agriculture Pillar winner, sponsored by Bayer, Matias has developed and cherishes friendships in 4-H with people from different heritages. He feels they connect through common ideas and projects-helping each other learn and succeed. Grateful for his inclusive experience, Matias believes 4-H is truly his shared community.  

Governor Hochul is the first sitting governor to receive the award.

CHEVY CHASE, MD. (August 30, 2022) - National 4-H Council has awarded New York Governor Kathy Hochul with the 4-H Distinguished Alumni Medallion, an honor given to an accomplished alumnus who embodies the life-changing impact of 4-H. Hochul, a New York 4-H alumna, is the first sitting governor to receive the award. National 4-H Council President & CEO Jennifer Sirangelo and 4-H'ers from Cornell Cooperative Extension presented the award to Hochul at the New York State Fair in Syracuse, New York on August 24, 2022.

4‑H's mission is to empower all young people-regardless of background-to find their spark, develop leadership skills, and drive positive change. Through diverse programming, life skills building, and mentorship, 4-H strives to eliminate the opportunity gap facing America's kids. Delivered by the nation's Cooperative Extension system, 4-H programs build the confidence, resilience, independence, and compassion needed for youth to succeed in life today and careers tomorrow.

"I am honored to receive this award from 4-H, a rock of an organization for girls and boys that helps to provide the tools they'll need as they grow. My time spent with the 4-H community has had a lasting impact on my life and career," said Governor Hochul. "At 10 years old, I gave my first public speech as a 4-H'er at the Erie County Fair and from there, I built the confidence, courage, and valuable life skills that I draw from to this day as governor of New York."

A native of Buffalo, New York, Hochul participated in Cornell Cooperative Extension's 4-H program throughout her childhood. Her experiences varied from cooking and sewing competitions at the fair to public speeches on how to make healthy recipes. She continues to be an avid fairgoer and never misses the opportunity to visit the 4-H exhibits and have meaningful interactions with 4-H'ers.

"Governor Hochul's compassion, integrity, and commitment to public service exemplify the 4-H pledge and serve as inspiration to 4-H'ers everywhere," said Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO, National 4-H Council. "Her trailblazing career is an example to young people that through determination, hard work, and persistence their dreams are within reach."

Previous recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Medallion include Aubrey Plaza, actor and producer; Craig Melvin, anchor, TODAY Show; Jennifer Nettles, Grammy-Award winning singer and songwriter; and Temple Grandin, Ph.D., best-selling author, autism activist, and consultant to the livestock industry.


National 4-H Council President & CEO Jennifer Sirangelo and 4-H'ers from Cornell Cooperative Extension present the 4-H Distinguished Alumni Medallion to New York Governor Kathy Hochul

About 4-H

4-H, the nation's largest youth development organization, grows confident young people who are empowered for life today and prepared for career tomorrow. 4-H programs empower nearly six million young people across the U.S. through experiences that develop critical life skills. 4-H is the youth development program of our nation's Cooperative Extension System and USDA and serves every county and parish in the U.S. through a network of 110 public universities and more than 3000 local Extension offices. Globally, 4-H collaborates with independent programs to empower one million youth in 50 countries. The research-backed 4-H experience grows young people who are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civically active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs. Follow 4-H on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Media Contact

Julia Majors, National 4-H Council

As the firstborn child of two Cameroonian immigrants the path of my life has been an immovable blueprint, a vicarious manifestation of my parent's dreams. Go to school, graduate with high marks, become a doctor, support the family, and set the precedent for those who come after you. Being inept and failing is not an option. Additionally, having lived in predominantly white towns for most of my life, the perpetuated monolithic tropes of young black women aren't beneficial for survival. To survive, I wield code-switching like a sword with many faces. Neither of these factors enabled my emotional fluidity. I was expected to only showcase my strengths. I felt trapped and isolated.

To combat this, I facilitated race relations discussions amongst my peers and adults within my community. When asked why, I habitually said what people wanted to hear. I'd reply, "Racism is a viral societal ill that must be combatted one uncomfortable conversation at a time. I am advocating for anti-racism because the voices of people of color deserve to be amplified. We deserve visibility." This response is correct socially and politically, but it wasn't honest. My guard was still up, and I began to question myself more. Why was I really doing this? I summed it up to two factors.

First, by facilitating these discussions, I gave myself permission to be vulnerable. I was afraid of being perceived as frail, inadequate, or a victim. I viewed my vulnerability as a weapon to be used against me, rather than a strength I can utilize upon my own volition. With every unfiltered conversation, I began to free myself. Being able to lay my pain out in front of others was relieving. With that relief I invited others to be vulnerable as well, to share their stories, relay their pain or lack of understanding, and with that understanding came increased empathy.

By facilitating these workshops and cultivating empathy within my community, others have experienced that freedom as well. My 4-H peers and I started to bridge the gap between young people and law enforcement, freeing one another from preconceived grudges and historical challenges. Our outreach expanded as other 4-H clubs across New York State were inspired to host their own Race and Reconciliation workshops too. In my own school, I was empowered to create a safe space for students of many different backgrounds and identities to feel free as themselves. In collaboration with the school board, my peers and I created a "Diversity Cafe", a space within our school's library that would enable students to meet with each other, share their stories, and embrace their differences. I am proud to say our leadership inspired our school to start constructing the Diversity Cafe, which will be completed this year. I hope this will be a space for future 4-H teen leaders to teach the values of advocacy and hospitality to all.

As a Youth in Action Pillar Winner, I am using my platform to educate others on anti-racism and to find new ways to foster safe spaces for my peers inside and outside 4-H. I've also continued my Race and Reconciliation work here at The George Washington University through the Women's Leadership Program. In collaboration with another student, we conducted a workshop titled, "Understanding and Supporting Non-Dominant Race and Gender Identities". This sparked numerous introspective conversations about ways to support one another through societal struggles and because of this workshop, we were even awarded the Humphries Leadership Award for Spring 2022.

I know there is still work to be done, but at the end of it all, I just hope to create freedom for my peers: for emotions and self-expression, for empathy and understanding.

National 4‑H Council and the Invisalign® brand have launched a partnership to empower and recognize young people who are creating change in their communities through acts of kindness and service—big and small. Because everyone—especially our youth—should be seen and celebrated for the good they are doing in the world.

I caught up with Kamal Bhandal, VP of Global Brand and Consumer Marketing for Align Technology, to talk more about the Invisalign® ChangeMakers Initiative and how the mother of two is inspiring her children to be a positive influence in their community.

What is a ‘ChangeMaker’?

Kamal Bhandal (KB): Simply put, a ‘ChangeMaker’ is someone who springs into action to solve a problem for the greater good of a community.

In what ways do you think the Invisalign® ChangeMakers Initiative will inspire young people to become change agents in their community?

KB: Everywhere you look, young people are actively driving change within their communities. In some instances, it may be a young person who leads a local blanket drive to donate to the local shelter, or it may be the young leader who activates their local school district to provide school lunches for families during the pandemic. There are many more examples all around the country, and often these are local stories that aren’t widely known, but provide tremendous impact in the community.

Align Technology’s Invisalign brand, in partnership with National 4‑H Council, has launched the Invisalign® ChangeMakers initiative to shine a light on these stories and elevate the young people who are driving change within their communities and bringing smiles. In doing so, we hope that more young people can see how teens just like them and feel connected to a larger youth community. Our collective goal with this partnership is to spotlight those inspiring stories so that every young person can see themselves as someone who can drive positive change within their communities.

Can you share some of the work Align Technology leads to inspire change in communities and how today’s youth can help support those efforts?

KB: Align is committed to improving the lives of our employees, customers, patients, stakeholders, and the communities in which we live and work. Our philanthropic philosophy is to support organizations whose visions tie closely to our own – improving smiles, empowering our customers through partnerships with learning institutions and foundations, and supporting and educating teens.

We are committed to developing youth leaders around the world. Here in the US, we’re actively partnering with leading organizations—like 4‑H—who are also committed to shaping and developing youth. Other partners include Junior Achievement including their S.H.E. Leads program, Boys & Girls Clubs of America,  and Cristo Rey San Jose High School.  Our partnerships with these organizations include mentoring, program support, as well as workshops that cultivate critical business and STEM skills, corporate work-study programs, and internships. Today’s youth can support these efforts by getting involved with the local chapters of any one of these programs.

As a mom of school-aged children, how are you inspiring them to be ChangeMakers? Why are those teachings so important?

KB: As a mom of a teen and a tween, I try to focus on a few things: (1) exposing the kids to a range of perspectives; (2) fostering empathy for others; and (3) supporting areas of individual interest. The teen years are a critical time in brain development as teenagers have an increased capacity to appreciate various perspectives. By learning about different communities and various ways to solve problems, it not only helps increase awareness of the variety of challenges that exist within communities, but it also stimulates more creative thinking on how problems can be solved. When it comes to having empathy for others, we try to create learning experiences that foster a sense of empathy—such as through volunteering or random acts of kindness—and provide support for a specific area of interest that is important for each of them. However small or large the individual interest area may be, we try to support and encourage the kids to drive change that will create positive impact, and also experience how that feels.

How do we continue to give young people a platform to share their ideas, experiences and innovation, and how will those ideas impact the future?

KB: Organizations like 4‑H that celebrate and support youth in cultivating their ideas are critical. Today’s youth are full of ideas and creative solutions that can help drive positive changes that will enhance the lives of others who are a part of their community – large or small. To give young people a platform to share their ideas, it’s critical that we:

  • Create communities to help our youth feel that they are part of a bigger movement. People crave feeling a sense of belonging—being a part of a community—and young people especially need this today. If surrounded by other ChangeMakers who are trying to drive change within their communities, youth today may be inspired to take their own ideas and spring into action.
  • Offer mentorship to advocate and make connections to unleash creativity– our youth need to feel that there are people in their corner advocating for their ideas, cultivating those ideas to bring them to life, and helping remove roadblocks if and when needed along the way. So many of us have networks full of relationships that may assist a young leader in bringing their idea forward – it’s on all of us to make introductions to people who may help a young person move forward and bring their ideas to life. Talented youth who are full of ideas about how to drive positive change are everywhere. We must provide platforms and mentorship that nurture and unleash their creativity—our future depends on it.
In 4‑H, service projects don’t typically overlap with livestock. But last year, Fauquier County 4‑H Extension Agent Lenah Nguyen saw an opportunity to retool the annual poultry project for the community’s benefit — a shift that would soon prove especially timely.

When various and nuanced logistical challenges made it clear that a successful 2020 poultry sale would be challenging, Lenah started to brainstorm different ways to harness the chicken-rearing energies of the Feathered Friends, Fauquier County’s 4‑H poultry club. The more she researched, the more the idea for a service project started to form. She reached out to Sharon Ames, the executive director at the Fauquier Food Bank. The county’s food insecurity statistics — at just under 6 percent — are fairly low compared to some counties in the state, yet in 2016 there were still more than 4,000 Fauquier residents seeking food assistance. Sharon estimated her food bank, the only one in the county, regularly served 100 to 150 clients, five days a week. And though they always had enough food to meet that demand, items with high-quality protein were few and far between. Adolescents and adults are advised to eat around 5-6.5 ounces of protein a day. One large egg, which is equivalent to a serving size, is an excellent source of both protein and essential vitamins and minerals — meaning that donations of eggs and chicken would be much appreciated.

Knowing the local need was there, Lenah then reached out to Emily and Duane Lawrence, the volunteer 4‑H leaders of Feathered Friends, to discuss transforming their usual livestock project into a service project. The adults all agreed it was a great idea, but they were concerned the kids might feel differently. At a poultry sale, youth could expect to walk away with some amount of money in exchange for their hard work — maybe even more money than the animals were worth. However, despite the potential monetary lure, none of the club members ‘bawked’ at the idea of a service project.

“They felt excited about donating,” Emily says. “It wasn’t an obstacle—it was an added incentive.”

“It’s exciting for a larger group of kids to be working toward one goal and sharing that experience at the same time,” Lenah adds. “Learning life skills and the responsibility of caring for living things. I think they feel empowered that they have the capability to address situations and problems in their own communities.”

Interest continued to grow, and support poured in from across the area. Community members donated a closet full of egg cartons to be distributed to participants so they could safely deliver their eggs. The Northern Piedmont Community Foundation provided funding to purchase chicks and the feed needed to sustain them through October 2020. By January, Lenah had 30 Fauquier County 4‑H-ers committed to the project. Each of them would receive either 10 layers or 10 broilers.

“We anticipated that the kids would each donate about 90 dozen eggs per week to the food bank starting at the beginning of June, and 60 whole chickens in mid-July,” Lenah says.

That was the plan, anyway, but by March the full impact of COVID-19 was becoming clearer. On March 23, the temporary closure of the state’s public schools had been extended through the end of the school year. Within a week, Governor Northam had issued a statewide stay-at-home order intended to mitigate the spread of the virus. In the month that followed, unemployment claims in Fauquier County increased dramatically—and not long after, Sharon Ames estimates, the number of clients at the Fauquier Food Bank had doubled.

“Some of them might not have experienced [food insecurity] before,” she says. “Especially the families with kids who are dealing with school being closed or losing a job.”

By that point, the Feathered Friends had not even received their first chicks. Yet knowing the impact the project was expected to make pre-COVID-19, Lenah started looking for ways to increase their contribution to meet rising demand. In response to closures, the club took the chicks from the local schools’ embryology demonstrations into their flocks.

“My own kids really recognized the need,” Emily Lawrence says. “They’ve seen free lunch pick-ups. They see that they’re able to contribute something to help. They think, ‘I’m going to be contributing these eggs … and the eggs will go on and on.’ They’re a part of that impact every day.”

At the beginning of May, Lenah reached out to the PATH Foundation, a local grant-making organization. PATH ended up making a $10,500 donation to help expand the project. With that additional money, Lenah was able to increase the participants to 46 youth (six of them brand new to 4‑H), bringing the total anticipated egg donation to 2,780 dozen (for those doing the math, that’s more than 33,000 eggs!). Working with Sarah Bullard, the county Youth Livestock Educator, she also used the funds to add 854 pounds of meat to the donations by purchasing and processing animals from 4‑H participants at the county livestock show and sale.

With that increase in yield, PATH advised her to spread the food donations out where the need was heaviest in the county. Lenah reached out to two smaller food pantries, and they made immediate use of the new donations. Community Cooks was able to use beef donations to make grab-n-go meals, like taco salad and spaghetti carbonara, available to anyone who needed them. And the Rappahannock Food Pantry, which was two days away from running out of meat, was able to replenish its supply. By the end of July, Fauquier Reaches for Excellence in School Health (FRESH) will include donated eggs in Weekend Power Packs for kids on free and reduced lunch. The packs will also include produce from the Fauquier Education Farm and a recipe featuring all the included ingredients.

And the work will continue. Even though Feathered Friends club members are only required to donate their eggs to the project up until November, when the funding for their feed ends, Lenah has already heard from many families that they intend to continue their efforts, proving that service does come first for these 4‑H-ers.

Feathered Friends members, both new and seasoned, really appreciate the impact they’re making. Xander Ronzio, age 10, has been a part of the club since he was a Cloverbud. “I like the project because it is fun and I get to take care of chickens,” Xander says. “It is nice to donate eggs to the food bank, because there are people who need food.” A mother of another participant noted that there are unintended benefits, too. Because he is eager to learn more about chickens and how to best care for them, her son is reading more.

Building on enthusiasm like that, in May Lenah hosted a webinar for other state Extension offices, providing guidance on how the project was structured and best practices. Representatives from 20 Virginia counties attended the training, along with several interested community members. Since then, Lenah has heard that three other counties are hatching poultry service projects of their own.

Over the last few months, as the realities of COVID-19 social impacts have grown clearer, Lenah has seen how fortuitous the decision to shift the poultry project proved to be. “It makes me really happy to know that people in need are getting good-quality food — not just some lunchmeat on white bread,” Lenah says. “It has been an awesome project for this weird time, as it can still be done while social distancing, and it fulfills a critical need.”

And the impacts of all of Lenah’s efforts continue to ripple outward, reflecting the important role that 4‑H agents play, not only in the lives of youth, but in their counties. The community has rallied around this project with 4‑H at its heart. Most recently, Lenah has been having conversations about providing laying-hens to a local childcare group for a virtual learning program they are developing. The eggs produced will be donated too, getting a lot more youth engaged in 4‑H and in the service project.

“What an incredible thing they are doing for our community,” says Kirsten Dueck, a senior program officer with the PATH Foundation. “These young farmers saved the day. I thank them and [Lenah] from the bottom of my heart for making this a reality.”

As the president and CEO of National 4‑H Council, there is nothing more important to me than ensuring America’s young people have the skills to lead and change the world. I have dedicated my career to supporting children and their families, and I have never seen a more urgent need for investment in young people and their futures.

To witness the pain and growing disparities caused by the pandemic and systemic racism is heartbreaking.  COVID-19 is exacerbating inequities in mental health, access to education and employability – particularly among those communities already experiencing trauma, systemic social inequity and other disadvantages prior to the pandemic.

Too many young people are at risk of being left behind. The opportunity gap is widening—in virtually every corner of America. Much of the evidence of this is included in a new white paper – Beyond the Gap – prepared by youth development leaders, researchers, practitioners and young people, together with experts in the private and public sectors.

As a nation, we must invest more in positive youth development.

America’s Cooperative Extension System and 4‑H are working to bring a life-changing experience to millions more young people—10 million kids by 2025—because we believe that every child should have an equal opportunity to succeed. Not in the future. Right now.

Closing the opportunity gap means that the health, well-being and success of any young person isn’t determined by their zip code or the color of their skin. It means that all youth have access to positive youth development programming—and the necessary support and experiences to navigate the social and economic realities that we now face.

Closing the opportunity gap will take bold thinking and action.  It will require a collective effort. It means engaging youth development organizations, school systems, corporations, foundations, local, county, state and Federal governments.

In 4‑H, we are fortunate to have some powerful allies. Our partners—some of the largest brands in the world like Google, Microsoft, Walmart, Nationwide and others—are committed to creating opportunity for more young people. In addition, Federal Agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Justice support 4‑H in its work to scale and advance diversity, equity and inclusion efforts that directly impact youth of color.

We must listen to young people.

Youth can lead us and teach us. Where adults see challenges, youth see opportunities to step up and give back. They are incredibly creative and inspiring. And they must have a role in creating their own futures. The resilience, confidence and strength of young people is what gives me hope—and youth are asking for more opportunities to positively impact their world.

4‑H is listening to young people and lifting up youth voice through a powerful new campaign – Opportunity4All – that will bring youth to the forefront of discussions about how we eliminate the opportunity gap. Recently, 4‑H youth joined 4‑H alums, thought leaders and other experts for a robust conversation on how best to address the disparities that are holding young people back. You can watch the program here.

Most importantly, we must live our values every day.

At National 4‑H Council, we are taking concrete steps to support and accelerate Cooperative Extension’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work, but also to become a more diverse, inclusive and equitable organization ourselves.

We’ve established a new leadership position at National 4‑H Council to guide the implementation of our DEI strategy and training across Council, and with Extension 4‑H programs. We’re telling an inclusive and aspirational story of 4‑H with youth and alumni from all backgrounds and experiences. We are listening to our partners in higher ed—especially leadership at the 4‑H programs in our nation’s historically black colleges and universities.  And we are setting diversity goals for the composition of Council’s Board of Trustees, leadership and staff.

We are only at the beginning of this journey.  Positive youth development focuses on building youth assets, opportunities and voice – rather than focusing on problems.  A national commitment to positive youth development can transform our country’s social, economic and political imbalances—and create a more equitable and just America.

Our youth are an investment worth making.


To learn more about what 4‑H is doing in diversity, equity and inclusion, please visit our website for a compendium of DEI resources and information at

To hear the stories and the impact young leaders are making today, visit our web site at www.4‑

Since joining National 4‑H Council 14 years ago, I’ve had the honor of meeting and building relationships with 4‑H alumni and supporters who are serving and leading with purpose. I thought now would be a great opportunity to reconnect with my colleagues for a new virtual series, 4 for 4. 4 questions. The concept of these talks is simple. We ask four questions in four minutes.I’m excited to launch the 4 for 4 series with Wade Miquelon, president and CEO of JOANN Stores and a member of the National 4‑H Council Board of Trustees. We discuss how stores have supported communities during COVID-19. The concept of these talks is simple.

So, Wade, looking back on your life’s journey so far, who or what helped you to succeed?

Wade Miquelon (WM): I would say more than anything, you know, it’s really the word others. At an early age, having role models to look up to. Having mentors, seeking them out. Having good bosses and taking their advice. Also working with peers and collaborating to work together versus trying to work as a silo. Hiring good people and letting them run and do their job and supporting them. It’s really about others. And one person can only do so much, but if you can surround yourself in all directions with great people then great things happen.

You’re the chief executive of one of the nation’s most well-known brands. What advice would you give young people who want to succeed and aim high like you?

WM: I would say first and foremost, I think it’s critical that you really find something you love and you do it will all your heart and you’ll be successful. You know, there’s no right or wrong. I was originally an engineer and I felt I wasn’t a great engineer and I didn’t love engineering. It was a great background. Then I found something I loved in business and I went for it with my heart. No matter what it is, put your passion into it. And the other thing too is that life gives us certain windows of opportunity, and when you see those opportunity windows, step through them because they close very quickly. Create an eye for seeing opportunities and not being afraid to take some personal risks.

Well over the last few months, JOANN has stepped up with volunteers to make and donate over 100 million masks for those in need during this COVID-19 pandemic. So, why from your perspective is this commitment to service so important to you and the JOANN family?

WM: You know, our customers are unique people. They almost all come into the store to make something. Most of the time, 70% of the time they are making something to give to a sister, a friend, a daughter, a child. And almost 30% of the time they are making to give to charities. It could be blankets for children in hospitals. It could be blankets for people in shelters. It could be quilts for people with cancer. It could be things for veterans. You name it and for the homeless and so that’s who pays our bills is a very giving customer and so we need to be giving back and be authentic about it.

Do you have any words of encouragement for kids who are home right now because of the coronavirus and are thinking about their futures?

WM: Yeah, I do. The first thing I would say is, you know, don’t worry about the future. Things are going to be okay. There will be a great future there. There’s going to be great opportunities. This too will pass like so many other things. So, I’d say, try to do sometimes when you’re without from within. I read a story once about a man who was in a prison camp basically in Vietnam and basically for many years he wrote several books in his head. Every day he would write the next page and memorize and when he was released, he put them quickly to paper and won multiple awards. And, I say it because you should use your time productively. You know, you may not have time like this where you can learn new skills. You can research new things. You can find new ways of communicating. So, don’t waste this precious time. Look at it as a gift to do all of the things that maybe you didn’t have time to learn and do and when you’re without, do from within and I think you will be so much stronger than you would have been otherwise. And this too will pass, and your opportunities will be there for you.


Teaching kids the importance of giving back is a critical part of raising a compassionate person. These service activities, from the 4‑H Inspire Kids to Do™ Activity Guides, are great ways to do more to help those in your community.

Handmade Fleece Scarves for the Homeless

Gather your friends or family together to create handmade fleece scarves and tie them around trees near a homeless area.


  • Fleece fabric
  • Scissors

Activity Steps

  1. Enlist help from friends and family.
  2. Purchase fleece fabric.
  3. Cut the fabric in strips of 10” x48” (you may cut small strips at the end of the longer pieces to make it look like fringe).
  4. Locate areas that homeless citizens tend to be located (you can call a homeless shelter or local soup kitchen to ask, too).
  5. Take friends and family with you to tie the scarves around trees before cold weather arrives

Stuff a Truck for Service Members

Create a “stuff a truck” event or collection to send care packages overseas to service members (or others in need like hurricane victims). You can start by asking shoppers to buy something extra to say thank you to members of our Armed Forces. It teaches kids public speaking skills, fundraising, community support, and teamwork.

What You’ll Need to Do

  • Research
  • Create signs/posters
  • Find a store
  • Create a donation jar
  • Send donations

Activity Steps

  1. Research which organizations are providing care packages for service members, what kind of contributions they need, and where/how you can send supplies.
  2. Select your organization and create signs or posters to inform people about the cause and organization you’re supporting.
  3. Pick a local store with a lot of foot traffic (or a handful if you’ll do this with a big group or multiple times) and dates for your activity. Visit the store to speak with a manager to get approval for your plans.
  4. Have kids stand by the main entrance of a popular store with posters describing their cause, preprinted notes with items for the public to purchase and bags to put them in.
  5. Have a donation jar out and prime it with a few dollars.
  6. Help the kids develop their pitches. For example:
    Would you like to say ‘thank you’ to our Armed Forces by buying just a few items to put in a care package?
    Would you like to add another item to your basket to help families affected by the hurricane?
  7. Teach the kids to thank the person, whether they participate or not.
  8. Send the donated items to the organization you chose, following their guidelines of where, how and what.

Pillows for the Homeless

This is a simple, inexpensive, lightweight, and helpful item to make that teaches kids that we can all help someone in need in small but meaningful ways.


  • Kitchen towels
  • Shopping bags
  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors
  • Needle and thread
Activity Steps

  1. Cut the shopping bags up into pieces and crumple them into small balls for stuffing.
  2. Sew 3 sides of the towel together and stuff with bags.
  3. Sew the last side by hand.
  4. Contact a local shelter to donate your finished pillows, or carry some in your car with various other hygiene supplies and non-perishable food items to give to community members in need.

Looking for more ways to inspire your kids? Check out the Inspire Kids to Do™: Kids’ Guide to Mindfulness!

4-H youth across the country are using their skills, passions, and drive to make a remarkable impact in their communities. From the youngest 4-H’er to young alumni, they see great value in giving back and inspiring those around them to do the same.

Through a collaboration with NBC News Learn, 4-H is telling the story of five young women who are making a difference in their communities. These stories, sponsored by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Bechtel, and Bayer, highlight their work in critical areas from computer science to health equity and show how their experience in 4-H empowered them to share their voices and be leaders.

Meet Addy, Pearl, Aja, Dani Jo, and Mayyadah, and learn more about their story, featured in the new NBC News Learn series, 4-H Inspires Kids to Do.

Agriculture: Addy and Pearl

Michigan 4-H’ers Addy and Pearl used their leadership skills gained through 4-H to give back to their hometown of Cass City, MI, when it became a food desert. Through Michigan State University Extension, they created Meating the Need for Our Village, a program designed to fight hunger through agriculture. Overall, the program has made a $60,000 impact on the community by providing 2,500 gallons of milk, 10,000 pounds of meat, and 270 dozen eggs to families in need.



Illinois 4-H’er Aja’s passion was ignited through her frustration with the under-represented minority STEM gap. She started See Me in STEM, with a mission to provide exposure, access, and STEM opportunities to underrepresented youth. She partnered with her 4-H mentor through the University of Illinois Extension to launch her program and has since impacted 122+ youth through 15 events.


Health & Wellness: Dani Jo

Utah 4-H’er Dani Jo has a personal passion for educating youth and community members on opioid addiction and the impact it has on lives. She formed a youth coalition to spread the word about the dangers of opioids and resources people can turn to for help. Through community events and partnering with community leaders such as the Sheriff’s Department, the coalition is working to educate their peers and families on properly disposing of opioids and other medications and encouraging doctors and pharmacists to be mindful of the number of pills they are prescribing.


Equity & Inclusion: Mayyadah

Washington 4-H’er Mayyadah connected with youth with vastly different backgrounds and life experiences from her own through her 4-H experience. When she noticed the inequities her LGBTQ+ friends experienced, she worked with fellow 4-H’ers and adult leaders to launch the Washington State 4-H Teen Equity & Inclusion Task Force. In the last year and a half, Mayyadah and her fellow teens have provided education to local and state 4-H leaders and have worked to ensure that at state events, youth nametags have a place to designate which pronouns they use.