Ruwanthi Ekanayake: Blossoming Through 4-H

By Ruwanthi Ekanayake May 18, 2016

This year, I am honored to be the recipient of the National 4‑H Youth in Action Pillar Award in Healthy Living as well as the overall National Youth in Action Award. As such, I had the incredible opportunity to be a part of Grow True Leaders Week, kick starting 4‑H’s national campaign to raise awareness for all the good work that 4‑H is doing.

The heart of 4‑H is its youth. During GTL Week, I was fortunate enough to meet some of the most inspirational and dedicated teens I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. My fellow Pillar winners—Lexie, Jacob and Thad—were shining examples of how 4‑H empowers us to recognize needs in our communities and innovate ways to address those needs. I met 4‑H alumni, for whom 4‑H was the springboard to chase their dreams. And I met 4‑H’ers, of all ages and from every imaginable corner of the nation, coming together to raise awareness.

The Youth Rally was an unforgettable experience, with energy radiating in every corner of the auditorium. I was able to share some statistics provided by 4‑H’s national survey, which revealed that America’s youth DO feel ready to lead; they just need the mentors to teach them how to do so. I know that 4‑H is perfectly poised to meet that need, with educational experiences for every interest.

Some of those educational experiences were showcased during the rally, from cooking classes to an Urban Gardening workshop to a honeybee lesson. It was wonderful to watch 4‑H’ers from across the nation learn and grow together.

I had an educational experience of my own: taking part in a Satellite Media Tour. Being in front of a camera on live television and radio was a little nerve-wrecking, but I was so excited to share my 4‑H story that the nerves disappeared as soon as the director mouthed “Live!” True to form, 4‑H gave me another chance to work on my communication skills as I helped celebrate the organization that has given me so much.

Grow True Leaders Week was an enriching culmination of incredible youth and dedicated volunteers, tied together with the undeniably vibrant spirit of 4‑H. I am so grateful for the chance to promote an organization that has been so instrumental to my growth.

I turned 18 this year, teetering somewhere on the edge of adolescence and the cusp of womanhood. Stepping forward into my future, I have an unlikely confidence in my future—a confidence that I have 4‑H to thank.

If I had to sum it up in one sentence: 4‑H guides us to blossom. And that is exactly what the national Grow True Leaders Campaign was all about.