Youth Voices: Creating an Environment of Inclusion

By Mason McClintock February 24, 2020

Kindness is a choice, and resilience does not always come easy. As simple as those things may seem, they can sometimes be challenging attributes to exude. I realized that many years ago, when I was faced with a situation that was very pivotal in my development as a True Leader.

I was eating supper at Rock Eagle 4-H Center for an event as a member of Georgia 4-H’s Southeast Junior District Board of Directors. Many of my friends surrounded me as we enjoyed each other’s company. As time passed by and through all the laughing and camaraderie, my eyes wandered around the room. My gaze became fixed on this seemingly lonely girl sitting a few tables away; she was by herself. The situation concerned me. After a few minutes of deliberating whether I should stay and enjoy the comfort of my friends and our fellowship or get up and join the girl sitting in isolation, I knew what I needed to do. So, I stood up and made my way to her table. We began talking, and initially, she was very reserved. However, our conversation grew livelier, her smile became bigger, and several others meandered our way. By the end of the meal, the entire table was filled with 4-H’ers of all different shapes, sizes and colors.

In that moment, I realized that the accepting and inclusive environment that I had come to know so well in 4-H did not just emerge out of nowhere. It is not always easy, but taking action to create an atmosphere of positivity and belonging is what must be done if we desire to live in a world where love does indeed overcome hate.

It took many brave people to step up and be proactive about leaving their comfort zones to ensure that others felt loved and included in 4-H. It took people leaving their tables to join those who were alone. It took a special person many years ago to do the same thing for me when I was the one sitting across the room by myself. If it were not for those people, I would not be who I am today, and 4-H would not be either.

Be the one who steps up, joins the lonely, empowers the outcast, encourages growth, and inspires positive change.