I discovered 4-H through the barn I currently horseback ride at, The Livery, a cozy farm tucked into one of the beautiful rolling hills of Hinesburg.

My trainer Kim Johansen suggested that I join her club, the Midnight Riders. They were a small and tightly knit community that met on the second Tuesday of every month, and I was told that I could participate in community service as well as horse shows if I joined. Being quite shy back in 7th grade, I was reluctant to become a 4-Her as it meant participating in new and intimidating things; however, with some egging on from my mother, I agreed to attend the upcoming meeting.

I can confidently say that this was one of the most significant and pivotal moments of my life; due to this decision, I have spread my roots all over the country, made unique connections with incredible figures and role models, gained vital leadership skills as well as confidence, and accomplished more than I ever could have imagined as the 11-year-old I was back in 2015.

Through 4-H, I have been given numerous amazing opportunities.

In June of 2018, I was accepted to attend a large horse show, Eastern States, as a teen leader. I had to go through the application process, where I had accumulated a 4-H resume over the year, logged my horse show results from the past summer, and was interviewed. This event taught me how to build a resume and go through an application process, which will be incredibly helpful for future experiences, such as the procedure of looking at colleges as well as jobs.

In October and November of 2018, I traveled to New Hampshire and Kentucky for public speaking competitions, where I placed first regionally, and third nationally. These contests taught me the importance of stress management, vigorously hard work, and the fundamental skill of speaking in front of an audience. All of these abilities will stay with me for the rest of my life. I have been able to explore STEM through a program called VTeen 4-H Science Pathways Cafes. I currently work as a volunteer leader, where I assist in organizing monthly presentations and hands-on activities in scientific fields such as veterinary science, entomology, engineering and more. I have been able to study the arts through photography seminars, art contests, etc. Being a part of 4-H has laid countless opportunities at my fingertips.

Despite the amazing feeling of having hard work pay off, the momentous experiences and the values gained from both winning and losing and the confidence learned and gained, the absolute best part of 4-H is the connections. I have made a large network of support and trust as well as many lifelong friends and mentors over the years in my club. I constantly feel pushed forward to achieve, while simultaneously being given underlying encouragement and motivation.

For any parent looking for an extracurricular activity for their child, I would highly recommend joining a 4-H club. There are so many doors ready to be opened, as well as numerous cardinal life skills. To learn how to get involved, contact the 4-H office at (800) 571-0668 or learn more at the UVM website.