Jessica Wells, 4-H alumna and digital media coordinator for Florida Farm Bureau
The statewide goal of the Florida 4-H Program is to “prepare youth to become responsible citizens and productive members of the workforce.” This is accomplished by providing quality youth programs, opportunities for youth to explore their sparks, and connection between youth, adults, or peers that positively shapes a young person’s identity and encourages a growth mindset. Jessica Wells shares her 4-H story and how 4-H helped prepare her for her current job.
Jessica was a 4-H member in Washington County for eleven years. During that time, she participated in several different aspects of the 4-H program, beginning with her 4-H club.
“My favorite 4-H project was the horse project. I was able to grow in my riding abilities and see my horse grow through the year. We were able to accomplish competing at the District level, but most importantly my horse and I were able to share a closer bond because of the time I spent working with him.”
However, Jessica’s involvement with 4-H didn’t stop with her horse club. Jessica was involved in nearly every aspect of the 4-H program. Jessica served as an advocate for her county program, and also served on the planning committee for the Northwest Teen Retreat at the district level. One of her favorite “beyond county” experiences was serving as a Florida 4-H State Executive Board Member.
“It was rewarding in every aspect. I grew so much more, I believe, because I was working with fellow 4-Her’s across the state to bring an amazing experience of state events to all 4-Her’s. Executive Board gave me more than fun memories and life experience, it gave me real, lifelong friendships.”
Jessica with one of her club members at a 4-H Horse Show
After graduation, Jessica decided to give back to the 4-H program as a club leader, and during her college years, she also worked for UF/IFAS Extension on campus in Gainesville.
“I was inspired to be a club leader because I wanted to share my passion for horses to youth in my county. 4-H is a wonderful organization that allows one to grow so many personal and lifelong skills while being hands-on with applicable activities. I wanted to use my passion to equip 4-Her’s to grow in their knowledge of horses while growing their public speaking, leadership, teamwork, personal confidence, and many other life skills.”
Today, Jessica serves as the digital media coordinator for Florida Farm Bureau. She credits 4-H with helping her prepare for this role. As a youth, volunteer, and former employee, she had opportunities to learn about leading teams, communication, planning events, and goal setting.
“I am so grateful for all the skills I was prepared with as a 4-Her that has carried into my current position at Florida Farm Bureau. Aside from the general office skills that often
Jessica at a Florida Farm Bureau event
come to mind first, I daily use the management and administrative skills that I learned through 4-H. Through being organized in my projects, leading clubs, planning events, even events as large as horse shows, these different types of management skills prepared me for the daily tasks of a full time job. Like the meeting agenda I would create as a club officer, my current job requires creating simple meeting agendas to keep my co-workers and I on task. Something that small created a big foundation that I can do my job well on. And then on to preparing and leading workshops for my coworkers and other public audiences, again a skill I learned way back in 4-H. Having strong communication skills is vital in today’s work environment, maybe now more than ever. One can be great at the job they were hired for, but if they have great communication skills, it allows them to be even more valuable to their team. An individual does not acquire there skills overnight to use daily in the adult world, these skills are gained over a period of time and usually are rooted in their youth. I was able to gain these skills in my youth through this great organization of 4-H.
Sara as a young lady received a medal for her 4-H project.
In honor of National 4-H Week, we are sharing the stories of some of our alumni in the Florida Panhandle. Today, we highlight an alumna from Wakulla County! Sara Hillier grew up in Wakulla County, FL, and was active in the 4-H Program. She participated in the local Horse Club, as well as several other county 4-H programs. Sara enjoyed taking canoe trips to learn about natural resources in Wakulla County, and working with others to protect nature by picking up litter. Her favorite 4-H memory was attending summer camp at 4-H Camp Cherry Lake in Madison, FL. She remembers spending the week there with many of her friends and all nine of her first cousins. As a teenager, Sara served as a camp counselor at Cherry Lake.
Sara is chaperoning 4-H Day at the Capitol
Sara knew that as soon as her own children were old enough, she wanted them to have many of these same experiences, so she enrolled all three of them in 4-H. Recently, Sara decided she wanted to pay it forward to the program she is so fond of, and made the switch from 4-H mom to 4-H volunteer. Today, Sara leads the Wakulla County Outdoor Adventures Club so she can share her spark for the great outdoors with the next generation. If you have knowledge, skills, or expertise, please consider sharing them through 4-H. We offer flexible opportunities to share your passion with today’s youth. If you are not familiar with 4-H, check out our 4-H Volunteer Welcome Packet for answers to frequently asked questions about becoming a volunteer and schedule a meeting with your local UF/IFAS 4-H Agent.
Today Sara is paying it forward by leading a 4-H Outdoor Adventure Club
Cole as a sophomore at Jacksonville University, a member of the varsity shotgun team.
4-H allows young people to explore their sparks for learning. And through the process, young people learn valuable life skills that prepare them for work and/or college. But many people do not realize that 4-H can help young people secure cash for college or trade school! But college scholarships weren’t on Cole Dillard’s mind when he attended his first 4-H Shooting Sports club meeting. He just wanted to shoot skeet and become a better marksman. Cole joined the Sure Shots 4-H Club in Washington County when he was 10 years old and never looked back. Over the next eight years, he competed in 4-H and other shotgun competitions. He worked hard with his coaches to hone his skills and confidence. He also helped coach younger youth and served as the club president for two years. As a senior 4-Her, he was the Shotgun Individual HOA in 2020 at the Florida 4-H State Match. This earned him a spot to compete at the National 4-H Shooting Sports Match.
Cole with his brother Cass, and one of his 4-H Shotgun coaches
All that paid off when one of Cole’s coaches introduced him to the Jacksonville University advisor for the varsity shotgun team. After meeting the coach, touring the campus, and shooting with the other varsity members, Cole was offered a varsity scholarship to Jacksonville University as a member of their shotgun team. Today, Cole is finishing his sophomore year and majoring in aviation. His favorite clay target game is skeet, and he was recently named the Jacksonville University “Shooter of the Week.” You never know where exploring your 4-H sparks will take you in life- for Cole, it helped him turn his spark for shooting sports into cash for college!
Cole with members of his 4-H Shotgun team, preparing for the state match in 2019
Cole’s story would not have been possible without the caring volunteers who coached him in 4-H Shooting Sports. They shared their passion for the sport so that he could explore his spark, which eventually led to his college scholarship. This is one example of the many ways our 4-H volunteers make a significant difference in the lives of young people. If you have knowledge, skills, or expertise, please consider sharing them through 4-H. We offer flexible opportunities to share your passion with today’s youth. If you are not familiar with 4-H, check out our 4-H Volunteer Welcome Packet for answers to frequently asked questions about becoming a volunteer and schedule a meeting with your local UF/IFAS 4-H Agent.
In continuing this week’s theme and celebration of National 4‑H Week, we want to highlight our last “H” in 4-H, Health. As the 4-H pledge states, I pledge my…health to better living.” Just living a healthy lifestyle in general is a huge endeavor for anyone to accomplish and it takes a lot of awareness of self to accomplish it well. As a 4-Her, not only are we committing to make healthy choices for our own mind, body, and spirit but we are also striving to make healthy choices and conduct ourselves in a manner that is healthy for our club, community, country, and world.
Our agents and volunteers do an amazing job in guiding and inspiring our 4-H youth to learn just how to be aware of and make decisions that lead to such healthy living. Through hands-on learning activities and the experiential learning model, these positive adult role models engage youth to challenge themselves and apply critical thinking skills in order to gain additional essential life skills that aid in balanced physical, mental and emotional health. From healthy living clubs to competitive events such as the Consumer Choices Contest to enrichment programs such as Health Rocks, 4-H brings real life situations and choices to the forefront and teaches youth to be empowered in their healthy decision making.
HEALTH FOR YOU, HEALTH FOR ME
Are you looking for certain areas to help inspire your children or neighborhood youth to make healthy decisions? Is there a particular area in the healthy living realm that you feel your children need some hands-on learning? The Northwest 4-H District have shared some wonderful publications over the recent years, highlighting varying aspects of 4-H Healthy Living. From inspiring youth and volunteers to helpful tips and resources, the articles below are short reads that give great overviews of the 4-H healthy living lifestyle.
The Application of Healthy Living
Healthy Living Tips & Helpful Hints
Inspiring Healthy Reads
Would you like to become a volunteer that inspires youth to invest in their future? Visit your local UF IFAS County Extension Office and meet your 4-H Extension Agent for additional information on how to become a 4-H Volunteer today to inspire youth to make healthy decisions and conduct themselves in a manner that is healthy for their club, community, country, and world!
What makes 4-H different from other youth organizations? One characteristic is our learn-by-doing approach! Our programs are intentionally designed to immerse youth in learning by experiencing and doing activities. Today happens to be National Youth Science Day. For over a decade, 4-H has been using science experiments to use their HEAD and HANDS to connect science to their everyday life. 4-H NYSD is an annual program that provides access and opportunity for kids everywhere to take an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) by participating in a hands-on STEM challenge. This year’s challenge, Game Changers, teaches young people coding skills through physical activity and puzzles. Developed by Google and West Virginia University Extension Service, this hands-on experience includes a computer-based activity on Google’s CS First platform, as well as two unplugged activities that bring coding to life through games, physical activities and puzzles. Game Changers is perfect for first-time and beginner coders, ages 8 to 14.
In today’s world, computer skills are vital and can open doors for youth in every field, as well as help them excel in schools and explore careers related to agriculture, business and even the arts.
All kids everywhere are invited to participate in 4-H NYSD. Additional information can be found at 4-H.org/NYSD, including information on how to register and get involved. Game Changers kits are available for sale at 4-HMall.org/nysd. Each kit comes equipped with all the materials necessary for youth to complete the experience, including instruction booklets for both youth and adult facilitators. For more information, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office or check out this short video on 4-H NYSD.
4-H NYSD 2018 was developed in collaboration with Google, with support from our national partners —Donaldson Filtration Solutions, HughesNet, Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Air Force.
These young 4-H’ers are learning all that 4-H has to offer right in their schools through 4-H school clubs and school enrichment programs.
Heart is the second of the four H’s in the 4-H Pledge: head, HEART, hands and health. You can measure things of head, hands, and health, fairly simply. But to take the measure of a person’s heart is a little more tricky, and it is in my estimation, their truest measure. Your heart determines how you think, act, and respond to others. It’s the influence of your character.
In 4-H, we strive to give young people the opportunity to build character through a number of activities. Through service learning, we teach 4-Hers to consider others before themselves. Through democratic decision making, we teach them to be fair, even when it doesn’t mean equal. Through club membership, they learn loyalty. Through projects and fair entries, they learn patience with themselves and others. Through competition, how to be humble winners and gracious losers. And through awards and recognition, they learn the satisfaction of reaching a goal through hard work. We write thank you letters to learn gratitude. And above all, through teamwork, we teach that respect means being kind to others even when we don’t agree, and that all people deserve respect.
At a time when current events may leave us feeling discouraged, I encourage you to consider this instead. Just as a farmer’s fields of green inspire hope for a fruitful harvest, whenever I look out on my own fields of green – young people in 4-H shirts of course – ready to go to work for themselves or others, I too feel hope for a bright and promising future. These young people aren’t just learning to show hogs, shoot targets, sew, bake, or build a robot. They are learning to care about something larger than themselves. And that is, in fact, the promise of youth – which is exactly the stuff 4-H is made of.
For more information on how your family can learn more about 4-H, its enriching opportunities and the positive impacts made on young people, find your local UF IFAS Extension Office and contact your 4-H Agent to explore what 4-H programs are offered in your area.