My sister and I walked in and took a seat at the back of the room. We had just moved from suburbia to a rural community. We were the new kids in town and new to 4-H.
Our parents felt it was important to get involved, so they enrolled us in Big Creek 4-H Club. We were at the very first meeting of the year. However, as a family, we did not know a thing about 4-H. After calling the meeting to order and pledges to the American and 4-H flags, it came time for roll call. As it ended, the secretary asked if there was anyone at the meeting for the first time. I remember my sister looking at me. It was as though I could read her mind, “Raise your hand with mine — at the same time — I’m not doing this alone.” So we did.
Little did I know that single act of raising my hand would shape my future. I began volunteering for service projects, making motions and asking questions — so many questions.
Our family did not have any background in farming, but we went head-first into beef and sheep production. My project leaders were patient. They took the time to answer each question — but more importantly, listen and explain. I grew to love the agriculture industry, and it all started in 4-H by raising my hand.
I am a proud alumnus of the largest youth development program in the nation. Currently, 4-H empowers nearly 6 million young people in every county across America, including more than 190,000 4-H’ers in Missouri. However, many former 4-H members are not even registered as alumni.
To join, alumni can go to 4-h.org/RaiseYourHand and fill in their details. By adding your name to the list, you will be a part of this year’s “Raise Your Hand” campaign. Raising your hand is a vote toward a $20,000, $10,000 or $5,000 award for the states with the most hands raised. The campaign started April 1 and runs until May 15.
If you are like me, 4-H offered you the first opportunity to really become involved in agriculture. It was your first chance to show a steer, sew a skirt or sow seeds. So many youths today need those same opportunities and more. It is time, as alumni, we help.
Let’s make Missouri the state with the most hands raised. Join the 4-H Alumni and vote for our kids. Come on, we are the Show-Me State. It is time to make the nation aware that we are 4-H-proud.