4-H Encourages Community Engagement and Personal Development

Brian GermanEducation


4-H offers opportunities for growth and personal development to students of all backgrounds and does not require involvement in agriculture. Erica Hafkey, a senior at O’Neals Minarets High School, has been involved in Raymond 4-H for nine years and has actively engaged in a variety of activities in the program. Hafkey attributes many of her successes and personal development to her time in 4-H and has not participated in agricultural activities but has been exposed to them through her group.

4-H, a national organization home to over six million members ranging from ages 9 to 21 across the country, provides countless activities for the members to become involved in that help with leadership skills and personal growth. While having an emphasis on agriculture, membership and activities are not limited to those that come from rural areas. Students that have no interest in agriculture still have an abundance of opportunities in the program and are often exposed to the agriculture industry along the way.

Hafkey was involved in several activities including: cooking, sewing, public speaking, dog showmanship, leadership events, favorite foods day, fashion review, workshops, and camps. This lengthy resume provided her with a strong list of skills to utilize in her life moving forward.

“I’ve learned a lot about what leadership is and, especially with doing public speaking for so many years, I’ve learned how to talk to people and really represent myself,” Hafkey said. “I’m not really afraid of going outside of my comfort zone anymore or meeting new people. I’m very outgoing, so it’s a lot different than when I was younger, so I feel like I’ve gained a lot of leadership skills in working with people and now I love working with people and being a people person.”

The confidence and self-esteem generated from these activities alone is worth the involvement. However, there are even more benefits for members that remain active. Hafkey explained, in detail, her excitement over the skills in leadership, public speaking, and networking she has been able to cultivate over the years. Through demonstration events, managing camps, and being her group’s TLAW or Teenage Leader Award Winner, she has transformed into a confident and competent member of her community.

“It just really taught me that I want to be around people, and I want to be involved in my community, and that’s what 4-H does a lot,” Hafkey said. “It’s always keeping you involved and keeping everyone involved and doing stuff together.”

Hafkey clarified that, no matter which path she chooses to follow in terms of her career, she knows that the skills and experiences from 4-H will be coming with her and will ultimately benefit her ability to pursue any goal she sets her mind to.

4-H has the ability to draw a true leader out of a shy student, as seen by Erica Hafkey. Even those that do not come from agricultural backgrounds have a place in 4-H and can often benefit from the environment and community established by those groups.