A Letter to West Virginia 4-H

Dear West Virginia 4-H,

I know that you’re busy, National 4-H Week just winding down and all, but I just wanted to take a few minutes to say thank you.

A little over eleven years ago I was a quiet sixth grader who spent her time reading and helping out in the library before school started.  My biggest goal at the time was to read all the books in the school library.  When my friend invited me to a 4-H meeting I had no idea what to expect.  I remember staying with my friend and being confused by the pledge and singing of “West Virginia Boys and Girls”, but something stuck and I came back month after month.  When asked for volunteers to take a llama to the fair, I didn’t hesitate.  I named my llama Dusty Dreams and over the next three years we learned a lot from each other; he had to listen to me and I had to speak up and let Dusty know I was in charge.  Taking a llama to the fair was definitely my most memorable project but I also did sewing, puppetry, jewelry-making, and knitting, among other things.  Let me tell you, having a deadline as a child was hard (I got procrastination from my parents) but it was definitely a fantastic learning experience.  I appreciate growing up in a county with such a marvelous youth fair, and a 4-H program that didn’t question whether you would do a project but which one you would pick.

I think beyond the meetings and projects what made me stay in 4-H was the camping.  True, our camping can be quite posh compared to both scouting programs, but there is something about spending a week with boys and girls your age.  I started 4-H late compared to many kids in my home county, at age 11 I completely bypassed Younger Camp and went straight to Intermediate Camp, but I still felt welcome.  I followed my friend into the wonderful Cherokee tribe and had a great first week.  That first year I missed the Final Council Circle because, being a first generation 4-H’er, no one in my family knew what a big deal it was.  That was the only time I missed a Council Circle.  The next couple of years were spent in anticipation of 4-H Camp and the County Fair, then I discovered State Camps.  I never camped an Alpha but I was a die-hard believer in OMC.  Older Member’s Conference allowed me to meet 4-H’ers from all over the state and build friendships that will last a lifetime.  My two roommates are 4-H’ers that I met at OMC, and without 4-H I wouldn’t know them.

While working with fellow 4-H’ers is wonderful, 4-H gives its youth members the best adult role models the world over.  From club leaders to camp counselors 4-H is filled with adults who have had such a tremendous impact on my life.  West Virginia 4-H’ers are blessed with adults who challenge us to truly “make the best better” not only with their words but by their actions.

I’ve also had the opportunity to be that adult role model and give back to the program by spending two summers as an ECI leading camps.  Teaching a camp a new song or leading a Charting class have been some of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

So to sum it up, for: molding me into a confident 23 year old, giving me the friendships of a lifetime, sharing magnificent adult role models, and especially employing me with the best summer job in the world I want to thank you from the very bottom of my heart.  Without your impact I am honestly unsure of what my life would look like.

How-How and God Bless,

A West Virginia 4-H’er

P.S.  Also thank you for making the county you’re from and the tribe you’re in just as important as your name.

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Lauren Mann

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