As this teen says, 4-H makes a difference

March 28, 2006|by JEFF SEMLER

Every February, 4-H members across Washington County turn in their record books that chronicle their annual 4-H experiences. In each record book is the member's resume, essay and project record sheets.

Today, I will give you a glimpse into one of these record books.

Emily Myers, a junior at Clear Spring High School, is a member of the Huyetts 4-H Club and one of the members whose book was selected to go on to state competition.

Read on and enjoy Emily's essay, which answers the question, "How Have I Made a Difference as a 4-H'er?"


Driving down the highway, thinking of nothing in particular, I looked down on the seat next to me, which held the brand-new pair of farm boots that I had just bought. They weren't going to stay clean for long, however.

When I stopped, I had driven to my local 4-H fairgrounds, which at that time was no longer the bustling center of activity that it had been just yesterday.


As I pulled my boots on, I happened to glance around at the small, methodical motions of the rest of the cleanup crew around me as they toiled through their dirty jobs.

I walked steadily out to join them, thinking that every year was going to turn out to be the same old thing, and that no matter how hard we tried, raising animals to put on a show for a week was never going to be anything special. Never anything that would make a difference in the normal march of life.

Suddenly, I felt a tug on my sleeve, and looked down at the face of a little girl. She looked up at me, and said that while she realized that the fair had been over since yesterday, that she had come back to thank me for earlier that week showing her my own lambs, and allowing her to touch them.

She talked about how she had never had a chance to experience things like that, and that I had opened her eyes to a wonderful new experience.

As I watched her walk away, I knew that I had, indeed, made a difference.

Sometimes, people get caught up with the big picture and forget that sometimes it's the little things that matter most.

I had become one of those people during the last few years of my 4-H career. With all of the projects I was immersed in, I was too busy counting up the demonstrations, figuring out how to make everything work over the course of the whole year, trying to devise a new way to make my sheep a better catch for this year's fair and basically not thinking that 4-H is not about me, the individual.

4-H is a program that, while promoting self-betterment, is also something that encourages the individual to make a difference in the community, and the people around them. After I thought about it, I realized that maybe I had indeed done just that.

As a 4-H'er, I have come to hold the values of 4-H in my heart. Use your head to do good around you, use your heart for compassionate things, use your hand to help others and use your health as a tool to stay strong for the benefit of others.

Because these values became so ingrained in my life, I was able to use them to make a difference.

In my 4-H club, I used my head to think of different ways that our group could volunteer in the community to help people, or just make people happy. We sent cards and duct-tape flowers to members of the Anita Lynn home, and we sent cards to the brave men in Iraq.

At the Ag Expo, I used my heart to reach out to the young children that had come to explore the strange-sounding, but oh-so-fun world of bleating animals and strange objects.

I let them touch and lead my sheep around, and I told them interesting facts about them, so that when they walked away, they were able to enjoy their experience that much more.

I used my hands to make baked goods to sell in the 4-H bake sale for people to eat, and I used them to help set up the fairgrounds for the enjoyment of all people.

Good health was important when I used it to teach others how to live healthier lives, and to keep me strong enough to help them in their own lives.

I took another moment to think of all the lives that I had touched through 4-H.

The soldiers over in Iraq who sent us thank-you cards, the many people in my community who stopped and thanked me for showing them my animals, and other people that I don't know, who just stopped to say a simple 'thank you.'

Through 4-H, I learned that I can always do something for someone else, and while it may not seem like a big deal to me, it makes a world of difference to them.

In the short space that it took for the little girl to walk back to her mother, I mulled over these thoughts. I came to realize that no matter how small the act may seem, someone always appreciates them, and they do make a difference somewhere.

As a 4-H'er, I learned that I can make a difference, and I walked toward the cleanup with a spring in my step.

Now, you can better understand what 4-H means by their slogan, "Learn by Doing," and motto, "Making the Best Better."

I trust you enjoyed Emily's thoughts and will have a different impression the next time you see a 4-H Clover.

Jeff Semler is an Extension educator, specializing in agriculture and natural resources, for the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension. He is based in Washington County. He can be reached weekdays by telephone at 301-791-1404, ext. 25, or by e-mail at

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