4-H Jr. Leaders empowers youth to exercise leadership skills | TSLN.com

4-H Jr. Leaders empowers youth to exercise leadership skills

Lura Roti
for SDSU Extension

Speaking in front of adults or peers doesn't faze Brandon Valley High School freshman, Andrew Rommann. "I love giving presentations in school and leading 4-H meetings."

The quiet 15-year-old, readily admits public speaking does not come naturally to him, but says experiences through 4-H have built his confidence. "I have always been a quiet person, but 4-H has taught me how to prepare presentations, lead conversations and how to speak up during meetings. Today, I love giving presentations in school."

Rommann will put all these skills to use March 19, 2016 during the annual Ag Day hosted by the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls. He is one of 10 4-H Jr. Leader's in Minnehaha County who will be visiting with the public, providing information on local 4-H opportunities, engaging kids in a trivia game and handing out prizes he and the other 4-H Jr. Leader's allocated budget funds to purchase.

"The 4-H Jr. Leader's Program provides 4-H members 12 to 18 with the opportunity to not only take part in business meetings, but also to participate in community service events, like Ag Day at the Washington Pavilion," explained Nathan Skadsen, SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Program Advisor – Minnehaha County.

“The 4-H Jr. Leaders Program provides 4-H members 12 to 18 with the opportunity to not only take part in business meetings, but also to participate in community service events, like Ag Day at the Washington Pavilion.”Nathan Skadsen, SDSU Extension 4-H youth program advisor

— Minnehaha County

"And it's not just for country kids," added Rommann's mom, Julie. "Before we got involved in 4-H, we always thought 4-H was only for our friends who lived in the country, but 4-H has something for all kids."

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Julie echoed her son's comments when she explained, "Andrew was a very shy as a child, but doing public presentations and community service projects, gave him the opportunity to be out, in front of the public and forced him to share information."

Today, Andrew is president of his 4-H club, Dakota Tumbleweeds. Julie said that participating in the 4-H Jr. Leader's Program has taken his leadership training to the next level. "I've noticed it has helped him with time management and gives him an opportunity to work with his peers from other clubs throughout the county," Julie explained.

Expanding leadership skills through hands-on experiences is a focus of the Minnehaha County 4-H Jr. Leader's Program, Skadsen said. "We have regular business meetings, where the youth have a budget to manage. They also provide input into county-wide programming. Everything we do in 4-H is for them after all," said Skadsen who leads a leadership activity at the close of each meeting.

This last meeting the activity was on clear communications. "We hope to expand our 4-H Jr. Leader's group in Minnehaha County, so we discussed how, as new members join the group, we need to be mindful on how we discuss things so everyone feels included. The activity had the Jr. Leader's use non-verbal communication skills and reflect on the assumptions that are made when we communicate with each other."

Skadsen would like to see more 4-H members take part in the Minnehaha 4-H Jr. Leader's Program. "We aren't exclusive, and it's our goal to expand this year," Skadsen explained.

Participating in the county-wide program has local benefits too, said Mandy Healy, a 4-H alumnus who gives back by serving as the leader of the 4-H horse club, Trailbusters.

"4-H Jr. Leader's gives members an opportunity to become involved in programming decisions for the county. Elizabeth brings back information to our club and I've noticed that her comfort level as a club officer has increased," Healy said, referencing Trailbusters' club treasurer and West Central High School student, Elizabeth Carda.

Carda, a high school freshman, got involved in 4-H two years ago because she wanted to become a more proficient horsewoman. In addition to gaining skills as a rider, Carda says 4-H has given her the opportunity to mentor younger kids.

"It's another responsibility that helps develop me for life experiences. As club treasurer, the little kids see me as an inspiration. I love encouraging them, especially the really shy kids and helping them feel comfortable. Our club is one big family," explained the 14-year-old track and basketball athlete.

She added that serving as a 4-H Jr. Leader has allowed her to expand her 4-H family. "I'm really social, so I've enjoyed meeting kids from other towns and clubs in our county. Through Jr. Leader's I've had the opportunity to explore more of the world, like when we went on a farm tour."

To learn more about 4-H Jr. Leader's Program, or how you and your youth can become involved in the program, contact your local 4-H office, or visit the 4-H Jr. Leader's booth at the March 19 Ag Day at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls (301 S Main Ave, Sioux Falls, SD 57104).

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