4-H: Where Are They Now?

A Black woman wearing a white turtleneck sweater stands smiling beside the University of Mississippi Honor College seal. A Black woman wearing a white turtleneck sweater smiling and leaning on a pillar. A Black woman wearing a white turtleneck sweater looks at large, thick books. A Black woman wearing a white turtleneck sweater walks along a path outside.
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Q&A with Rhiannon Page • Photos by Kevin Hudson

Jilkiah Bryant is a Noxubee County native and current student at the University of Mississippi studying public health and health sciences. As a recipient of the Truman Scholarship, which she describes as the greatest honor of her life, Bryant plans to take her education to the next level with graduate school to pursue a career as a public health professional. Driven by her research on poverty alleviation through educational and economic development in Mississippi, Jilkiah plans to serve the underserved by fighting for affordable and accessible healthcare systems in rural communities.

4-H taught me to...

Engage with individuals from all around Mississippi and grow comfortable venturing outside of my comfort zone to meet new people. 4-H also taught me that friendship and support transcend winning first place or being recognized, and I learned the importance of being a caring, compassionate, and loving member of my organization.

Because of 4-H...

At State Congress, I gained essential public speaking and networking abilities through our contests and social activities. 4-H connected me with so many individuals who believed in me, from students to Extension agents to Mississippi State leadership, that I had no choice but to believe in myself.

If I hadn’t been in 4-H...

I wouldn’t have met individuals from all over the state and formed connections that I still have now. 4-H taught me the value of agriculture, leadership, and diversity in taking the first steps toward changing the world. It also taught me that change does no happen on its own or by one person; it involves community, love, and light.

How did your time in 4-H set you up for success?

I feel my time in 4-H helped to develop my social skills, and my time as a State 4-H Ambassador provided me with essential experience as a leader and representative of an organization. However, even before being an ambassador, I learned a variety of life skills through county activities and contests such as archery, cooking, and shooting sports.

What do you wish people knew about 4-H?

I wish people realized that 4-H is about so much more than agriculture and includes everything from public speaking, photography, and archery to cooking and sewing. Growing up, I truly learned and was exposed to a wide range of skills. Through its programs, 4-H really symbolizes the head, heart, hands, and health where 4-H’ers are encouraged to serve and work to improve the lives of others. Whatever you’re interested in or don’t know you’re interested in, 4-H has a program for you! And it’s always a good idea to interact with your classmates and peers outside of the classroom— I made so many friends in my hometown and throughout the state through 4-H.

Interview answers have been edited for space and clarity.

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