Bridging the Gap

A girl wearing a maroon sweatshirt stands in front of a trophy display with her hands on her hips.
Marisa Laudadio, 4-H member

4-H programs develop life skills, influence positive career paths

Marisa Laudadio says she was once reluctant to come out of her shell.

Now she is a highly accomplished high school graduate looking forward to beginning her studies at Mississippi State University in political science and communication. She credits her experience as a member of the 4-H Youth Development program not only with helping her develop social and life skills, but also with unlocking her passion for serving others and helping her discover her life’s purpose.

This summer marks the end of the Minnesota native’s 13-year tenure in the youth development and mentoring organization of the MSU Extension Service. She joined her older brothers as a 4-H Cloverbud in 2003 when she was a 5- year-old homeschooled youngster who wanted to make friends.

“I was self-conscious and shy because I thought my peers knew more about the outside world than I did,” she says. “4-H is a very team-oriented organization, and I eventually found it easier to force myself to engage others.

“That experience taught me that, just by being friendly, I can make people around me happier. I realized a lot of my insecurities were unfounded, and my confidence continued to build as I became more active in 4-H activities.”

Given the choice to stay in 4-H or leave when she moved with her family to Walnut, Laudadio realized that 4-H provided her so many opportunities that she should remain a member and become even more involved.

Her résumé of leadership roles and academic achievements is longer than that of many college graduates. She has logged more than 900 hours of community service at the county and state level, served as a 4-H legislative page in the Mississippi Senate, represented 4-H at the state capitol for Legislative Day four times, served as a member of the organization’s Healthy Living roundtable and the National Youth Leadership team, and attended Mississippi’s American Legion Auxiliary Girls State Program in 2015.

At Magnolia Girls State, Laudadio served as president of the Senate and was named Outstanding Citizen of her city as well as overall Outstanding Citizen of the entire camp.

She has also worked on political campaigns in Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Laudadio has also toured the U.S. Supreme Court and visited Marine Corps Base Quantico.

Laudadio, a member of the MSU Extension 4-H Ambassador Program, is working to implement “Thank a Veteran,” a program she has developed that involves collecting and donating care packages with hand-written thank-you notes to people who have served in the military.

Martha Jackson-Banks, assistant Extension professor and 4-H youth development specialist, considers Laudadio one of the most well-rounded 4-H’ers that she’s had the honor to work with.

“There are so many components in 4-H that she has embraced. From livestock judging to public speaking, to nutrition to leadership, she likes it all,” Jackson-Banks emphasizes. “She demonstrates outstanding leadership skills at all times. Marisa is an outstanding written and oral communicator.

“The love she has for 4-H has afforded her opportunities to participate in several high-profile 4-H events. Marisa represented Mississippi at the 2014 4-H National Conference. She did an awesome job in her roundtable,” Jackson-Banks continues. “Marisa is an excellent teacher, and she enjoys doing hands-on activities. I am proud of her and all she has accomplished.”

Through the many opportunities Laudadio has had in representing Mississippi and 4-H, she has discovered how much she cares about the governmental process.

“I have developed a passion for leadership and citizenship,” she says. “I want to hone my skills in those categories and eventually work for a non-profit organization or advocacy group. I want to bridge the gap between the people and politics, because I think doing so draws everyone together toward a common good.”

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MSU Extension Service
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