Growing in 4-H
Lee County 4-H’er gains skills, confidence in 4-H
Story by Susan Collins-Smith • Photos by Kevin Hudson and Michaela Parker
Deciding to get involved in 4-H was one of the best decisions Samuel Brown says he ever made.
“Without 4-H, I probably wouldn’t be in this chair right now,” Brown, 18, answers during his interview. “I wouldn’t be talking to you right now.”
What he means is he wouldn’t have the confidence to talk to a stranger, especially about himself. He’s gained that confidence in 4-H, he explains.
Offered through the Mississippi State University Extension Service, the 4-H youth development program provides children ages 8 to 18 various community-focused experiential learning opportunities that help teach life skills and develop future leaders.
In the 10 years he’s been a member of County Line 4-H Club in Lee County with club leader Kathleen Ivy-Smith, he’s participated in several projects. His first project was photography.
“I loved it,” he says. “I enjoyed taking pictures and seeing the way things looked through a different lens. Then I got into cooking and nutrition. I got better at cooking, and I still like to cook anything. But I like to grill a lot.”
As he got a little older, he wanted to try new project areas, including public speaking and personal development. He’s concentrated on these two areas in the last few years, getting better and better.
“In the beginning, public speaking terrified me,” Brown shares. “But now I can get up in front of people and talk. My mom always tells people about how far I’ve come since I started.
“I like that 4-H has helped me grow. I am not scared to talk in front of a crowd anymore, and I’m proud of the way it has molded me into the young man I am today,” he says. 4-H has also given Brown a network.
“My favorite thing about 4-H is getting to meet new people and build a connection with them,” he comments. “4-H gives you access to lots of people, and you never know how you’ll connect with them later in life.”
Brown has done many community service projects over the years, but one recent event was extra special to him.
“We made up care packages for the nursing home residents and delivered them,” he says. “One of those residents was my dad. It seemed like it made his day.”
One other aspect of Brown’s life would also be different if it weren’t for 4-H: his chosen field of study. He plans to enroll at Alcorn State University after graduation and major in agribusiness.
“There are lots of different jobs in agriculture,” explains the high school senior. “I don’t know exactly what I want to do, but there are a lot of possibilities—from working with numbers to robots.”
Laura Reed, an Extension agent in Lee County, has worked with Brown for about 2 years.
“I’ve seen him grow tremendously,” she says. “He’s gone from a really quiet child who didn’t really want to be involved to an outgoing young man who is willing to step outside his comfort zone.
“I’ve seen 4-H do that for many children, including me,” Reed laughs.