4-H: Where Are They Now?
Q&A with Kerri Collins Lewis • Photo by Kevin Hudson
Born in Biloxi, Ashley Ward shines as manager of event promotion for Ducks Unlimited and cohost for Ducks Unlimited TV. Ward grew up in rural Wayne County in Waynesboro. While her 4-H projects included clothing construction and she was a top singer at State Congress, her true passion was always the shooting sports program, Safe Archery & Firearms Education & Training for Youth, or 4-H S.A.F.E.T.Y.
Q: Why did you first join 4-H?
Hunting has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My dad saw this passion and asked if I wanted to try shooting sports through 4-H. I went to my first shotgun practice when I was 13, and I was hooked!
Q: Tell me about your 4-H experience–your county, how many years you participated, etc.
Ms. Lanette Crocker was instrumental in getting me more involved in 4-H outside of shooting sports. I attended 4-H Congress for 3 years and competed in the clothing and singing competitions.
Q: How did 4-H contribute to your leadership skills?
4-H taught me not to be afraid to get in and do the work.
Q: Did you receive awards or other recognitions? What were the most meaningful to you, and why?
My favorite was the day I made it to nationals. At the state competition, I was the only girl in a shoot-off for the fourth spot on the team. I had to shoot three true pairs, and I was the last to shoot. It was my moment of truth. I got up in the box and did my pre-shooting routine. I said, “Pull,” and I honestly don’t remember anything after that other than I broke every target. After I broke the last target, I collapsed in my dad’s arms, and we both cried, because a goal that I had worked toward since I started my 4-H journey had been accomplished. Both of my parents were there every step of the way.
Q: How are you still making the best better?
I always strive to do the best I can do and be the best person I can be.
Q: How can 4-H make a young person’s life better?
4-H allows kids to get out of their comfort zone and helps them communicate and connect with their peers outside their normal group. It is important to be able to communicate with all walks of life, and 4-H allows you to do this, even at a local level.
Q: What projects did you do? Any activities that were your favorites?
I remember a Christmas toy drive at the local Extension office for less fortunate kids. As a high school student who never wanted for much, this was truly an incredibly eye-opening and humbling experience.
Q: Why should kids join 4-H?
Kids should join 4-H because it’s fun. Bottom line. I can’t tell you how many lasting friendships I made through 4-H and the bonds I created later in life because someone else also grew up in 4-H. It’s an instant bond and common ground. When I’m traveling around the country and I find someone who’s been involved with 4-H, we immediately have a connection no matter what focus they had in 4-H. It also prepares you for the real world, especially if you expand your 4-H involvement beyond your local group. I encourage all 4-H members to attend Club Congress: you get to meet so many people, and it prepares you for college and the real world.