A Family Affair

A young man wearing a green 4-H blazer stands smiling on a running track. Four people standing outside on a running track. A young man wearing a yellow T-shirt stands with his arm around his mother. Three woman review an old scrap book, and the inset shows an old photograph of the lady in the center.
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4-H’er comes from long line of program volunteers, members

Story by Susan Collins-Smith • Photos by Kevin Hudson

Jacob Turner has been a 4-H member since he was old enough to join.

That’s because his family understands the benefits the Mississippi State University Extension Service’s youth development program offers to young people. They are loyal supporters and former members of the program and have volunteered and participated for decades. Turner’s four siblings are also active members of 4-H.

“My whole family has been involved with 4-H for a long time,” he relates. “My mom, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother have all been involved in 4-H. It goes back four or five generations.”

The Greenville High School sophomore stays busy. In addition to playing French horn in the school band, he is active in school and summer league sports, including baseball, track, and soccer. But he also makes time for 4-H and participates in just about every program his Extension agents have offered—from public speaking to cooking.

“My favorite right now is fishing club,” Turner explains. “I fished before we had a club, but I’ve learned some new ways to do things. I’ve also learned to be more patient.”

He says public speaking is a skill that he’s been able to improve in 4-H.

“I was nervous when I first started, but I knew I could do it,” he says. “Now, I really love it. I use it in English class mostly. It has given me skills that some of my classmates don’t have.”

Other programs he participates in include science club, grilling contests, shooting sports, and the Clean Up Mississippi Marathon. He is also serving his second year as a 4-H ambassador. Ambassadors learn leadership, citizenship, and communication skills by helping promote 4-H. They serve as emcees, program facilitators, and members of county and state council committees.

“I like having better insight into 4-H and getting to help make decisions about where 4-H is going in the future,” Turner explains about his role.

As an ambassador, he participates in activities like 4-H Legislative Day, where ambassadors meet with and learn from state legislators and other leaders. This year, he was able to participate in interviewing John Spann, program and outreach officer with the Mississippi Humanities Council, and Sean Tindall, Mississippi public safety commissioner.

“It was interesting to talk with them about the things they are doing in their positions to help improve life in Mississippi,” Turner says.

Turner loves to sing and is a member of his church choir and the Voices of Glory group. He took his talent to the stage for the 4-H Idol Contest, where 4-H’ershad the opportunity to try out for the national television show, American Idol.

4-H is an important program that can change lives of young people for the better, he says.

“I’ve seen 4-H put people on a totally different path than they were on,” says Jennifer Russell, Extension agent in Washington County. “That’s why we try to take a holistic approach to what we offer. We want to give our children the opportunity to participate in as many experiences as possible to help them be the best they can be.”

That includes the chance to choose activities they may not otherwise try, says Lionell Hinds, Extension 4-H agent in Washington County.

“Kids get a lot of opportunities to participate in school sports here,” Hinds says. “So, my philosophy is to take an athletically minded kid and introduce them to the cultural side of life—things like planting, sewing, cooking, and learning about farm animals. We can also take a culturally minded youth and introduce them to the sports side of life—like kayaking, fishing, and shooting sports. Then, you can develop a more well-rounded youth by letting them experience both sides of life.”

Watch Turner’s interview with Tindall below.

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