For 1,347 4-H members, the next few days will bring the end of high school and the beginning of what comes next.
What comes next may mean new homes, new friends, new jobs, new pursuits, new lives. Wherever and whatever next means for you, let 4-H carry you through the challenging days. Never doubt you are well prepared for what comes next.
10. You know how to organize… ideas, time, resources.
You may not like 4-H records, but they prepared you for this very moment in your lives. College will be hard. Your home support system may not be near. As a 4-H member, you've already proven you can do this. Regardless how busy you were with sports, family, school, or work, you learned to prioritize your time to be where you needed with what you needed to bring. You're well on your way to conquering the next step.
9. You know how to meet people and build relationships.
Whether hanging out at the fairgrounds or going to state 4-H events, you're the best at meeting new people and offering friendship to others. And, because you've been mentored by the very best volunteer leaders, you already know how to interact with adults. Gain the trust of college instructors and new employers. How? Just like 4-H—by doing your work, being on time, and following through with your commitments.
8. You won't starve.
Any given year, 30 percent of 4-H members enroll in one of the four levels of cooking. We don't have stats, but I'd venture to say few members leave 4-H without having taken at least one 4-H cooking project. Just make sure not every meal is coffeecake and jackpot drop cookies.
7. You've learned how to learn.
There's an art to learning, and you're a pro. As 4-H members, you did independent learning in your project areas—outside of school time and without a teacher guiding the way. You know where to look for research-based knowledge, and you've learned to apply it to your everyday life. Studying for college, you've got that!
6. You know how to handle the pressure.
Whether you stood first in class or last in class, 4-H has given you practice at winning, losing, and everything that goes along with both. You've been tested and survived. And, you'll be able to do it again.
5. You care.
We already know 4-H members are four times more likely to contribute to their communities. Look for ways to contribute in your new environment. Service to others is the surest way to fight loneliness, depression, fear, and anxiety. Don't stop being involved. Don't stop caring.
4. You know how to work hard.
Whether morning chores or nighttime club activities, you're no slacker. You've learned to set goals and work hard at your plan to achieve those goals. You've trained dogs, driven hogs, fixed gears, created beauty from an empty canvas, led groups, cleaned parks, cared for others, and still managed to have fun along the way. Dig deep when you have to.
3. You are a leader and a team player all in one package.
Period. Exclamation point. This will be where others may stumble, but not you. You've already had to bring people together to build consensus on club decisions. You've already organized large events and worked with other teens on service projects. You've led and been willing to be led. It will surprise you the number of people you'll meet who have done neither. Don't back away from shining in what comes next.
2. You are a better speaker than you think.
Yes, you are. Your club talks and demonstrations have been your greatest preparation for what comes next. You know how to organize ideas into words. You know how to relate to others and engage them. You know how to deal with the fear of standing in front of others. When the time comes, be it a work meeting or a college presentation, your 4-H public speaking training will kick in.
1. You aren't alone.
Wherever you go, you will meet other 4-H alum, and that gives you an instant bond. In every county across the nation, Extension offices can be your first stop for information, for connections, and for help. You are never far from someone willing to help you, all because you are a 4-H alum.
Within you is the power to transform the world. You were built for this. You are ready for what comes next.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy Mae Bingman, University of Illinois Extension Marketing and Communications Manager
Judy uses powerful words and photography to tell the Extension story. She is a skilled communication strategist and storyteller with demonstrated success in building teams and creating strong organizational brand identities that deepen Extension’s impact among key audiences, build brand loyalty, strengthen employee talent, and expand public engagement. She is a frequent conference presenter at the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents Conference and helps Extension staff across the nation tell compelling stories.