Preparing for the Future With 4-H
NC 4-H provides opportunities for youth to grow and gain new insights on rural lifeBy Lance Williams
Since first joining 4-H at seven years old, I have been eager to sign up for any opportunities that come my way. When my 4-H agent told me about Citizenship North Carolina Focus 2019, I quickly signed up for the event, not quite aware of what it was.
Reflecting back on this decision, the choice to expand my understanding of civic engagement and deepen my breadth of knowledge on the legislative process has allowed me to grow as a leader with diverse perspectives and become a productive citizen of North Carolina.
It is a pleasure to be able to call rural Franklin County my home. Moreso, Franklin County 4-H has played a vital role in the development of my life in rural North Carolina. Although I’m the grandson of tobacco farmers, the generational gap in an agricultural occupation with my family puts me in a unique position. There absolutely is a deep connection that exists between me and my agricultural heritage, however, the lack of a traditional “family farm” upbringing placed me in an awkward place of not feeling quite rural enough.
North Carolina 4-H provides opportunities for me to grow as a leader, gain new insights on rural life, and … become an advocate for myself and my community …
For me, the single best bridge for this gap has been 4-H and the exposure to multiple disciplines it makes available. From spending day camps dissecting chickens, to running for district and state office, North Carolina 4-H provides opportunities for me to grow as a leader, gain new insights on rural life, and — especially at Citizenship North Carolina Focus — become an advocate for myself and my community at the governmental level.
Just as North Carolina’s electric cooperatives work to improve communities through local initiatives, Citizenship North Carolina Focus, sponsored by the state’s electric co-ops, allows individuals from communities across the state to come together and brainstorm solutions to local problems while also gaining knowledge on the legislative process. The annual visit to meet our representatives and senators in the General Assembly is always a highlight of the trip, as well. By meeting face-to-face with lawmakers who advocate for us every day, youth like me are able to gain firsthand experience in being an advocate for what we believe in. More importantly, 4-H'ers from around North Carolina are able to speak about the program to the legislators who play an important role in funding NC 4-H. After all, we as 4-H'ers “pledge our hands to larger service,” and what better way to do that than speak on behalf of a program that has given us all so much.
I certainly owe a lot to 4-H and Citizenship North Carolina Focus because of the confidence it has built in me — a confidence to be proud of my agricultural heritage, a confidence to pursue a career in agriculture, and most importantly, a confidence to make a difference in what matters to me.
About the AuthorLance Williams is a resident of Franklin County and currently serves as vice president on the NC 4-H State Council. He will attend NC State University in the fall to study Agricultural Science with a focus on returning to and serving rural counties.