What Do All of These People Have in Common?
Posted: March 15, 2016
I may live in Wisconsin now and no longer be directly involved in the PA 4-H program but that does not mean that it is not still a major part of my life. I am now a very proud 4-H alumna who can thank my many years of involvement with such an amazing program and group of people for making me who I am today.
When I joined the Northern Livestock 4-H Club in Indiana County, I was a very shy 8 year old. The club that I lived in was in a different county than where I went to school, so that meant that the only people I knew at the first meeting was my cousin Alex, my Uncle Gary, and my step-dad. To make a long story short about that first night, I sat in the back of the room beside my step-dad and didn’t talk to anyone. Over the first few months of that first year, our leader Amy coaxed me out of my shell and in to the arms of our club “family”. By that summer I was participating in the county speech contest and couldn’t wait to spend the week at the fair with my new best friends.
For the first few years of membership, my 4-H career revolved around showing my pigs. Little did I know that 4-H could offer so much more to me until our Extension Educator Carol Schurman opened my eyes to the State Leadership Conference. This gave me the opportunity to meet 4-H members from all across the state and also gave me my first glimpse of the PA State 4- Council. Then and there I decided that one day I would be a member of that group. From there on I became more involved with other 4-H programs and activities besides just the county fair. I became a teen counselor for the Southwest Regional 4-H camp, which helped me hone in on my organization skills as well as those that come along with dealing with kids of all ages and abilities. Also, I began helping with the three day camps that Carol holds around Indiana County each summer. Again I was able to help by being a counselor there and working with the children in attendance.
In 2008 I was finally given the chance to become a member of the State 4-H Council. I was the first member from Indiana County to be chosen for the team, and I am proud to say that there have been two other members after me that have done the same. I could go into so many details about what Council is and does but that would turn this story into a novel. During my year as a Council member I was able to continue to grow in my public speaking, leadership, organization, accountability, and many other skills that I would not have gained were it not for being a 4-H member. That year on Council not only taught me many things but I also gained sisters. We were a team of all girls with a female advisor. Many late nights, long car rides, and great life lessons were learned with these amazing women who I still to this day cherish with all of my heart.
I really could go on and on and outline each one of my years as a member and then working with the 4-H program but as I said before, this story would turn into a novel. What I really want to make sure is to be clear about my time as a 4-H member is that I may have aged out of the program but I am still to this day a proud member of the PA 4-H Family. Family is a key word in what others would call a community of 4-H members. The skills and experiences that I gained as a 4-H member have built me into who I am today, led me down the path to earning a degree from Penn State in Animal Science and helped me forge a new path in Central Wisconsin where I will soon be running a beef cattle operation alongside my husband (who is also a PA 4-H alumni!).
4-H has been a part of my life for over half of my life. I cannot imagine who or where I would be without it, the experiences it gave me, or the friends and family I have gained through it. Many of my role models are people who I have met through the years including Carol and Gene Schurman, Amy Olson-Lowmaster, Mya Rushton, and on and on I could go.
This is not just another story by yet another 4-H member. This is my story and each one of us may have belonged to the same organization but it affects each one of us in our own way and helps to build us up.
4-H is taking today’s youth and turning them into tomorrow’s leaders. Please do not let this be an end of an era that has been so deep in the history and culture of Pennsylvania since 1855 when Penn State was founded as the Land Grant University for our state.
Laura (Pifer) Passmore