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Jessica Kimbro: America needs more true leaders

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Jessica Kimbro

America is facing a critical need for more leaders — true leaders — prepared with the skills to deal with the problems of today and the challenges of tomorrow.

We all know a true leader when we see one. They lead by example, work well with others, endure through challenges and stick to a job until it gets done. However, many of America's youth are not prepared with the skills they need to lead in the most fundamental areas of their lives today and their careers tomorrow. It is a serious problem now that will lead to a severe leadership void in the years to come, impacting communities across America, in nearly every industry and sector.

Every child has the potential to be a true leader. Yet, young people today say they lack the opportunities that prepare them with the skills to lead.

Today's youth want to lead. A 2016 4-H National Youth Survey on Leadership revealed most youth (88 percent) believe they can make a difference, see themselves as leaders (74 percent) and feel a responsibility to lead (73 percent).

However, only one in three young people say they have the skills they need to be prepared to lead. Half of all high school students report they are not prepared to lead in their life after high school — college or career. Also, many don't feel encouraged by the adults in their lives, with more youth (86 percent) saying adults recognize the negative in their generation than youth saying adults recognize the positive. Youth say they need more encouragement from adults and more hands-on experiences that will help them build confidence and grow skills.

4-H gives young people experiences where they can learn by doing, grow from failure, express their ideas and lead. We tap into their potential and empower them to become true leaders. In 4-H, we believe in the power of young people. We recognize that every child has valuable strengths and can have real potential to improve the world and show us all what it means to be a true leader. 4-H provides the kinds of experiences that help young people grow into true leaders.

Texas 4-H is like a club for kids and teens ages 5-18, and it's big. It's the largest youth development program in Texas with more than 550,000 youth each year. No matter where you live or what you like to do, Texas 4-H has something that allows you be a better you.

We are launching the new 4-H year with a mission, to empower this generation of youth with encouragement and real opportunities to lead. You may think 4-H is only for your friends with animals, but it's so much more. You can do activities like shooting sports, food science, healthy living, robotics, fashion and photography.

Look for 4-H clubs at your school, an after-school program, a community center, or even on base or through the reserves for military families. 

In 4-H, the activities are organized by topics and called 'projects.' All 4-H members must be enrolled in at least one project. When you choose a project, you will learn everything there is to know about that topic. You will participate in various hands-on activities, learn new skills, do community service or even make speeches about your project.

Join for $25 or less. Texas 4-H is for kids of almost any age — grades kindergarten through second grade can be in Clover Kids. From third through 12th grades, you can be in 4-H. Contact the Denton County Extension Office at (940) 349-2884 today for more information on how to become a true leader.

Texas 4-H members have always been proud of the communities they call home. Whether they live in cities, towns or rural areas, 4-Hers make their communities better year-round, but they couldn't do it without help. "One Day 4-H" was created in 2009 as a way for all 4-H members to say "thank you" to their communities, counties and state for all the support they have provided to 4-H for more than 100 years.

This year, One Day 4-H is on Oct. 7. All across the state, 4-H clubs, adult volunteers and friends will conduct community service projects to say thanks for the many years of support we have received from parents, neighbors, volunteers and local businesses and organizations. And you don't have to be a 4-H member to help out — we love volunteers of all ages.

This year Denton County 4-H will be serving Denton County. If you are interested in participating in our One Day 4-H event, contact the Denton County Extension Office for more information. Also be sure to follow us on Facebook at DentonCounty4H and Twitter at @DentonCounty4H for updates, results and current information.

JESSICA KIMBRO is the 4-H and Youth Development county extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension. She can be reached at 940-349-2884 or via email at jessica.kimbro@ag.tamu.edu.