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Jessica Kimbro: Learning to lead through 4-H

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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 and 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, they see themselves as leaders (74 percent) and they feel a responsibility to lead (73 percent).

However, only one in three young people says 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 — for 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.

The Texas 4-H Center is hosting Teen Retreat Jan. 5-7. This weekend-long program is for youth in grades 8-12 to learn about specific activities inside 4-H. County agents, 4-H specialists and the 4-H Center summer staff will be leading the programs. 

This year's educational sessions include Survival Guide to Turning 18, Leadership in Community, Teambuilding, as well as others. As always, we will have a 4-H dance on Saturday night, Jan. 6. Cost is $120 for youth or $90 for adults. Registration is open on 4-H Connect through Dec. 22. Any adults attending must enroll as a volunteer in 4-H Connect, complete the online child protection training in 4-H Connect, and submit a background check, also via 4-H Connect.

Texas 4-H is like a club for kids 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 lets 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 military bases 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 can be in Clover Kids. From third through 12th grades, you can be in 4-H. Contact the Denton County Extension Office through today for more information on how to become a true leader.

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