The Ambassador Beat: Ava Doner

The 4-H Ontario Ambassador program provides youth with advanced level training in leadership, citizenship, communications and public relations. Ambassadors put their energy and 4-H experiences to work recruiting new members and sharing the 4-H story. Throughout 2015, each of 4-H Ontario’s six Ambassadors will submit blog entries about their experiences in the program. The 4-H Ontario Ambassador program is proudly sponsored by GROWMARK, Inc. and UPI Energy LP. For more info on the Ambassador program click here. To book an Ambassador for you event please complete the request form.

Submitted by Ava Doner, 4-H Ontario Youth Ambassador from Durham East 4-H Association

On a daily basis, I find myself feeling so grateful for my 4-H experiences and for the multitude of contributions this powerful program has made in my life. As a member of 4-H you are exposed to a wide range of activities, events and situations that help you grow as an individual. The 4-H program helps to develop skills that provide you with the necessities of life. As a result, I thought it would be appropriate to outline the top 10 reasons why I am proud to be a 4-H member.

  1. Provides opportunities to try new experiences. 4-H is all about stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying new things. With a safe environment for all members to participate in, each individual has the potential to try something new. 4-H provides a wide range of activities that are available to all ages so everyone has the opportunity to ride a horse, bake a cake, or attend camp for the first time! Participating in real life experiences helps members to gain a new perspective on what the world has to offer!
  2. Helps you develop a deeper appreciation for individualism. The 4-H organization is comprised of a diverse group of individuals. Everyone in 4-H comes from different backgrounds and has different values and interests. In 4-H, you learn how to interact, understand and appreciate individuals that have different morals, hobbies and opinions than yourself.
  3. You learn decision making. Life is all about making decisions and sometimes you need to explain your reasons in regards to that decision. With judging and giving reasons in 4-H, members learn to be confident with the decisions that they make. This is a skill that carries with members throughout life when they are deciding what career they want to pursue, what job offer to take, and so much more.
  4. Develops public speaking skills. I still remember my first 4-H meeting where I was a shy, timid, young, ten-year-old. I was standing in a circle with a bunch of brand new faces that I had never seen before and when it was my time to answer the roll call, I quietly said “Skip me please.” If you met me today, you would quickly come to realize that I am anything but shy. I am convinced that my parents blame 4-H for making me a talker, but I am extremely thankful for it. 4-H provides members with the opportunity to be outspoken and to be confident while speaking to an audience.
  5. The events that you’re privileged to attend. The places that you travel and the things that you get to see are one of the greatest benefits that 4-H has to offer. Often, 4-H clubs do field trips to different farms, workplaces, and events. Additionally, the 4-H Ontario program offers many camps that members of all ages are able to attend across Ontario. Furthermore, 4-H provides exchanges to different provinces and countries where members are able to learn about different cultures and lifestyles. The opportunities presented through the 4-H program are unlike any other!
  6. The people that influence your life. The people that you meet through the 4-H program are some of the most influential and amazing individuals in the world.  You meet mentors and leaders in the industry that often inspire you. Whether you are involved in your home association or at a provincial level, the people that you interact with will teach you life lessons and impact your life forever.
  7. The leadership skills that you develop. The 4-H motto says it all…”Learn to do by doing”. By participating in 4-H, you learn teamwork, responsibility, communication skills, self-confidence and so much more. The leadership skills that you learn in 4-H will help you in all aspects of life in the future.
  8. Helps you become more independent. 4-H provides opportunities to make your own decisions and to take chances outside of your comfort zone. From becoming responsible enough to raise an animal on your own, confident enough to make new friends, or courageous enough to attend a fair for three days without your parents, 4-H gives members a feeling of accomplishment and a feeling of independence.
  9. Sense of inclusion. The members of a 4-H association are often referred to as one big family. The people that you meet and the connections that you make will last a lifetime. Furthermore, 4-H provides opportunities to travel and make friends around the world!
  10. 4-H prepares you for life. At every 4-H meeting, parliamentary procedure is followed and an agenda is used. This teaches members structure and a skill that they will forever use. Additionally, 4-H gives you real life experiences in areas that pertain to a wide range of careers. The events and activities that you partake in are extremely appealing to employers. Lastly, 4-H gives you the skills in order to succeed in a job, such as communication and networking skills.

This is only a short list on how 4-H has impacted my life and why I am proud to be a part of such a wonderful organization. Because of 4-H, I feel confident in the direction that I am heading towards in the future and gives me confidence to achieve things that I never felt possible before.

Now that I have outlined the top 10 reasons as to why I am honoured to be a 4-H member, I am interested to hear what you have to add. Why are you proud to be a 4-H member? How has 4-H influenced your life?

If you want to share your 4-H story be sure to check out our “5 Questions With…” feature here and tell us your story!

5 Questions With… Shelley Barfoot-O’Neill

Name: Shelley Barfoot-O’Neill
Status: Volunteer/Alumni
Years in 4-H: 10 (member), 21 and counting as leader

1. Why did you join 4-H?

As the kid of a 4-H family, there was never a doubt! My grandparents were leaders and my parents were both members and leaders. When I was 11 before the age changed, I was at the Regional Show in Owen Sound with my dad and the Wiarton Dairy Club, and I remember thinking…’next year that will be me in the ring with my calf!’ I was so excited. Our family is four generations of 4-H enthusiasts and just waiting on the fifth generation to become old enough to continue the tradition!

I am a bona-fide 4-H lifer, and so are all of the Barfoot and O’Neill families!

2. What clubs, camps, opportunities, etc have you participated or volunteered in?

As a member I tried to attend every opportunity that was available to me and luckily my parents were very supportive; camps, conferences, and three exchanges to Niagara, Alberta and Saskatchewan. I was in as many livestock and homemaking clubs as I was allowed to take, completing almost 50 clubs. I never missed shows, representing Grey was an honour and I was able to do so at the Classic and Silver Dollar many times as I was also the Grey County 4-H Ambassador and President of the Grey County 4-H Members’ Association.

As a leader, my husband and I lead the Wiarton Dairy, fitting and Sheep Clubs. I also lead the Nashville North and Clavering Lifeskills clubs. I’ve been the chaperone for EastGen since it was Silver Dollar, am dairy and registrations chair for the Grey-Bruce Regional 4-H Show, committee member for the Royal Jr. Sheep Show and All-Ontario Jr. Sheep Show, and have assisted with the Grey County Team at the Classic for many years. Additionally I’m involved as the Livestock Contact for Grey, was President of the Grey County 4-H Leaders Association and countless other activities too numerous to mention.

3. How has 4-H changed your life?

4-H gave me the opportunity to meet my husband of 28 years. As many others have we met through the program and been involved in 4-H together ever since. That is the most important! Aside from that, I was a shy only child and through 4-H members always being at my farm when I was little to being a member and now leader it has given me the self-confidence to do things way outside my comfort zone! While I am still nervous and a little anxious to do new things, I don’t let that stop me. I cannot forget to mention the countless friends and contacts I have made not only as a member and leader but also as a 4-H mom. These wonderful people who have come into our lives through 4-H will always hold a special place in our lives. I love to connect with 4-H’ers from all over at the various activities. We generally are their “Udder Parents” and we are quite happy to be considered that. Learning the importance of community involvement and volunteering from my family and my 4-H Leaders has been a great opportunity and I hope to honour the work they did by being the best I can be.

If 4-H members get half as much out of the program as we do as Leaders then we are doing our jobs. I tell people if the Leaders aren’t learning and developing right alongside their members they aren’t doing something right.

4. What’s your favourite 4-H memory?

I have so many. In my own time as a member, it truly was an honour to participate in the first ever Classic, and to place second with my calf, Kenarbara Dominion Fobes, was extra special. Every time I represented Grey I cherished the opportunity. As a 4-H mom, seeing my sons achieve and excel not only in the showring but outside as well, and to develop into great young men is amazing. A couple of special memories would be Adam winning the dairy member of the year for Grey and Champion Showman at Lucknow and Shea winning Reserve Champion showman at the Classic and the same year also Reserve Showman at the Jr. Sheep show. I don’t think that has been done before or since. The next year he followed it up by winning EastGen Overall Champion. As a 4-H Leader, last year two of our sheep members were named Grand and Reserve Grand Showmen at the Jr. Sheep Show at the Royal. Watching Zac being presented with the grand ribbon then watching Delaney also being presented with her reserve ribbon was amazing! But what made it extra special was to see the pride on Zac’s face when Delaney was named reserve. He was as happy for his club mate as he was for himself and that is what 4-H is all about. Our sheep club is 95% non-farm kids with no 4-H history, and to hear their families talk about how the kids have grown and developed throughout the club is very fulfilling!

5. What do you do outside of 4-H? (hobbies, school, career, etc)

Since I am a bona fide 4-H addict, most of our lives revolve around 4-H. I have worked at the Real Estate Institute of Canada for the past 13 years. We are a not-for-profit organization and I find working in that field helps me to better understand how others such as 4-H works. I have just taken on the part-time role of Livestock Coordinator with 4-H Ontario—my dream job! Even if it is a little hectic at the moment, I love it. Brian and I own a couple of holsteins and love to show, so if there is a show you will probably find us either at ring side or in the barns, depending on our work schedules. I am also active helping the boys with their purebred sheep flock and their showing. I am Logistics Manager and Public Relations for Shad and Goodacre Livestock during the sheep show at the Royal. Brian and I are blessed with two amazing sons, Adam and Shea, a great daughter-in-law Liz and three grandsons Riley, Hunter and Grayson and any day number four will be making their appearance. They are the light of our lives and sure keep us busy.

Liked Shelley’s story? Want to share your own 4-H story? Click here and tell us what 4-H has meant to you in our 5 Questions With… feature!