Written By: Ryan Métivier
4-H leaders know when youth need that little push to come out of their shells or a change in an activity to help a particular young person reach their potential.
Isabel Miller of Haldimand spent time as a 4-H member when she was a teenager, before making the move to volunteer in 1992, first as a parent volunteer and then as a leader and out of county chaperone. Even after her youngest child graduated as a member in 2006, Isabel has continued volunteering as a leader and a member of the executive committee of Haldimand 4-H Association.
“My belief in the program and the positive impact that it has on youth plays a big role in my involvement,” says Miller.
Of the many clubs she currently leads, at the very first meeting of her Miniature Horse Club back in 2014, she noticed she had one very shy member in the group. This member hid her face in her mom’s coat sleeve and let her mother answer for her. She also was too shy to attend the judging event or any of the horse shows. She did though, wish to stay in the club and continue to visit Miller’s barn to care for and show one of her horses (as she did not have one of her own).
Miller thought about it and made some modifications, allowing this member to write a story about her 4-H experience rather than attending a judging event. Over the summer the member quietly worked away getting advice and teachings from her with the rest of the group. Slowly, she began to speak up and ask questions and make comments on her observations. By August, she had built enough confidence to participate in a practice show at Miller’s farm with other youth members and their families, with the only stranger being the judge.
This was a huge success and the young girl agreed to sign up for the smallest show of the season afterwards.
“I told her I would register her and if she got there and didn’t feel comfortable showing, that was alright but she could still help and be part of it,” says Miller.
Once again loving the experience, the member was eager to chat about it afterwards and went on to show at her Achievement Day and read her story about her 4-H experience in front of her peers at the club’s final meeting.
In 2015, now more confident, she returned to Miller’s barn, attended every show she could and participated in the judging event. 2016 will now be her third year as a 4-H participant.
“The saying goes that you only get out of something what you put into it and in this case, being willing to spend that extra bit of time and think a bit outside the box, continues to make this member’s 4-H experience a very positive thing that will help her throughout her life.”