Editor's Note: In anticipation of the Minnesota State Fair, the Aug. 8 Ag News Wire features youth guest columnist Maria Brekke, a 4-H state ambassador from Scott County.
ST. PAUL, Minn. (8/8/2011) —I arrived at the Minnesota State Fair as an 11-year-old feeling overwhelmed and apprehensive. Lugging my suitcase in one hand and clutching my pillow in the other, I stared around me at the seemingly endless crowds. By the time I dropped off my luggage at the 4-H Building, it was time to head to the barns.
As I brought water to my pig, I forced back tears. I hardly knew anyone and I was homesick. Then I heard one of the older girls from my county call my name. When she asked me to come with her to get something to eat, I smiled and joined her. This one person, showing she cared, was all it took to brighten my first experience at the fair.
Now I am a 4-H state ambassador, serving as a spokesperson for 4-H. State ambassadors are also part of a "youth teaching youth" model, teaching hundreds of Minnesota youth across the state about leadership, service, diversity and teamwork.
Through 4-H, I have gained so much. I have learned how to respect opinions and take advice from others through the group judging process. I've learned the importance of perseverance—of never giving up. Directing small group discussions taught me to lead and built my confidence. Every speech or demonstration was an opportunity to further my communication skills.
Whatever young people care about, there is a place for every one of them in 4-H.
As a 4-H state ambassador, I invite you to come to the 4-H Building during the 2011 Minnesota State Fair, Aug. 25 through September 5. You'll see more than 6000 youth exhibitors from all 87 counties in Minnesota. You'll find more than 3000 exhibits in the 4-H Building, covering more than 60 project areas, as well as a free musical "Arts-In" performance on the stage. You'll see almost 3000 animals shown by livestock project participants.
Of all the things I do as a 4-H ambassador at the State Fair, the thing that has brought me the most satisfaction is talking to the youngest 4-H exhibitors. I sit with different kids at every meal, seeking out those who look lost or are sitting alone. It is my turn to be that one person who shows she cares.
The most important thing 4-H has taught me is the difference one person can make by caring at all.
To learn more about 4-H and what's happening at the Minnesota State Fair, go to www.extension.umn.edu/go/1076.
Any use of this article must include the byline or following credit line: Maria Brekke is a 4-H state ambassador with University of Minnesota Extension 4-H in Scott County.
Media Contact: Catherine Dehdashti, U of M Extension, (612) 625-0237, firstname.lastname@example.org