Wisconsin 4-H Leadership Council Youth President Alexis Leudtke gave the following speech on June 29, 2017, the final day of the Wisconsin 4-H & Youth Conference.
When I was 8 years old, I moved to Wisconsin, and my parents somewhat forced me to join this program called 4-H. I remember attending my first club meeting as a new member of the Leipsic 4-H club. I’ll be honest, I thought it was pretty boring. I didn’t understand what was going on. I knew how to say the Pledge of Allegiance, but that was about all I understood. This whole pledge with my head, heart, hands and health seemed totally foreign and I was completely out of my comfort zone, and don’t even get me started on the record book. But without fail, my mom pushed me to keep attending those club meetings. I remember getting excited to participate in my first ever community service activity with my club’s petting zoo. I attended county camp in that first year and I cried as I got off the bus because I did not want to leave my newfound friends. That’s when I knew I was hooked on 4-H.
I kept attending my club meetings and after my first year in 4-H I was able to join the rabbit project. My parents bought me a broken blue rex rabbit, and this was the first chance I actually had to show some responsibility. I had to feed my rabbit, water him and clean up after him. 9-year-old me never would have guessed that in just 8 years, I would be responsible for so much more than just a rabbit . . . I’d be responsible for a conference with 450 people.
As I continued to grow up and mature in the 4-H program, I became more and more involved in both my club and county. In 7th grade, I took on my very first leadership role. I became my club’s Cloverbud and Exploring Youth leader. This experience taught me planning skills as I tried to plan and facilitate monthly meetings for these young members of my club. I learned time management skills as I learned how to balance all of my school and other responsibilities with my commitment as a youth leader. This role of leadership continued to develop as I held club office positions. Throughout my 4-H career, I have served as club secretary, vice president, and president. By serving as a club officer, it allowed me a safe environment to practice and learn new leadership skills. It also gave me an insight into the professional world as I began to learn parliamentary procedure. It was all of the little things that made all of the difference.
When I was in 7th grade, I came to the Wisconsin 4-H and Youth Conference for my very first time. I got to meet youth from all over the state of Wisconsin and make some great friends. It was also at Youth Conference that I first thought about being one of those leaders in the green polos [shirts]. I looked up to them so much, and I knew right away that I wanted to be one of them. I wanted to be one of those leaders that everyone looked up to.
I was later able to continue my statewide relationships as I attended my first Fall Forum. Here I learned about some of the state happenings of Wisconsin 4-H and how I could get involved. I also began to find my place. For the first time in my life, I truly felt at home with the other young people. I still remember playing cards with a guy named Clark and listening to a campaign speech for a girl named Emily. It’s the little things that make a difference. To this day, I still talk to Clark and Emily and it’s all because I attended the Fall Forum.
After on more year of attending Fall Forum, I decided I was ready for a new challenge in my life . . . this challenge being WLC. I remember very clearly filling out the application for WLC and getting a phone call from Amber explaining the application process. I remember talking with a guy named Adam who was also applying for WLC and who I had gone to 4-H Space Camp with as a counselor the year before. And I remember hearing a current WLC member named Sarah talk on stage about her 4-H story.
Who would have thought that just one week later, these people would become a part of my biggest support system. That system being the Wisconsin 4-H Leadership Council. WLC is honestly one of the greatest things that has happened to me. It has posed some of my biggest challenges and also seen some of my greatest successes. I have met some of my closest friends and seen some of my proudest moments. I wouldn’t exchange my experience on WLC for anything.
My experience in 4-H has been my road less traveled. No one else has done it exactly the way I did, so I needed to blaze my own way and create my own path. My path of leadership. And I couldn’t have done it without you Wisconsin 4-H. Thank you!