The lasting impact of a 4-H leader

By Rhiannah Gallagher

After more than 30 projects and 11 years as a 4-H participant, I’ve had a lot of 4-H leaders; some since I was nine and others just for a year or two. Every single one of those leaders has impacted me in one way or another, but if I had to narrow it down to just one leader, it would be one that has been with me since I was nine and has influenced my life in numerous ways.

Fostering my love for the sheep industry and exemplifying everything I aspire to be as a young woman in agriculture and involved in the 4-H program, the 4-H leader who has made an impact on me is Colleen Acres, leader of the East Carleton Sheep club for the past 15 years. I might be a little biased when it comes to Colleen Acres as she is my aunt, but that is just one of the reasons that she has been so impactful to me.

Colleen embodies the 4-H motto of “Learn To Do By Doing.” She gives every member the opportunity to grow as a person, learn skills and expose them to many different facets in terms of leadership and the industry she represents. She has organized meetings with industry leaders and various businesses including abattoirs and butcher shops, set up farm tours, as well as shown us how to cook with lamb. She has enabled kids who don’t live on a farm to participate by providing project animals and encouraged members to show at local junior shows besides their achievement day. She has taught us about the importance of the sheep industry and how to manage a farm. One of my favourite meetings ever was a night where we learned how to advertise our product and had to prepare a sales pitch to present to the guest speaker and the rest of the club. She takes her job as a leader very seriously, preparing us for a lifetime involved in the sheep industry.

Though the clubs and meetings she has organized are very important, the aspect of Colleen as a leader that has impacted me the most is her belief in me. She has known me since I was a baby and has been my leader since I was 9. She has seen both the best and worst parts of me, and yet has never once strayed from her support in me. Colleen encourages me to go out there and get what I want. She has prepared me with the tools and skills necessary to reach my goals. She has always given me invaluable wisdom and support, while encouraging me to take part in everything that the 4-H program has to offer.

Colleen has been one of my biggest cheerleaders throughout my 4-H career. I would not be a 4-H Ontario Ambassador without her support and willingness to volunteer her time to 4-H. I would not be on the career path I am on if not for her impact on my life. Colleen Acres may be my aunt and my 4-H leader, but she is so much more than that. She inspires me every day to make my mark on the world, inspire the younger generation and to pursue my goals without pause or fear of failure.

I will be forever grateful for the continued dedication and support that Colleen has for the 4-H program.