Written By: Hayley Ashton, 4-H Ontario 2023 Ambassador

Thinking back to the many 4-H opportunities that I have participated in, I am thankful for the beneficial skills that I have gained. When I talk about the benefits of 4-H Ontario opportunities, I am talking about the lifelong friendships that I made and the new things that I have learned along the way. I am referring to the many skills that I have picked up with 4-H such as teamwork and leadership.

The most beneficial skill that I have learned with the many 4-H opportunities that I have experienced is communication. Communication has always been a struggle for me. Learning how to communicate with my peers effectively was next to impossible for me when I was younger. As I went to more local 4-H meetings, my confidence among new people grew with every set of reasons that I had to give and every roll call that I answered. And with every regional judging competition or achievement day, I met new people who encouraged me to break out of my shell and make new friends. All of the provincial camps and conferences that I attended taught me every skill in the books. Leadership, teamwork and communication are all beneficial skills that the many people I have met at these opportunities helped me gain.

Youth Adventure Camp

I remember when I was younger, Iā€™d say around 13 or so, I attended Youth Adventure Camp. This was one of the first camps that I had ever been to without family or friends by my side. I remember being very upset with my parents for sending me as I was very nervous around new people. But once I stepped off the bus, and met the new people that I would get to know over the next few days, my fears started to become distant memories. I made many new friendships that have lasted for a very long time and will hopefully last forever.

Provincial Leadership Camp

Provincial Leadership Camp has to be the best camp that I ever attended. I learned so much about leadership and teamwork through the activities and workshops we completed. At 16 years old, I was still extremely shy around new people. But, again, with every energizer and activity that we did, I became less and less afraid to interact with my peers. The reason that this was the best camp that I ever attended was because it taught me that making new friends is easy and not an impossible task. While attending post-secondary school, I met some of my fellow Provincial Leadership Camp attendees and we shared stories of how much fun camp was. These are the friendships that last forever.

Dairy Sen$e

Dairy Sen$e was an extremely educational conference that afforded me the opportunity to network with my peers. Already being a part of the dairy industry, I knew a lot about the production and livestock side of things, but Dairy Sen$e taught me more about the business side of the industry. I gained a wealth of knowledge from many producers and other members of the dairy industry. As I enter the workforce, I use the knowledge I gained at Dairy Sen$e every day to help me along the way.

The lasting impact that these 4-H opportunities have had on me, as a senior member, is worth more than words can say. The communication skills, lasting friendships, leadership skills and teamwork skills have all shaped me into a better person. As I enter the working world, I use all these skills, and more, in my day-to-day life. If I had not been a part of these opportunities, I never would have become as talkative or as good of a leader as I am now. I have endless people to thank for allowing me to experience the benefits of these 4-H opportunities. I encourage all members to take every 4-H opportunity that they are able to attend and make the most of it! The benefits of these opportunities have always, and will always, be something that I use. I hope everyone involved in 4-H can attend these opportunities and use the benefits that they provide as I did.

Learn more about 4-H Ontario opportunities and events here.