Essay by Charlotte Manvell
In Honor of National 4-H Week
When I was nine years old, I remember sitting among the members of my 4-H club as the president discussed various programs, everything from field trips to educational contests, and little did I know, all of these opportunities would transform me into an independent and confident 18 year old. I cannot tell you where I would be without 4-H, it has given me the confidence to stand in front of carded American Quarter Horse Association judges to give reasons, buzz in a split second before my opponent to score points at multiple national level horse bowl contests, as well as stand in front of three judges at Southern Regional Horse Championships, and give a team presentation that won first. Through these many levels of competition I have regularly wondered, “Where I would be without 4-H, would I have the confidence to give a presentation to a crowded room? Would I have the knowledge to expertly describe a class of horses I evaluated hours ago?” And repeatedly the answer is no. Without 4-H and horses I would be unsure of what I wish to pursue as I open this new chapter in my life, and while I have a passion for many topics like calculus and chemistry, none of them compare to the passion I have for animals and animal healthcare. However 4-H has not only helped me determine what I wish to pursue, but has also equipped me with important skills such as public speaking and being comfortable working with people of all ages and backgrounds, as well as those more specific to the veterinary field such as how to handle and care for animals from birth to old age.
Over the past few months I have had the opportunity to work at a local veterinarian’s office. While many high schoolers express interest in veterinary medicine, rarely do they express a love for the messy and sometimes disgusting side of animal care. From completing over 12 hours worth of equine fecal egg counts to observing a three hour long tumor removal surgery I have found that my favorite words are now “Hey Charlotte, wanna see something gross?”. I credit 4-H with teaching me that animal husbandry does not stop at the tasks you enjoy completing, but is more often filled with those that may be less appetizing, but are to me more rewarding. Through these experiences of working with everything from geese to ferrets to miniature donkeys, I have decided to pursue a career in veterinary medicine where I hope to be able to improve the care of the animals in my community.
4-H has also helped me connect to mentors within my area of interest, veterinary parasitology. Through a 4-H equine youth program associate I was introduced to Dr. Martin Nielsen, an equine parasitologist and professor at the University of Kentucky who is seeking to develop new technologies to prevent the spread of parasitic disease within horses while also educate the general horse owning population on how they can better improve their parasite control. Through this connection I was given the opportunity to write a paper based on my own research as well as present that research at the American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists(AAVP) annual conference. In attending college and veterinary school, I hope to continue performing research in these fields in order to prevent parasitic disease within both companion animals and livestock.
Through my years in 4-H I have benefitted from the dedication of many volunteers, extension agents, parents, and 4-H club members, I have experienced what a powerful impact these individuals can have on a young 4-Her’s life and I hope to be able to influence others to not only pursue horses as a hobby or career, but also give back to their community through service projects and volunteering. In the past few years, after becoming a senior in 4-H, I have had the opportunity to give back to 4-H by volunteering at programs such as the 4-H Horse Camp in Front Royal where junior 4-Hers have the opportunity to receive instruction in horsemanship and riding. I have also been able to organize programs within my club in order to help various nonprofits within the community, including collecting food for animal rescues. The backbone of a successful 4-H club is dedicated volunteers and I hope that someday I will be able to be an adult volunteer for a 4-H club so that I can use the knowledge I have gained through higher education and my 4-H experience so that young individuals can continue to enjoy all that the 4-H program has to offer.
This past year I have been given the opportunity to volunteer at various 4-H educational events doing everything from reading horse bowl questions to taking reasons and these experiences have further cemented my desire to pursue a more permanent volunteer position within 4-H. I love helping “to make the best better” by encouraging people to keep going when they stumble in their reasons, or to buzz in to answer a question in horse bowl. While I may be away at college for the next few years and unable to be a leader, I know that my involvement at educational events will still help impact and inspire other 4-Hers.