Miranda H. Lewis
Carter County Times
Mastery, belonging, independence, and generosity are the four guiding concepts for positive youth development in Kentucky 4-H.
While 4-H has long been known for — and is deeply proud of — its agriculture roots, these days it takes a much more holistic approach to teach youth life skills through civic engagement, science, community health, and more.
Students involved with 4-H are making an impact on Carter County and beyond.
West Carter High School alumni Kenzie Owens is no stranger to 4-H.
“I have been involved in 4-H for thirteen years. I started as a Cloverbud at the age of five and then I officially joined 4-H at nine,” said Owens.
Owens became the first student from Carter County to serve on the State 4-H Teen Council in 2022.
The council empowers members to reach, develop, present, and teach concepts related to leadership and civic engagement by building rapport among 4-H’ers with similar interest.
Recently, Owens has taken on a new role: Kentucky 4-H State Secretary. This feat is also another first for a Carter County student to become a 4-H State Officer.
Owens shared that the club has provided her with endless opportunities to acquire new skills, make new friends, and to travel the Bluegrass.
She added that her goal as a newly elected State Officer is to increase 4-H participation on a statewide level.
After completing her term as secretary next year, she hopes to serve on the National 4-H Alumni Board.
“My duties [as State Secretary] will include traveling statewide to present awards, attending 4-H events across the state with my fellow officers, visiting extension offices throughout the Bluegrass to host visits with younger 4-H’ers, as well as taking minutes during the State Teen Council meetings,” Owens explained.
Owens plans to attend Asbury University in the fall where she will pursue a career as an equine veterinarian. She quickly noted that she is not going to rule out the possibility of becoming an Extension Agent though, as they have played a huge role in her love of 4-H and equine science.
Owens specifically recalls meeting Extension Agent (4-H Youth Development), Rebecca Hayes, during her sixth grade year at West Carter Middle School (WCMS).
“She [Hayes] was a state officer as well and did an officer visit to WCMS during a county communications event in 2017. She was handing out awards the night I met her,” she said. “That was one of my first encounters with the green jacket,” she added.
This prestigious award of the green blazer is presented to individuals who have shown significant ongoing support to 4-H across the state of Kentucky.
Ironically, Owens is now serving in the same role Hayes did during their first encounter and she has since traded in her green polo for a green jacket.
“Due to Rebecca’s experience in a State Officer position, she was able to assist me during the application and slating process. She has mentored me a lot along the way,” commented Owens.
Aside from Hayes, Owens acknowledged Jussie Minor, Lisa Sammons, Rebecca Konopka, Robin Webb, and her brother-in-law Phillip Leadingham for introducing her to 4-H and encouraging her to explore the vast opportunities that the program offered.
Owens boasts an explementary commitment to 4-H and the organization’s goal to build outstanding leaders.
“4-H empowered me to reach my full potential and I hope to help others do the same by working and learning in partnership with caring adults,” she concluded.
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