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Master 4-H'ers credit Georgia 4-H for teaching them public speaking, leadership skills By Sharon Dowdy

Born with autism, 19-year-old Christopher Morgan didn’t speak until he was 4 years old. Today, Morgan is one of 47 Georgia 4-H members who earned the coveted title of “Master 4-H’er” at the annual Georgia 4-H State Congress, held July 26-28 in Atlanta.

State Congress symbolizes the end of a year of hard work and dedication by Georgia 4-H youths. Students select an area of study, give an oral presentation before judges at their respective District Project Achievement (DPA) and participate in service and leadership events in their communities. Regional first place winners compete at the state competition in a variety of categories including history, horses, performing arts, and public speaking. Each student gives a 12-minute presentation before expert judges and prepares a portfolio detailing their research, leadership and service projects.

“It's a great way to make you learn more about what you love to do in life. It also teaches you life skills you will need to use throughout your life,” said Morgan of Warner Robins, Georgia. “For me, District Project Achievement changed my life by helping me win the battle against my autism. I couldn't talk until I was 4 years old, and when I finally was able to talk, I took 12 years of speech therapy to improve my public speaking skills.”

Morgan credits his speeches on photography and videography — his passions — for helping him “win the battle” against autism. “Ever since [I first won second place in DPA], I’ve been confident in doing all the things that were once impossible for me to do,” he said.

Many 4-H members, like Joe Waters of Glennville, Georgia, learned leadership skills by serving as teen leaders to younger 4-H members at Cloverleaf 4-H’er camps. “I learned that it takes patience to be a good leader, but you also have to be diligent in making sure that the campers respect you. I can be their friend, but their leader as well,” said Waters, 16, who supervised 20 boys.

Community projects included making snacks for soldiers guarding The Moving Wall, the traveling, half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; packing snacks in backpacks for children in need; making pillowcases for a children’s home; making blankets and raising funds for homeless dogs; cooking dinner for the local Ronald McDonald House; and much more.

Andrea Hill, 18, of Crawfordville, Georgia, organized a clothing and shoe drive for residents of her mother’s hometown in the Philippines. “I was able to collect seven large boxes of clothes and pass them around in my mother's hometown as Christmas gifts,” she said. “I was shocked by how happy they were to receive clothes and to find some new shoes to wear. It made me realize how lucky and privileged we are in America, when people in developing countries, like the Philippines, struggle every day, working in the heat, to earn enough money to provide for their families.”

No matter what their age, people learn best through doing, and this is the heart of Georgia 4-H, said Arch Smith, state 4-H leader of Georgia’s largest youth leadership organization.

“The best lessons in life are learned through hands-on experiences, and 4-H provides many opportunities for youth to learn valuable life skills through evaluation contests, public speaking, record keeping, knowledge bowl contests, shooting sports, livestock projects, summer camp experiences and environmental education outdoor classes,” said Smith, a former Warren County, Georgia, 4-H’er. “The Georgia State 4-H Congress is the capstone event that celebrates the success of the best of the best in Georgia 4-H.”

 

This year’s first-place Georgia 4-H’ers, by home county, are:

BARTOW COUNTY

  • Environmental Science – Amelia Payne

BEN HILL COUNTY

  • Health – Tyler Tucker

BERRIEN COUNTY

  • Workforce Preparation – Ben Murray

BLECKLEY COUNTY

  • Fruits, Vegetables and Nuts – Adam Belflower
  • Outdoor Recreation – Dawson Jarrell

BULLOCH COUNTY

  • Performing Arts/Piano – Chandler Liggett
  • Performing Arts/Vocal – Chyann Hoyle

CATOOSA COUNTY

  • Flowers, Shrubs and Lawns – Emily Cason

CHATTOOGA COUNTY

  • Dog Care and Training – Hamp Thomas

CLARKE COUNTY

  • Arts and Crafts – Mackenzie Wurst

COLUMBIA COUNTY

  • Food Fare – Julianne Jones
  • Performing Arts/Other – Harley Williams

COWETA COUNTY

  • Horse – Kailey Prince

CRISP COUNTY

  • Forestry, Wood Science – Kayla Stephens

DECATUR COUNTY

  • Pork Production – Heath Parker

DEKALB COUNTY

  • Public Speaking – Kailah Trice

DOUGLAS COUNTY

  • Human Development – Kayla Jaconette

EFFINGHAM COUNTY

  • Target Sports – Grace Keiffer
  • Sports – Rose Moss

ELBERT COUNTY

  • Sheep and Meat Goats – Elise Webb

GORDON COUNTY

  • Poultry and Egg Science – Caleb Carr

GRADY COUNTY

  • History – Adam Womble

GWINNETT COUNTY

  • Entomology – Harrison Martin

HALL COUNTY

  • Fashion Revue – Rhea Chawla

HART COUNTY

  • Physical, Biological and Earth Science – Robert Harrison

HENRY COUNTY

  • Dairy Foods – Piper Brown

HOUSTON COUNTY

  • Photography – Christopher Morgan

JACKSON COUNTY

  • Wildlife and Marine Science – Caleb Tyler

JASPER COUNTY

  • Safety – Ivy English

LIBERTY COUNTY

  • Communications – Sophia Rodriguez

MADISON COUNTY

  • Performing Arts/General – Cubby Rupers

MITCHELL COUNTY

  • Festive Foods for Health – Courtney Conine

MORGAN COUNTY

  • Beef – Will Woodard
  • Dairy and Milk Scie 0013 nce – James Cagle 4271
  • Performing Arts/Dance – Marie Hayes

OCONEE COUNTY

  • Housing, Equipment and Environment – Hayden Guthrie
  • Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors – Andrew Hunt

PAULDING

  • Companion and Animal Science – Aaren Schertler

PEACH

  • Veterinary Science – Abigail Turner

RABUN COUNTY

  • Science of Engineering and Mechanics – Huck Smith

SPALDING

  • Food Safety and Preservation – Hannah Rutledge

TERRELL COUNTY

  • Family Resource Management – Jessica Cliett

TIFT COUNTY

  • Computer Information Technology – Jarod Beeman

UNION COUNTY

  • Plant and Soil Science – Gabriella Jennings

WILCOX COUNTY

  • Food for Fitness – Haley Wilson

WILKES COUNTY

  • International – Andrea Hill

For more information about Georgia 4-H, go to www.Georgia4h.org.

(Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Master 4-H'er
Master 4-H'er

Christopher Morgan (center) is among the newest crop of Master 4-H'ers named at the recent Georgia 4-H State Congress event in Atlanta. Morgan credits his 4-H experience for helping him overcome issues with his autism.

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Christopher Morgan (center) is among the newest crop of Master 4-H'ers named at the recent Georgia 4-H State Congress event in Atlanta. Morgan credits his 4-H experience for helping him overcome issues with his autism. Download Image
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