I just love the part of my job where I get to see young people grow their skills. It’s amazing to experience them working together, building confidence, planning and implementing projects and being creative. These skills get practiced in Jackson County 4-H every day, and I’d like to tell you about a few examples.

Speaking or performing in front of others is listed as a very scary activity for many people. In 4-H we believe that practicing this skill helps make it easier. Recently youth ages 6-15 performed in the Mountain Youth Talent Contest that was held at the Greening Up the Mountains Festival in Sylva. They had practiced and now it was time to nervously step up to the microphone, introduce themselves, and sing or play an instrument in the contest. They were practicing skills that will move them to the top of the class, and eventually to a better job.

Much research, and many websites, are dedicated to describing what skills businesses are looking for in employees. Most, of course, want employees who can do the mechanics of the work, but they also want workers who can solve problems, work in a team, communicate effectively (written and orally), plan and organize, and have the tenacity to follow through. 4-H isn’t solving all of the world’s problems, but we are working hard to help prepare the leaders of tomorrow who will help solve them.

The Jackson County Youth Leadership Council, a 4-H club, was established to intentionally give teenagers the opportunity to learn and practice leadership skills. They conduct fundraisers, complete numerous community service projects, give money to the community for youth-led projects, and each year host Spring into Summer – a festival for youth and families planned and implemented by youth. These 25 teenagers are hosting Spring into Summer on Saturday, June 2 at Bridge Park in Sylva. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and includes an art contest, community booths, a bouncy house and food by Brew Dawgz. There will also be local music by Hollerin’ Home and Summer and Bray of the Mountain Faith Band. Come on out and support these young people as they practice skills they will continue to use in the workplace, in personal life to schedule things in college, plan a family reunion or someday plan a wedding.

Jackson County 4-H offers activities and clubs for children ages 5-18 that includes learning leadership skills, responsibility, trying new things and building self-confidence.

Heather Gordon is 4-H agent for Jackson County Contact her at 586-4009 or heather_gordon@ncsu.edu.