4-H’ers Gain Character Under The Guidance Of 4-H Volunteers

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Melinda Berrick was the leader of the longest-running 4-H club in the county that produced two 4-H State Presidents. She’s the recipient of a District 4-H Adult Volunteer Recognition Award and has been inducted into the NC Achievement Hall of 4-H Leadership, one of the highest honors a 4-H volunteer can receive.

“My passion is mentoring youth. I love watching them try new things and helping them develop leadership skills,” she said. “I love to speak words of encouragement into their lives, to lift them up so they can serve others with confidence.”

Melinda first learned about 4-H when she saw two young 4-H’ers giving a presentation about their pets during a summer library program. She was impressed with their confidence and speaking abilities and wanted her sons to have that same experience.

After her friend, Lois Pinkerton, started the Trailblazers 4-H Club and then moved to Nairobi as a missionary, she became leader of that club, which would go on to become the longest-running 4-U club in Forsyth County. “I was mentored by Lois Pinkerton to take the leadership role after her move,” she said. “I mentored the next leader for a year before I turned the club over to her. Each successive leader has been mentored and supported by previous leaders.” She also credits the longevity of the club to the support of 4-H parents. “They were present at club meetings to help with activities, providing many hands to make light work,” she said. “It is truly a community of friends who help each other.”

Melinda said each of her children benefited from 4-H. Her son Samuel took advantage of the agricultural aspects of 4-H and became Forsyth County’s youngest certified Extension Master Gardener. He competed at 4-H’s national level on the forestry, horticulture, and Wildlife Habitat Education Program or WHEP teams. He used his 4-H scholarship money to purchase a small greenhouse and attended a state 4-H horticulture camp, with State 4-H Horticulture Specialist, Liz Driscoll. After earning a degree in turfgrass management at Guilford Tech, he was hired by Green Resource, where he’s been employed for the last five years.

Her son Seth was interested in sound technology and a 4-H parent with a sound studio taught him the basics of sound. Seth did 4-H presentations on sound technology and used his 4-H scholarship money to buy sound equipment. He worked with the sound technician at Johnston Community College during his time with the 4-H Performing Arts Troupe. When that technician left, Seth was hired as his replacement. He now works at Elon University as the associate technical director of Performing Arts and provides sound at NC 4-H Congress each year.

Her son Nathan got to explore the arts as well as develop his leadership and communication skills. He served as President of his 4-H clubs and as State 4-H President. He won a state award for Youth Volunteer of the Year in 2011. He’s currently a multimedia content specialist at Drexel University and does freelance design for Elements Studio and Creative Sound and Lighting. Along with Nathan being a past President, another member of the Trailblazers 4-H Club, Laurelyn Ridge, is the current State President. Melinda said two state Presidents coming from the same club is a testament to the impact of the club and its 4-H mentors. She was thrilled for both State Presidents. “Although I admire their accomplishments, I’m most impressed by their character,” she said. “Both of them are quiet leaders who inspire others with their actions. They are encouragers who want to see their peers succeed and grow.”

She encourages adults to volunteer with 4-H and become 4-H club leaders. She said 4-H will provide all the support and education they need. She said it was a truly rewarding experience. “The best part is learning and experiencing new things along with the youth,” she said. “I believe adults benefit as much from these experiences as youth do. 4-H is a community, and you will have others helping you and supporting you along the way. You won’t be doing it alone.”

All 4-H Clubs and Groups are Volunteer Led by screened, cleared, and trained volunteers. For more information on volunteering, contact Anika Parks Volunteer Coordinator by email aparks3@ncsu.edu or call 336-703-2848, email, April Bowman, Extension Agent, Livestock, Forages, and 4-H Youth Development at awbowman@ncsu.edu or call 336-703-2855 or Dr. Monique Pearce-Brady, Extension Agent, 4-H Youth Development at dmpearc3@ncsu.edu or call 336-703-2856.