Each month we highlight an Ohio 4-H alum. They have amazing stories to share, from their personal experience in 4-H to how they have given back to the program. This month we feature Joel Oney, 4-H alumnus from Huron County. He is a member of the Ohio 4-H Foundation Board and currently lives in Franklin County.
As I watched my older brother and sisters participate in 4-H, I was excited and anxious to join. I could hardly wait to be part of the club activities and show dairy cattle at the county fair. For a country kid from rural Ohio, the dairy show at the county fair was the highlight of the year. My mom was a 4-H club advisor and my dad helped us with our projects. It was 4-H that started me on the path toward leadership, college, and a rewarding career.
I could name several great memories from showing cattle or project presentations, or just having fun with my friends after a 4-H meeting on a warm summer evening. I think my best 4-H memory comes from a service project we completed every summer, the roadside trash pick-up. I can remember some kids grumbling and others goofing off to avoid picking up trash, but by the end of the day, we all were in the ditch, in the mud and making our community a better place. I think often about the lessons of those days. Some will grumble in life. Some will just goof off. Sometimes life is muddy and unpleasant. When I am faced with any of these circumstances, my mind immediately recalls our trash pick-up days and how we navigated all of this to create a good outcome.
4-H helped me develop from a simple country boy into something more. I learned confidence and leadership. I learned how to conduct an effective meeting and how to speak in front of a group or judge. I learned teamwork. I learned there were broad horizons beyond the borders of my town and county. Ultimately, my 4-H experience allowed me to be the first man in my family to step into a college classroom.
I am honored to be a member of the Ohio 4-H Foundation Board, where I serve as the chairperson for the Finance Committee. The board allows me to participate in many activities to honor 4-H members and to spread the word about 4-H. However, my favorite way to give back to 4-H was by helping and encouraging my two daughters when they were in 4-H. They were able to experience some of the same wonderful, challenging experiences that shaped me into an adult. They both now have rewarding careers and are simply wonderful human beings, just like many 4-H'ers before them and others yet to come.
My advice to current 4-H youth is to go for it! Join a club. Go to camp. Take on challenging projects. Be an officer. Stretch yourself beyond the young person you are and into the dynamic adult you can be.