The Ohio 4-H program provides thousands of young people with the skills and opportunities to lead a meaningful and impactful life, and this is seen in the stories of our alumni. Each month, we highlight an outstanding alumnus who shares how 4-H has shaped their life and career; this month, we spotlight Shelley Metz from Fayette County.
Metz was an active 4-H’er from elementary through high school and practiced her skills by taking sewing and cooking projects every year. She saw much success while competing at the Fayette County and Ohio State fairs. She also brought several sewing projects to the state and national levels for the National Make It with Wool contest. During her final three years of 4-H, she took on a different challenge and tried her hand at swine showmanship. As Metz recalls, “It was a bit of a running bet that the city girl wouldn’t get dirty in the show ring with a pig!”
Outside of traditional project work, Metz attended camp each year as a camper or counselor. “Every summer I looked forward to returning to Camp Clifton,” she said, “Hiking through the gorge, campfires, and gatherings at the lodge are some of my fondest memories from those years.” She also took advantage of leadership opportunities offered through 4-H by serving on her county’s Junior Fair Board and the local and state fashion boards and attending Club Congress and National 4-H Congress.
Metz recalled Club Congress as one of highlights from her years in 4-H. She was able to use the sewing skills she gained from years of project work. “Club Congress at Ohio State stands out for two reasons. The first was being part of a group tasked with making fleece garments for underprivileged kids. It was fun meeting others who enjoyed sewing while also helping the community.”
After spending the day working on those community service projects, all Congress attendees gathered in the auditorium and a member from each group was selected to speak about their project. This is where Metz’s second reason behind the importance of this experience comes in. “I was unexpectedly called on to speak for my group. Growing up, I had never had a fear of public speaking, but I had also never been in front of that large of an audience before,” she said. “I didn’t have anything planned, but there was no time to let fear settle in, so I just went up there and spoke!”
Metz was also quick to recognize how the program taught her to make and keep schedules. “I always made sure to set time aside each day to work on my sewing projects and block off days to try new recipes for cooking projects.” These organizational skills have become essential in her personal and professional life, and Metz said she is grateful these values and habits were instilled in her from such a young age.
4-H helped Metz discover a passion that would go on to become her career. “Thanks to 4-H, I grew up with a large interest in fashion and sewing. I loved touching all the fabrics, looking at the colors and putting an outfit together. By high school, I knew fashion would ultimately become my career,” said Metz.
Metz attended Kent State University, where she majored in fashion merchandising, and the day after graduation she packed her bags and moved to New Jersey to interview for jobs in New York City. Today, she is in her 16th year in the industry and has worked for two of the largest fashion companies in the world — Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.
Looking back, Metz recognizes the impact 4-H experiences had on her life and offers words of advice to current members. “Get involved in as much as you can. There are so many opportunities for personal development, whether it be serving on your county’s Junior Fair Board or attending national conferences. By being an active member of your 4-H club, you can form new friendships and develop lifelong skills,” she said.