Published on 04/20/12

Georgia 4-H alum Jennifer Nettles awarded National 4-H Council Medallion

By Sharon Dowdy

Georgia 4-H alumni and Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Jennifer Nettles has been awarded the 2012 4-H Distinguished Alumni Medallion from the National 4-H Council.

Nettles is the lead singer of the country group Sugarland. She has received three Grammys, multiple Country Music Awards and produced several singles, including a Bill Board Number One Hit duet with Jon Bon Jovi, “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.”

Most recently, she recorded the Lionel Richie iconic hit “Hello” which will appear on the music legend’s “Tuskegee” duets album.

Two Georgia 4-H alums honored

This is the second year the council has awarded the medallion and both awards have gone to Georgia 4-H alumni. Last year’s award went to Nancy Grace, the host of CNN Headline News’ justice themed debate show “Nancy Grace.”

Georgia 4-H State Leader Arch Smith remembers Nettles as an active 4-H’er.

“Jennifer continues to express her appreciation for how 4-H provided her with many different opportunities to develop positive life skills. We are proud of Jennifer and her many professional accomplishments and Georgia 4-H is honored that two Georgia 4-H alumni were the first to receive the 4-H Distinguished Alumni Medallion from the National 4-H Council.”

Nettles began her 4-H experience at Satilla Elementary School in Douglas, Ga. in Coffee County. She went on to become an officer, Rock Eagle camp counselor and member of Georgia 4-H’s Clovers and Company performing arts group.

Confidence building

She credits her Clovers’ experience for preparing her to perform in front of 800,000 people at President Obama’s inauguration on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

“That was a piece of cake because I had all of this experience to pull from and draw from,” she said. “And nothing is scarier than being a teenager walking out in front of other teenagers.”

Georgia 4-H specialist Amanda B. Marable isn’t surprised by Nettles’ recent National 4-H Council honor or her successful music career. As teenagers, Marable and Nettles worked together as camp counselors at Rock Eagle 4-H Center in Eatonton.

“Even as a young adult, Jennifer used her talent to empower and encourage,” Marable said. “I knew then that music and people were her passion. Her infectious personality drew others to her.”

To me, Sugarland's song “Stand Up” is a musical version of the Jennifer I knew as a 4-Her. She did, and still does, stand up for what she believes in and encourages and empowers others to use their voice for the betterment of human kind.”

Honored in her home state

The Georgia Legislature honored Nettles for her accomplishments in 2010.

“I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world,” Nettles said before the legislature. “Those were big words for a child and they are big words for an adult. Those words changed my life and shaped my life.”

The 111 land-grant universities and the Cooperative Extension System through more than 3,000 Extension offices deliver 4-H programs to students across the nation. For information on the Georgia 4-H program, visit or contact your local UGA Cooperative Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

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

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