Born with autism, 19-year-old Christopher Morgan didn’t speak until he was 4 years old. Today, Morgan is one of 47 Georgia 4-H members who earned the coveted title of “Master 4-H’er” at the annual Georgia 4-H State Congress, held July 26-28 in Atlanta.
State Congress symbolizes the end of a year of hard work and dedication by Georgia 4-H youths. Students select an area of study, give an oral presentation before judges at their respective District Project Achievement (DPA) and participate in service and leadership events in their communities. Regional first place winners compete at the state competition in a variety of categories including history, horses, performing arts, and public speaking. Each student gives a 12-minute presentation before expert judges and prepares a portfolio detailing their research, leadership and service projects.
“It's a great way to make you learn more about what you love to do in life. It also teaches you life skills you will need to use throughout your life,” said Morgan of Warner Robins, Georgia. “For me, District Project Achievement changed my life by helping me win the battle against my autism. I couldn't talk until I was 4 years old, and when I finally was able to talk, I took 12 years of speech therapy to improve my public speaking skills.”
Morgan credits his speeches on photography and videography — his passions — for helping him “win the battle” against autism. “Ever since [I first won second place in DPA], I’ve been confident in doing all the things that were once impossible for me to do,” he said.
Many 4-H members, like Joe Waters of Glennville, Georgia, learned leadership skills by serving as teen leaders to younger 4-H members at Cloverleaf 4-H’er camps. “I learned that it takes patience to be a good leader, but you also have to be diligent in making sure that the campers respect you. I can be their friend, but their leader as well,” said Waters, 16, who supervised 20 boys.
Community projects included making snacks for soldiers guarding The Moving Wall, the traveling, half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; packing snacks in backpacks for children in need; making pillowcases for a children’s home; making blankets and raising funds for homeless dogs; cooking dinner for the local Ronald McDonald House; and much more.
Andrea Hill, 18, of Crawfordville, Georgia, organized a clothing and shoe drive for residents of her mother’s hometown in the Philippines. “I was able to collect seven large boxes of clothes and pass them around in my mother's hometown as Christmas gifts,” she said. “I was shocked by how happy they were to receive clothes and to find some new shoes to wear. It made me realize how lucky and privileged we are in America, when people in developing countries, like the Philippines, struggle every day, working in the heat, to earn enough money to provide for their families.”
No matter what their age, people learn best through doing, and this is the heart of Georgia 4-H, said Arch Smith, state 4-H leader of Georgia’s largest youth leadership organization.
“The best lessons in life are learned through hands-on experiences, and 4-H provides many opportunities for youth to learn valuable life skills through evaluation contests, public speaking, record keeping, knowledge bowl contests, shooting sports, livestock projects, summer camp experiences and environmental education outdoor classes,” said Smith, a former Warren County, Georgia, 4-H’er. “The Georgia State 4-H Congress is the capstone event that celebrates the success of the best of the best in Georgia 4-H.”
This year’s first-place Georgia 4-H’ers, by home county, are:
- Environmental Science – Amelia Payne
BEN HILL COUNTY
- Health – Tyler Tucker
- Workforce Preparation – Ben Murray
- Fruits, Vegetables and Nuts – Adam Belflower
- Outdoor Recreation – Dawson Jarrell
- Performing Arts/Piano – Chandler Liggett
- Performing Arts/Vocal – Chyann Hoyle
- Flowers, Shrubs and Lawns – Emily Cason
- Dog Care and Training – Hamp Thomas
- Arts and Crafts – Mackenzie Wurst
- Food Fare – Julianne Jones
- Performing Arts/Other – Harley Williams
- Horse – Kailey Prince
- Forestry, Wood Science – Kayla Stephens
- Pork Production – Heath Parker
- Public Speaking – Kailah Trice
- Human Development – Kayla Jaconette
- Target Sports – Grace Keiffer
- Sports – Rose Moss
- Sheep and Meat Goats – Elise Webb
- Poultry and Egg Science – Caleb Carr
- History – Adam Womble
- Entomology – Harrison Martin
- Fashion Revue – Rhea Chawla
- Physical, Biological and Earth Science – Robert Harrison
- Dairy Foods – Piper Brown
- Photography – Christopher Morgan
- Wildlife and Marine Science – Caleb Tyler
- Safety – Ivy English
- Communications – Sophia Rodriguez
- Performing Arts/General – Cubby Rupers
- Festive Foods for Health – Courtney Conine
- Beef – Will Woodard
- Dairy and Milk Science – James Cagle
- Performing Arts/Dance – Marie Hayes
- Housing, Equipment and Environment – Hayden Guthrie
- Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors – Andrew Hunt
- Companion and Animal Science – Aaren Schertler
- Veterinary Science – Abigail Turner
- Science of Engineering and Mechanics – Huck Smith
- Food Safety and Preservation – Hannah Rutledge
- Family Resource Management – Jessica Cliett
- Computer Information Technology – Jarod Beeman
- Plant and Soil Science – Gabriella Jennings
- Food for Fitness – Haley Wilson
- International – Andrea Hill
For more information about Georgia 4-H, go to www.Georgia4h.org.