Alabama 4-H is growing the next generation of leaders

By Justin Miller Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities Extension Office
Posted 6/5/23

AUBURN UNIVERSITY — Alabama 4-H is hard at work building the leaders of tomorrow. Through their leadership and citizenship programming, 4-H specialists and agents work with youth to instill the …

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Alabama 4-H is growing the next generation of leaders


AUBURN UNIVERSITY — Alabama 4-H is hard at work building the leaders of tomorrow. Through their leadership and citizenship programming, 4-H specialists and agents work with youth to instill the qualities of good leaders and citizens.

“The mission of Alabama 4-H is to empower youth with the skills they need to lead our communities, state, nation and world,” said Joy Scott, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System specialist and the leader of 4-H’s statewide leadership and citizenship programs.

Building Stronger Leaders and Communities

Through 4-H, members can serve on a community and statewide level as club officers, youth council members and state ambassadors. Members also have the chance to travel and interact with other 4-H leaders from across the country. These opportunities include attending conferences such as National 4-H Congress, National 4-H Conference and Citizenship Washington Focus.

“Alabama 4-H is preparing our members to thrive and conquer the world,” Scott said. “Through 4-H, members can travel to places like Washington, D.C. and give presentations to senators and representatives. These opportunities prepare members for their futures, which may include being mayors, governors and even presidents of the United States.”

The programs and experiences available through Alabama 4-H align with a variety of subjects that are taught in school systems.

“Our programs provide a civics component that prepares 4-H members for their futures,” Scott said. “These programs provide students a hands-on experience of communications skills, civic engagement, social skills and decision making. These skills are essential as Alabama 4-H strives to grow the next generation.”

Through the Eyes of an Educator

Izette McNealy is an Alabama 4-H regional Extension agent in Jefferson County. In her time working with Alabama Extension, McNealy has witnessed firsthand the impact that 4-H has on Alabama’s young people.

“4-H encourages students to solve problems creatively, think critically and work cooperatively in teams,” McNealy said. “Thanks to the leadership and citizenship programs that 4-H offers, I have witnessed countless 4-H’ers become engaged and enthusiastic forces in their communities.”

The National 4-H Conference is one of 4-H’s more popular leadership events. For many years, McNealy has traveled with Alabama 4-H members to the conference. She has witnessed them interact with the nation’s leaders and young people from across the country.

“The most impactful experience that I have seen is how Alabama’s delegates enjoyed researching ways to make our world better and making friendly connections with other 4-H’ers from around the nation,” McNealy said. “I have also watched our senior ambassadors put 4-H programing in action as they the discussed solutions for pertinent issues at a round table discussion with leaders from USDA-NIFA.”

Seeing Members Grow

Before working with Alabama 4-H, McNealy worked in the medical field for 10 years. While that career had its fulfilling moments, McNealy said she often saw people at a difficult time in their life.

“Although it is fulfilling to help those people get to a place of wellness as much as you can, sometimes you don’t, and it is very taxing on you,” McNealy said. “I wanted to be in a career where I could see a child grow and witness the positive side of their life. 4-H gives me that.”

McNealy has a 20-plus year career with Alabama 4-H. Looking back, she said she has loved getting to see children start in 4-H and go to competitive events and places like Washington, D.C. Her favorite memories always involve seeing former students out in public and getting to know where they are in life.

“Seeing 4-H alumni and getting a hug from them is one of the best parts of the job,” McNealy said. “To have a member come up and introduce me to their family, telling me that they want their kids to be involved in 4-H, it means the world to me. That’s why I do this job.”

More Information

More information about Alabama 4-H’s leadership and citizenship programs is available on the Alabama 4-H section of the Alabama Extension website, For information on how to get involved in 4-H, contact the 4-H agent in your county’s Extension office.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System takes the expertise of Auburn University and Alabama A&M University to the people. Our educators in all 67 counties are community partners — bringing practical ways to better our homes, farms, people and the world around us. Our research extends knowledge and improves lives.