Many people think of 4-H as a youth development and mentoring organization that serves and benefits kids, but few realize the impact it has on its members’ lives as they enter the workforce and build careers. Two Georgia women, Brandie Park and Dr. Laura Meadows, credit much of their success to their 4-H participation, and they remain passionate about the organization. Both Park and Meadows say they still use many of the skills they picked up in 4-H, proving that its lessons really can last a lifetime.
Embracing 4-H Leadership
Originally from Spalding County, Park says she grew up in a “4-H family,” so it was a given that she would participate. Although she was raised on a dairy farm, Park’s interests weren’t in livestock – instead, she was drawn to leadership roles. In fifth grade, she was elected president of her elementary school’s 4-H club, and she went on to serve as a member of the junior, senior and state 4-H boards of directors during middle and high school.
“Being elected president in fifth grade was the first opportunity I’d had to be recognized by my peers and to feel a sense of accomplishment about what I was contributing, and I loved it,” Park says.
After graduating from the University of Georgia in 1997 with a degree in agricultural communications, Park worked in outside sales at AT&T in Atlanta. She then created her own sales consulting firm, Aurora Group Inc., where she hired and trained sales teams for AT&T. Today, Park is still AGI’s CEO, and she is responsible for the Atlanta-based firm’s approximately 200 offices across the U.S.
Park continues her involvement with 4-H by serving on the Georgia 4-H Foundation’s board of trustees, and her two children are carrying on the family tradition by joining the new Buckhead 4-H club.
“The main thing 4-H taught me was to make bold statements and commitments, and to not be afraid to think big,” Park says. “4-H also taught me to be comfortable in a room where I don’t know a single other person, as well as how to be confident when speaking to those in positions of authority. These lessons have all benefitted me so much in the workforce.”
A 4-H Legacy
Blakely County native Meadows also grew up on a farm, and from an early age, she knew she wanted to pursue animal-related projects in 4-H. She was one of the first girls to compete in the Georgia 4-H beef project in the mid-1970s, and she showed cattle and hogs throughout her time in the organization. Meadows also regularly prepared and presented speeches, which she says has significantly benefited her as a professional in the workforce.
“The most obvious thing I learned from 4-H is how to speak in public,” Meadows says. “I also learned how to persevere, and it helped me understand that life isn’t always smooth sailing; you have to work hard and do what
it takes to win.”
Meadows graduated from UGA with a degree in agriculture, and in her career she has worked for UGA Extension and the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation. She is now the director of UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, where she works with elected officials, appointed staff and board members to make government more effective, efficient and responsive.
“I think 4-H is the best youth organization there is,” Meadows says. “I definitely still apply things I learned when I was a 4-Her in my everyday life, and I feel like 4-H has been an important part of my professional development. It was hard work, but it was a brilliant model because it made the work fun.”