Across the Valley, 4-H plays a huge part in the lives of many young people, and it’s one of the most popular organizations that helps shape the next generation. 4-H teaches skills and provides opportunities and also support, such as scholarships, to its members. Recently, a John Deere Canada 4-H Scholarship (one of 15 given nation-wide) was awarded to William Orr of the Howick club.
Orr, thrilled with the award, explains that he has been very involved with his 4-H club for nearly a decade, “since I was 9 years old. I’ve held many positions on the executive committee. I was first a publicist, then I moved up to vice president, then I was publicist again, then vice president again, and now I’m the president of Howick 4-H.”
He has been balancing 4-H and school throughout, which he admits has been challenging, especially this past year. “It’s been a lot of work, but this year’s been different … and presented its own set of challenges,” he says. Although most years bring their own difficulties, which he says are generally met “head-on” and then “it’s business as usual,” this past one has been tough. All 4-H activities shifted to an online format this year, as did a significant chunk of Orr’s senior year of high school.
“The biggest challenge would probably be the learning curve that comes with moving everything online, especially for 4-H, [because] everything has always been in person. We’re used to doing shows, competitions, and meetings in person.” Orr explains that members were forced to adapt and create new ways to keep up 4-H traditions, saying “That really changed a lot of our plans for stuff and competitions, because we weren’t able to go on as usual. But at the same time, we’ve had to find ways to cope with that and keep members engaged, and still have a good time.”
Orr found out about the award applications through the Quebec 4-H Facebook page, where many such opportunities are advertised for post-secondary members. “This one really stood out to me because it was not program-specific, so I was able to apply for it [despite] not going into Macdonald College for a specifically agriculture-based program.”
Orr recently started in the Community Recreation and Leadership program at Dawson College. He says that his time in 4-H, especially his Club Exchange experience, has helped prepare him for this new adventure. “I think my experience through Club Exchange – where we went to Manitoba and got to do a lot of stuff outdoors and learn to work with other people who we had never really met before – really helped me. There have been all kinds of great opportunities through 4-H that will help me, not only in my program at school, but in all areas of life later on.”
Orr was the only Quebec recipient of this award; he says he was excited about that because “4-H’s presence is smaller in Quebec compared to other provinces.” He also mentions that “It’s cool to be a winner with people from different provinces and different regions all over Canada.”
To Orr, 4-H is a great way to up community engagement and help people come together. “I think it’s really important because our communities are really quite small, and people often move away from [them]. Organizations like 4-H provide the opportunity to connect with people in the area with the same interests [who] have a similar vision for the community as a whole.”
He is planning on continuing in 4-H for as long as he can and hopes to find a career path where all the skills he has learned will be used. “For my future, I don’t really have specific plans just yet; I’m going into this program to see where my interests are, and I can hopefully find a career where I can lead and take initiative and be outdoors. 4-H has taught me a lot about that.”