By Stephanie Meyers

It is no secret that today’s youth feel pressure. Pressure to excel in school, go to college, get a job, etc. How they overcome those pressures is a true testament to their character. Take Allee Marie Bilancione, from Valrico, and Emily Hummel, from Riverview, as examples.

Bilancione, 14, and Hummel, 17, credit their enrollment in 4-H, the nation’s largest youth organization, to helping them overcome adversity and build confidence along the way. The life skills taught through 4-H helped them learn to work with others, overcome challenges and complete jobs once they started them. Bilancione and Hummel took advantage of the breadth of programs 4-H offers, from science and agriculture to business and creative arts.

Bilancione and Hummel have both spent hundreds of hours giving back to the community. Bilancione’s volunteer work has ranged from helping out at Riverview Horse Rescue to donating blankets at the Shriner’s hospital. Hummel has done a variety of work from painting buildings to landscaping projects.

“4-H is really about helping others,” said Hummel. “These volunteer projects help us connect with our community and understand the needs of others. It’s nice to help people and feel good about a finished volunteer project.”

Hummel is thankful for the opportunities 4-H has given her to explore possible college paths and focus on life after high school. “This year I was able to tour the veterinary school at the University of Florida,” said Hummel, a six-year veteran of 4-H. “It was a hands-on experience that allowed me to explore my passion for a future career. I wouldn’t have a chance to do something like this if I wasn’t a 4-H member.”

4-H brings a community together to grow true leaders in today’s youth – helping build confidence, teamwork, curiosity and resilience.

“Our 4-H leaders are amazing,” added Hummel. “One of our club leaders went back to college and continued to help us through this busy time in her life – she is a great role model for all of us.”

Any child can grow with 4-H, an organization that has something for every interest. But 4-H is always looking for adult volunteers and funding to help expand their reach and empower young people through doing. To find out more about helping 4-H in your area, contact the Florida Cooperative Extension Service or visit 4H.org.