Will Hehemann | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Humanities
As a new semester begins, Hallie Roby, a sophomore in plant science at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), encourages college students to consider joining their college 4-H club. Although she was not involved in 4-H programming in middle school or high school, she decided to take a chance and join the UAPB Collegiate 4-H club the same day she moved to campus for his first year.
“On day one, my mom wanted to make sure I had everything sorted for my major and was hoping to find out more about scholarship opportunities,” she said. “We headed to the 1890 extension building to see what we could find. There we met Mrs. Teki Hunt (Director of 4-H Youth Programs for UAPB), who told me about the many benefits of the program. I ended up leaving our meeting after signing up to become a 4-H member on my first day of college.
According to Hunt, college 4-H programs engage college students in community service, as well as leadership and professional development activities. Membership ensures that students receive volunteer experience in cooperative and 4-H extension programs. College 4-H programs are also actively involved in promoting positive youth development both on campus and in communities.
Roby said 4-H college programming gives participants a solid foundation in agriculture and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts.
“The program instills critical thinking skills that will help students beyond the classroom, both in their daily lives and in their careers,” she said. “I also encourage others to join the program because of the connections they will be able to make, as well as the unique opportunities and experiences it will bring.”
In his own experience, Roby refers to being selected by the National 4-H Council for the 2022 National Agriculture Day Student Leadership Program as an unexpected and rewarding opportunity. As part of the program, she traveled to Washington, D.C. with a cohort of five other 4-H students from around the country and leaders from other student organizations. There they met with congressional leaders, including Arkansas Sen. John Boozman, to mark National Agriculture Day on March 22.
“At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to apply because the program was national – I felt I didn’t have enough experience to be selected,” she said. “Once I found out I was accepted I was stunned. I made sure to say this is a national celebration as I was selected from students at several universities beyond the HBCUs. Once I received the meeting times, I found out that I was one of only six 4-H members invited to Washington D.C. Out of 16 people, I was the only person of color and one of two students to attend an HBCU.
Prior to the trip to the nation’s capital, Roby participated in a series of virtual sessions featuring government guests, experts and agriculture industry advocates. To prepare for the National Agriculture Day celebration, student program participants held one-on-one, group, and group discussions on current agricultural issues.
“When I was flown to Washington DC over spring break, I met face to face with all of the student representatives,” she said. “On the first day, we were taken to the press club, where we were able to network with many people within the farming community, from farmers to industry representatives. On our last day, we walked around the National Mall, met with different vendors, and had our meetings with state officials. I had a meeting with Senator Boozman and his team – the experience was great.
Roby said his biggest lesson from participating in Agriculture Day celebrations was to learn how to take advantage of new opportunities, even if they are a bit daunting at first.
“At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to apply, but I got through,” she said. “I was nervous about speaking during the press club, but I did it anyway. I was still nervous when I met the senator, but I didn’t show it. Because I said yes to this opportunity, I made new friends and relationships, I also stayed in touch with someone who works in the House and Senate who took my hand to help me on my way to university.
Roby said she chose to major in agriculture due to a lack of diversity in the field. While she is currently studying plant and soil science, she hopes to eventually work in environmental law.
“I’m very proud of Hallie,” Hunt said. “She took the initiative to join 4-H on her first day on campus. Since then, she has been an active member and strives to respond to opportunities that will allow her to continue her studies and prepare her for a career in agriculture. For example, she also became a USDA/1890 National Fellow after hearing about and applying for the program.
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all of its outreach and research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion , age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.