Nyckalas Harvey, a senior at Lovell High School and leader in the 9’ers 4-H club, said he got started in the program about four years ago when Becky and Andy Perkins started the club in Lovell. Since then, the club has grown to more than 50 members. Harvey, now the club’s president, said he’s grown personally, as well, adding that his only regret is that he didn’t get involved sooner.
“I used to be a super shy person,” said Harvey. “I couldn’t picture myself, back then, doing the kind of stuff I’ve done through 4-H. The skills I’ve learned in 4-H will stay with me forever, and I will always be grateful for that.
“My 4-H friends are like family to me. Once you’re in 4-H it seems like everyone knows you. It’s been great for me. I feel like my life blossomed when I got into 4-H.”
Though shy at first, when Harvey finally mustered up the courage to step into a leadership role in his 4-H club, he did it with the greatest of ease. Since then, he has held the elected positions of Historian/Reporter, Treasurer and President.
“We held elections the first year, but I was too scared to run for anything,” he said. “When the second year rolled around, I ran for the Historian/Reporter position and I won the election. It was all new for me and I wasn’t really sure how it all worked, but I figured it out and found I really liked being a leader.”
Harvey interviewed in Laramie to be a part of the state leadership team, and was selected to be a part of a team consisting of seven 4-H members from clubs across the state, who help at state events, awards presentations and judgings. The group is also involved with the Showcase Showdown event, a popular non-livestock event that attracts members from across the state.
Harvey represented the state this year at 4-H Nationals in Washington, D.C., where he got to visit the White House, meet elected leaders and share his ideas with key officials, an experience, he said, he would not have had otherwise.
“When we went to Washington, D.C., it was the first time I went somewhere and didn’t feel homesick,” said Harvey. “We become like a family there. We had 4-H kids from every state and from Canada, Puerto Rico and even Alaska. We called ourselves the ‘Ohana,’ which is Hawaiian for the family. We still video chat every weekend now and I feel like these will be lifelong friends.”
Harvey said his 4-H experience has helped him to build confidence in himself.
“I’ve never been so out of my shell and so willing to meet people,” said Harvey. “In D.C., we went to a federal agency and made a presentation on energy conservation. They took our ideas seriously. I felt, as youth, our future will be better because of what we did while we were there. I felt like they listened to us and put our ideas into the making. It made me feel like I can make a difference in the world. It felt like I actually contributed to something important.
“I didn’t win anything for doing that; it’s not about winning. The reward is to know that we can make a difference. We can change the future. Who would have thought that a federal agency would listen to kids and put our ideas into action?”
Harvey said he has also enjoyed showing animals at the fair. He said he started with chickens at first and now raises and shows goats and is getting ready to show sheep for the first time. In addition to showing animals, he has also participated in photography and woodworking competitions.
“4-H isn’t just about the cows and plows,” he said. “You hear that all the time, but it’s true, there is always something for someone in 4-H. You can quilt, can or do whatever you want basically.”
Since 4-H only allows its members to compete until age 18, Harvey, who is 17, is racing against the clock to get as much out of the program as he can.
“It’s so much of my life right now, I don’t know what I’m going to do after this year,” he said. “One thing for sure, I’ll give back to 4-H because it has given me so many opportunities. It has taught me to get up and talk in front of judges and to talk in meetings and to share ideas. I’ve learned so many things and it has been such a great experience for me. I was 12 years old when I started. My only regret is that I didn’t start sooner.”
Harvey will graduate from Lovell High School next year. He said he plans to attend Northwest College for a few years and then transfer to the University of Wyoming. He said he learned recently about UW’s collegiate 4-H program.
“I had no idea there was something like that,” he said. “I’m pretty excited about it and will definitely be a part of it, that’s for sure, because 4-H is amazing. I love it.”
By Patti Carpenter