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Oklahoma student gives back through 4-H

Kayla Hedrick for Progressive Cattleman Published on 18 May 2016
Lexie Lerblance

True leaders aren’t born – they’re grown. That’s the message the National 4-H Council is sending with its Grow True Leaders campaign, launched in April.

4-H, the nation’s largest youth organization, helps prepare youth for leadership positions later in life. Those lessons can certainly begin with raising cattle, like they did for one Oklahoma 4-H’er, Lexie Lerblance. She learned about responsibility through feeding and watering her animals daily. She also learned to deal with difficult parties.

“Cattle can be challenging at times, so you can definitely say my Herefords have taught me lessons in patience,” laughs 18-year-old Lerblance. “But the lessons in the ring also have taught me to be a gracious winner and not to be a sore loser. It’s about the experience – not winning or losing.”

4-H has prepared Lerblance with life skills that help her work well with others, overcome challenges and complete jobs once she starts them – qualities of a true leader.

Lerblance adds that 4-H has cultivated her passion to be an advocate of agriculture. Her leadership positions within the organization, which go all the way to the national level, have given Lerblance the ability to speak up in a room and share her thoughts. Even in her small town of McAlester, Oklahoma, she finds herself explaining modern livestock production to her peers.

“I want to share ag’s positive story with others,” says Lerblance. “You have to speak up and share what you know, or others will just assume they know what is happening.”

Lerblance recalls a recent interaction with peers, “They were talking about beef, and I took the opportunity to educate them on the differences between grain-finished and grass-finished beef. I let them know they don’t have to be afraid of either.”

Head, heart, hands, health

Lerblance’s compassion doesn’t stop in the livestock ring or in her agriculture advocacy to peers. Through 4-H, Lerblance also has learned to give back to her community.

In 2009, Lerblance’s mother, Ashley, was diagnosed with breast cancer. As Ashley went through her treatment, Lexie traveled more than 100 miles to try on wigs with her.

Unfortunately, the experience was frustrating, and they came back empty-handed. That’s when Lexie Lerblance had an idea that would lead to something greater.

“Around that time, I was looking for a community service project for 4-H and knew it was important to make the project personal,” explains Lerblance. “That’s when I decided to explore starting a wig closet.”

Lerblance helped establish the TLC Wig Closet in her hometown of McAlester, Oklahoma, which has a population of 18,000 people. The closet is staffed with American Cancer Society volunteers and located in the regional hospital.

“It’s amazing to see the transformation of someone as they step into the wig closet,” explains Lerblance. “You see them go from sad eyes to feeling more confident and that they can take on the world. It’s a wonderful experience.”

Not only did this 4-H’er impact her community in rural America, she found her career calling as well.

Lerblance primarily markets the wig closet and helps with fundraising. She plans to pursue a degree in marketing next fall at the University of Oklahoma. She was honored as one of 4-H’s Youth In Action finalists for her work with the wig closet.

“I truly believe that the skills I’ve gained from my experience in 4-H have set me up for the future.”

Developing true leaders

4-H offers a wide breadth of programs, from agriculture and science to citizenship and healthy living, all with the end goal of leadership in mind. They’re looking to reach even more youth in the future and just set a goal of reaching 10 million rural, urban and suburban youth by 2025.

In addition, 4-H is looking to reconnect with alumni who have gained so much from 4-H. To find out more about their campaign to reach more youth and how alumni can be part of it all, visit the 4-H website.  end mark

PHOTO: 4-H grows true leaders: Lexie Lerblance learned life skills showing cattle and giving back to her community in 4-H. Photo provided by the National 4-H Council.