Mak­ing my best bet­ter

The Covington News - - Local news -

I learned more from los­ing than winning in 4-H.

Fifth grade was the first time I’d com­peted in much out­side of a spell­ing bee.

I won the elec­tion as 4-H club pres­i­dent. I won rib­bons in the Christ­mas craft con­test and a tal­ent show. I won first place at Project Achieve­ment.

The wooden heart I painted for my grand­mother as my project is still hang­ing on her wall. It isn’t the most per­fect piece of art ever. It isn’t the best work I could do to­day, but it was cer­tainly my best work as a 10year-old Clover­leaf 4-H’er.

In 6th and 7th grades, I again won Project Achieve­ment and county rib­bons and tro­phies.

Twelve years old and al­ready on top of my game.

I was do­ing my best to win, but as long as I kept winning I never re­ally had to try any harder.

By 8th grade, I was sure my project would win yet again as I gave a demon­stra­tion on car­toon­ing tech­niques I’d learned from a video out of the Sears cat­a­log.

An­other girl’s project on carousel horses was pretty in­ter­est­ing, but I wasn’t wor­ried.

I packed away my posters and props and set out to en­joy the week­end at Rock Ea­gle. That evening as win­ners were an­nounced, they must have made a mis­take— I only earned 3rd place!

I still had a good time, meet­ing new 4-H friends, learn­ing a few dances and hang­ing out in the cabin, but some­thing changed— I re­al­ized I needed to work a lit­tle harder if I re­ally wanted to win.

I tried the hu­man de­vel­op­ment project, backed with a port­fo­lio packed with a lot of babysit­ting project work. I didn’t even place that year, and be­fore I left the room had al­ready iden­ti­fied things to im­prove.

By my sopho­more year I joined the news­pa­per staff at New­ton High and chose the com­mu­ni­ca­tions project. By mere tenths of a point, I came in third. This time, I was up­set. I had done my best work. My port­fo­lio was full of lead­er­ship, com­mu­nity ser­vice, and project work. I had been to ev­ery 4-H event, prac­ticed my project, made great posters, and yet I still didn’t win.

To top it off, I was cer­tain the judge had asked me more dif­fi­cult ques­tions, in­clud­ing how many pi­cas were in a col­umn inch of newsprint.

I went home and de­ter­minedly found op­por­tu­ni­ties to im­prove my port­fo­lio. I earned a spot writ­ing a bi­weekly col­umn for The Cov­ing­ton News. I was named news ed­i­tor of The Ram­Page.

I vol­un­teered at more ser­vice events, served as a leader for more 4-H events, and care­fully re-did each and ev­ery poster.

At Project Achieve­ment my ju­nior year, I re­turned with more ex­pe­ri­ence, more con­fi­dence, and more determination — and I knew how to mea­sure a col­umn inch.

The judge didn’t ask about pi­cas again, but seemed to smile know­ingly as I showed off my new knowl­edge about news­pa­pers.

I won first place, and headed to State 4-H Congress. Know­ing how tough the com­pe­ti­tion would be, I added a cos­tume and jazzed up my in­tro­duc­tion, try­ing for any edge.

One com­peti­tor earned a per­fect score on her demon­stra­tion— but once they added in our port­fo­lio and in­ter­view scores, I still came out on top.

I had won first place again, but this time I had more pride in my­self and a job well done than ever be­fore.

Thanks to that judge, I had not only mas­tered my project area, but I had also learned to truly un­der­stand the 4-H motto.

It is hard for a young 4-H’er to un­der­stand that “To Make the Best Bet­ter” does not al­ways mean winning first place.

My best ef­fort is not al­ways the same as an­other per­son’s best ef­fort. I am not tal­ented at the same things as my peers.

My com­mu­nity ser­vice prob­a­bly didn’t change the world or save any en­dan­gered an­i­mals from ex­tinc­tion. My project work did not change the face of news­pa­pers.

How­ever, 4-H taught me that each and ev­ery day, I can learn some­thing new, give my best ef­fort, open my mind to new ideas, and al­ways be on the look­out for ways to make my best bet­ter.

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