July 13, 2024

By William Hehemann, UAPB Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences

PINE BLUFF, Ark. – Sept. 8, 2022 – As a new semester begins, Hallie Roby, a sophomore major of plant science at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), encourages university students to consider joining their collegiate 4-H club. Though she had not been involved in 4-H programming during middle or high school, she decided to take a chance and join the UAPB Collegiate 4-H Club the very day she moved to campus during her freshman year.

“On my first day, my mom wanted to make sure I had things squared away for my major and hoped to find out about scholarship opportunities,” she said. “We headed over to the 1890 Extension building to see what we could find out. There, we met Ms. 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 having signed up to be a member of 4-H on the first day of college.”

According to Hunt, collegiate 4-H programs get university students involved in community service, as well as in leadership and professional development activities. Membership ensures students receive volunteer experience in Cooperative Extension and 4-H programs. Collegiate 4-H programs are also actively involved in promoting positive youth development both on campus and across communities.

Roby said collegiate 4-H programming gives participants a strong 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 day-to-day lives and careers,” she said. “I would also encourage others to join the program because of the connections they will be able to make, as well as for the unique opportunities and experiences it will bring.”

In her own experience, Roby references her being selected by the National 4-H Council for the 2022 National Ag Day Student Leadership Program as an unexpected and fulfilling opportunity. As part of the program, she traveled to Washington, D.C. with a cohort of five other 4-H students from across the nation and leaders of other student organizations. There, they met with congressional leaders, including Arkansas Sen. John Boozman, to mark National Ag Day on March 22.

“Initially, I wasn’t sure if 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 that it is a national celebration, because I was selected out of students from multiple universities beyond HBCUs. Once I received the meeting schedules, I discovered 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.”

Leading up to the trip to the nation’s capital, Roby participated in a series of virtual sessions that included governmental guests, experts and advocates in the agriculture industry. To prepare for the National Ag Day celebration, the student program participants had one-on-one, group and panel discussions about timely agricultural issues.

“When I was flown to Washington D.C. during spring break, I met face-to-face with all the student representatives,” she said. “On the first day, we were brought to the press club, where we were able to network with many individuals within the agricultural community, from farmers to industry reps. On our last day, we walked around the National Mall, met with different vendors and had our meetings with state representatives. I had a meeting with Sen. Boozman and his team – the experience was great.”

Roby said her biggest takeaway from being involved in Ag Day celebrations was learning to take advantage of new opportunities, even if they are a little daunting at first.

“In the beginning, I wasn’t sure I would want to apply, but I did,” she said. “I was nervous about speaking during the press club, but I did anyway. I was still nervous during my meeting with the senator, but I didn’t show it. Because I said yes to this opportunity, I have made new friends and connections. I have also stayed in contact with someone who works at the House and Senate who has taken my hand in helping me on my journey throughout college.”

Roby said she chose to major in agriculture because a lack of diversity in the field. While she is studying plant and soil sciences now, she hopes to eventually work in environmental law.

“I am very proud of Hallie,” Hunt said. “She took initiative joining 4-H on her first day on campus. Ever since, she has been an active member and is diligent in responding to opportunities that will further her education and prepare her for a career in agriculture. For example, she also became a USDA/1890 National Scholar after hearing about and applying for the program.”

Photo – Arkansas Sen. John Boozman and Hallie Roby meet during National Ag Day celebrations in Washington, D.C.

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