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Message from Dorothy: Young people: Release your potential

I am a dreamer

It’s true. I spend a great deal of time dreaming and envisioning what could be for myself, my fellow youth workers and 4-H as a whole. I love to imagine the future.

Are you like me? Do you see possibilities and opportunities wherever you go? This way of viewing the world can be a natural inclination. It can also be cultivated. It can be grown.

Yes we can

Every single day, we are surrounded by problems of all sizes. It can be tempting to see problems as permanent roadblocks, barriers we cannot move. But that is just not true. You and I have so much potential to affect change.

Even when facing the biggest, most complicated challenges, make your first reaction “yes, we can.” If you begin with possibility, you will orient yourself towards what can be.

Saying “yes, we can” shapes the way we approach life. It is the beginning of seeing the possibilities all around us. It heightens our consciousness to not just our present, but also our future potential.

Don’t set your dreams in concrete

Dreams both evolve and clarify over time. Be willing to mull your dreams over and let your discoveries hone your vision and strategy. If your dream doesn’t immediately come to pass, please don’t give up. Be willing to wait and persevere. Your dreams are worth the effort.

How adults can help youth release their potential

Feeling connected to caring adults is critical for youth as they pursue their dreams. Are you interested in helping youth release their potential? Here are a few encouragements:

Make a way

One benefit of age and experience is the ability to identify limitations and barriers to our youth’s dreams. As caring and supportive adults, it is our opportunity to guide them through those challenges. We can help the youth around us build skills and manage issues as they pursue their dreams.

Create a safety net, not a cage

Have you ever been so worried about possible failure that you mistakenly stopped a young person from trying? It happens more than we would like to admit. We want to keep youth safe, but sometimes we go too far. Our intention to protect results in an inability to try. Resist this. Leave space for young people to fail and be the safe and supportive adult who helps them learn, grow and try again.

Empower rather than do

Have you ever felt frustrated that youth aren’t taking initiative? Are not being leaders? It might be that you’re doing too much for them. I recently heard a committed and wonderful 4-H volunteer bemoan that she always has to bring snacks because her club members consistently forget when it is their turn. Now what if she stopped being the back-up and let a meeting happen snack-free? I predict that the youth would point out the issue and devise a solution. What young person wouldn’t? When we step back and create space for young people to step into leadership, they often will.

The best sort of leaders, including me, are dreamers. We see possibilities and pursue them with confidence, patience and drive.

You are a leader.

What are your dreams?


Dorothy M. Freeman
Associate dean and state 4-H director