How 4-H Taught Me Dedication and Perseverance

An interview with 4-H alumna Nicolette Shelley on the value of 4-H

Cheshire County 4-H alumna Nicolette Shelley at work in a veterinary hospital.

Here in Cheshire County, we have been fortunate to work with some great young people in 4-H. I’m always impressed with what they accomplish after they leave us, and it’s gratifying to learn how 4-H helped them get there. Recently, we heard from Nicolette Shelley, a 4-H’er from 1999 to 2006, and asked her about her life after 4-H.   

What have you been up to since you left 4-H?

Since I left 4-H 12 years ago, I have lived in six states and a different country. I graduated from veterinary school at St. George’s University in Grenada and now I am in Iowa training as a veterinarian for Transova Genetics. I am currently working on producing and reproducing elite cattle for people all over the world. Crazy, right?

I look back on my life as a kid and wonder how I really got here. In circumstances like mine, I owe most of the credit to my time in 4-H and the people I met along the way.

What do you mean by that?

Most people would say I did not grow up in a privileged household. I was raised by a single mom who struggled to make ends meet while providing for her four kids. When I was 11 years old, one of my very close friends asked me to come to her farm with her for the summer. I excitedly agreed because I always loved being around animals.

At first, the sheer size of a cow was a little intimidating, but by the end of the first week, I was hooked. Later that year I joined 4-H and spent the next seven years as an active member. I competed in regional and national shows, judging and quiz bowl competitions and learned how to be productive member of society. Then I went off to college.

4-H Builds a Strong Work Ethic and Desire for Excellence

What’s remarkable about this whole journey is realizing I’m here today mostly because of my time spent in 4-H. The motto is “To Make the Best Better,” and we didn’t strive for mediocrity.

How did you “make the best better?”

In 4-H, we put in the time and effort, day in and day out, raising and caring for the cows that we brought to the show in the summer. And not only did we care for those cows, but all the others in the barn, too. It took hard work, teamwork and dedication every day.

What else did you learn?

We learned how to interact with peers in a group setting, and how to interact with the public at shows and fairs. We figured out how to handle ourselves after a triumphant win or a miserable failure (and trust me, there was always plenty of both for me). We learned humility through successes and failures, and we persevered. But at the end of the day, most importantly, there was always a sense of camaraderie with friends, win or lose. As an adult, it is the one thing that I miss the most.

We are proud to call you a 4-H alumna. What would you say to someone thinking about joining 4-H?

It’s an incredible program that changed my life. I will never fully be able to express my gratitude to the parents, leaders, volunteers, friends and family who helped me and who made such a positive impact on me through the years. The life lessons I learned in 4-H carried me through my journey into adulthood and my career. Without 4-H, I am certain that I would not be where I am today.

Join 4-H Today

This is part of a series of interviews with New Hampshire 4-H alumni from across the state about how participating in 4-H made a positive impact on their lives.


Andrea Sawyer
4-H Animal Science Specialist, Emeritus
Office: Cooperative Extension, Taylor Hall, Durham, NH 03824