Two of Tallapoosa County’s 4-H Club members have been selected as Alabama 4-H ambassadors, which is an honor for the Tallapoosa County Extension Office.

Horseshoe Bend’s Colton Cook was selected for the second consecutive year and Dadeville’s Blake Harris was chosen for the first time to represent Tallapoosa County.

“There are usually around 25 ambassadors throughout the whole state that come from all over,” 4-H Foundation regional extension agent Trent Carboni said. “We’ve been lucky enough for the second year in a row to have two chosen from Tallapoosa County. We’re very proud of them.”

To be selected as an ambassador, 4-H’ers must be between 15 and 18 and at least a rising sophomore in high school to apply. Each candidate must submit a resume along with an application which is then scored. Based on how an applicant scores, he or she moves onto the interview process.

“This year with COVID-19, they did interviews over Zoom,” Carboni said. “But it’s an interview just like a job interview and they have to do at least a three to five minute presentation about 4-H’s ‘BIGM.’”

BIGM, which stands for belonging, independence, generosity and mastery, is the motto and mission 4-H strives to achieve.

“In their presentations they have to discuss how 4-H has helped them achieve those things,” Carboni said. “It’s what we strive to help students with.”

After interviews, students are selected as ambassadors. The number of chosen candidates varies each year but is typically around 25 statewide.

“Our first-ever ambassador from Tallapoosa County was Jayden Siggers in 2018,” Carboni said. “She was the only one that year. Last year, we had Colton Cook and Mary Carol Rasbury both from Horseshoe Bend. For us to have two from Tallapoosa County again shows we’re doing what our goal is to develop the next leaders not only in our communities and our state but possibly the nation later on.”

Carboni said leadership is one of the biggest development goals embraced in 4-H.

Chosen state ambassadors become the leaders of statewide 4-H members and represent Alabama at various events including the governor’s inaugural parade.

The main objective for the chosen students is to organize and lead the annual leadership and citizenship camp each February. The Midwinter Leadership Retreat incorporates workshops and programs on leadership, community service, workforce development and more.

“There are 4-H agent adults who are staff advisors but the ambassadors come up with the theme and activities and lead the whole weekend long event,” Carboni said. “They plan every detail while we’re there down to picking out daily meals. It takes all of them together with different skills to make it happen.”

The leadership retreat typically hosts up to 150 4-H’ers from across Alabama who are ages 14 and older. Participants can sign up on a first-come, first-serve basis and the weekend is a great opportunity for youth to meet new people.

“The ambassadors spend a lot of time together meeting throughout the year for planning and become close,” Carboni said. 

These teenage ambassadors also serve as mentor for younger kids who are still learning the ropes.

“A lot of times ambassadors are chosen to represent Alabama in national conferences and their responsibility is to come back and teach what they learned to the younger youth in their counties,” Carboni said.

State ambassadors are typically recognized at state competitive events, which will not be held this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but a to-be-determined event is still in the works for this prestigious honor.

“They get their green sport coat,” Carboni said. “That’s their official dress code: green coat and black pants or black skirts for girls. That’s how we know who the ambassadors are. It’s something they can keep forever, like a trophy.”

Amy Passaretti is a staff writer with the Alexander City Outlook.