Jennifer Sirangelo: How Youth-development Programs Produce Leaders

July 16 - Sheena Sharma

FIRST THOUGHT: Supporting the Next Generation of Young Leaders

When was the last time you actually listened to a teenager or college student? It’s almost instinctive to ignore those younger than us because we remember what we were like at that ageand women can be harsh when we personally reflect. When talking to those younger than you, try to avoid phrases like “When I was your age,” “You’ll understand it someday,” and “How old are you?” If a 16-year-old girl from Florida can become a published author and a 12-year-old can be deemed “the next Steve Jobs,” it’s pretty clear age is just a number.


Many of these successful girls are involved in development programs from a young age. According to research conducted in part by Tufts University, 12th grade girls who are involved in youth-development programs like 4-H are three times more likely to participate in science programs than girls who aren’t involved in 4-H.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Jennifer Sirangelo, President and CEO of the National 4-H Council

4-H is paving the way for emerging young leaders. Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO of the 4-H Council, has been with the organization for more than a decade.

The Missouri native began as a babysitter, later working as a diner waitress, cashier, photo assistant and student ambassador. But it was while working at the Boys and Girls Clubs of America in New York that Jennifer gained a passion for fundraising for great causes like 4-H.

4-H is a youth-development organization with the mission to provide leadership development through science, agriculture, health and citizenship programs. It’s been in existence for more than a century, but it still focuses on its founding principle of hands-on learning. Since its inception, 4-H has reached 6 million kids and teenagers.

The organization began from humble roots, though. In the late 19th century, seasoned farmers weren’t too keen on trying out new agricultural practices. Young people, on the other hand, were willing to experiment and adopt change. That desire to experiment inspired rural youth clubs to later form in Ohio, bringing in young people to learn and excel in agriculture.

Now, under Jennifer’s leadership, 4-H has begun to reach those in suburban and urban communities, in addition to youth in rural areas, giving girls from throughout the U.S. the opportunity to learn by doing, receive adult mentorship and enhance their overall schooling experiences. The program has also launched the Grow True Leaders Campaign, which gives young people the power to develop leadership skills through hands-on experiences.

In April, Jennifer spoke at the Ohio 4-H LGBTQ+ Summit, which provided professional-development resources for adults and youth. Speakers and attendees shared helpful resources and discussed how to create safe spaces for all kids.

Jennifer isn’t afraid to talk about sensitive topics that affect 4-H, including inclusiveness. She recognizes youth have powerful voices that just need to be heard, and 4-H gives those youngsters that opportunity.


Today’s quote comes from a young female 4-H participant, who learned one of life’s most important lessons while participating in the organization. She said:

“4-H taught me to not give up when things get too hard.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

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