One of the four H’s in 4-H is “Heart,” and Victoria Shafer has a big one when it comes to supporting LGBTQ+ youth
Victoria Shafer, a former 4-H State Ambassador, loves connecting with others about the cool things young people do in 4-H, like performing arts. But she notices that, sometimes, not everyone is included in the fun. That can also happen at school, in town or even online.
“A lot of bullying comes from just not knowing, from not having experiences and conversations with people who aren’t just like us,” says the University of Minnesota Duluth freshman from Loretto in Wright County.
In 4-H, a youth development program operated by University of Minnesota Extension, a curriculum called “Let’s Talk About Race” taught her how to interrupt racism.
Shafer, who has been interested in gender equality since eighth grade, helped write a curriculum called, “Let’s Talk About Gender Identity,” teaching about LGBTQ+ youth and identity.
“Friends have been asking for safe spaces to talk and learn,” says Shafer. So next, she and others trained 4-H County Ambassadors so they could spread understanding across Minnesota.
In March 2023, 13 Minnesota 4-H’ers traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in Ignite by 4-H, a four-day experience during which teens explored science, agriculture, healthy living, career readiness and emotional wellbeing. While connecting with young people from across the U.S., they learned ways to be change agents on issues youth face around the world.
Three young people, including Shafer, presented on the “Let’s Talk About Gender Identity” curriculum, the needs of LGBTQ+ young people and positive youth development.
“The team did an outstanding job presenting their work and connecting with 4-H members from other states who want to replicate their program,” says Joe Rand, interim director of Extension diversity, equity and inclusion programs and Extension educator.
“I have people close to me who are part of the LGBTQ+ community,” Shafer says. “I want to be a strong supporter for them, especially those who don’t already have very much support.”
The pipes are calling
Victoria Shafer fell in love with the sound of the bagpipes when she was very young, but the opportunity to play them came recently. “One of my mom’s coworkers mentioned that he had a set of bagpipes and offered to give them to me in exchange for playing Amazing Grace for him.”
She found a troop in St. Paul that teaches people for free, but practicing means hours spent outside for the sake of her own eardrums. It’s not too often that most people hear the distinctive sound of this instrument, unless they live near someone like Shafer.
“The general reaction is disbelief and joy,” says Shafer. “When I was a 4-H State Ambassador during the State Fair I practiced outside the 4-H building before it opened up around 8.”
She got a lot of song requests. “People tell me personal stories about how much hearing certain songs mean to them.”
Amazing Grace is among the songs most requested and Victoria hopes to be able to play it for funerals for those who have served their country.
Do you know the 4-H pledge?
I PLEDGE my HEAD to clearer thinking,
my HEART to greater loyalty,
my HANDS to larger service,
and my HEALTH to better living,
for my family, my club, my community, my country and my world.
Find it in more languages on the 4-H pledge web page!
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