The Hantsport (Nova Scotia) resident has been with the Border Riders 4-H Club in Mount Denson for nine years.
In November, McNeil was flown to Toronto to accept a 2011 TD 4-H Agricultural Scholarship worth $2,500. Ten 4-H members were awarded the nation-wide scholarship to put toward post-secondary studies in agriculture or a related field.
McNeil suspects she will continue to reap the benefits of being involved with the 4-H program for years to come.
“It has helped improve my communications skills and it has helped me be more confident,” she said.
Through regular exposure to crowds at 4-H meets, McNeil conquered her fear of public speaking and learned how to articulate her opinions and ensure her voice is heard.
“When I first started out in 4-H, I was very nervous and shy and I didn’t like getting up in front of a crowd and talking,” she said.
“It really forced me to put myself out there, and it’s really helped me.”
Last year, McNeil’s progress in the program was rewarded when she was named the top senior 4-H member in Hants County, an area with at least seven clubs.
“4-H has helped to broaden my horizons and my knowledge, my skills and my hobbies,” the 18-year-old Avon View High School student said.
“I have done the 4-H photography project five times,” she added, noting that she also taught photography as a junior leader.
While she tends to gravitate toward such artistic hobbies as drawing, writing and photography, McNeil plans to learn the ins and outs of raising dairy cows and gardening while completing new 4-H projects this year.
“Another reason why I’m still in 4-H is because there are still some skills that I haven’t learned,” she said.
As an agriculture ambassador, McNeil has interviewed farmers to gain a greater understanding of how a variety of products are produced in Nova Scotia, she has submitted articles to the Hants Journal, learned how apple cider and honey is made, volunteered with woodsman activities, toured farmers’ markets to inquire about the effectiveness of buy local initiatives and recorded minutes at a Federation of Agriculture meeting.
And, she’s done it all with the help of supportive parents and good leaders.
“When you have good leaders you can create intelligent youth.”