In UF/IFAS Extension Florida 4-H, leadership starts at a young age

Nine-year-old Rose Ducanis did not want to go to her first 4-H club meeting. “My mom pretty much had to drag me there,” Ducanis said. “I didn’t want to go because I just had no idea what to expect.” However, during that first meeting, she realized that UF/IFAS Extension Florida 4-H wasn’t just a bunch of kids listening to adults and eating snacks — it was a chance for her to find her voice as a leader.

“As I got more involved in 4-H, I realized that I had good things to say and that people would actually listen to them. You don’t often get that opportunity as a kid,” Ducanis said. Though Ducanis grew up in Davie, Florida, a suburban community, she liked how 4-H’s focus on leadership could apply to youth from any community.

Now, after nearly a decade as a 4-H member, Ducanis is the 2015–2016 Florida 4-H state council president. She has also been chosen as governor for this year’s 4-H Legislature, the main civic education event for Florida 4-H members between the ages of 13 and 18. From June 27 to July 1, youth from around the state will be at the Florida State Capitol, where they will learn to play the part of lawmakers, lobbyists and media correspondents in a mock legislative setting.

Robert Lommerse, the Florida 4-H state council vice president, said he can’t wait for 4-H Legislature to begin. Lommerse is from Seminole County, and this year he will play a senator. “I am counting down the days,” he said. “I love debating and presenting a bill on the House or Senate floor.”

Ducanis will oversee the event, establishing a political platform for her party, vetoing and passing bills, making speeches and holding press conferences. “I’ve been watching the governors carry out their duties for the past four years, and I’m excited to have my turn to take a crack at it,” she said.

4-H Legislature is an opportunity for young people to practice public speaking and debate, said Ducanis. The 4-H principle of “learning by doing,” has helped her become a confident communicator. “As the 4-H State Council president, I am an ambassador for the organization, and I have to formulate my own thoughts and opinions in a way that other people will understand,” she said.

Ducanis admires public figures such as Adam Putnam, Florida commissioner of agriculture, and Jennifer Sullivan, the youngest woman elected to the Florida Legislature, as examples of how 4-H grows leadership. Both Putnam and Sullivan are 4-H alumnae, and, like Ducanis, Putnam was a 4-H State Council president.

Ducanis credits 4-H with helping her discover her passion for representing and connecting people and organizations. “What I love about 4-H is how it helps accentuate people’s strengths and interests in a setting where it is okay to fail and get help from others,” she said.

She plans to expand on her leadership and communication skills this fall when she attends Palm Beach Atlantic University to study marketing and communications.

UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones

By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307, grenrosa@ufl.edu

Sources: Rose Ducanis, 954-512-3812, fl4hcouncilpres@gmail.com

Robert Lommerse, fl4hcouncilvp@gmail.com

Shaumond Scott, 352-294-2911, scottsa@ufl.edu