Skip to main content

"My hope for the future is that youth will make things better, grow, and be willing to explore."

Brian Mc Neill
Minnesota 4-H True Leader
In 4-H, Brian developed skills he uses every day to make an impact on his community.

Brian Mc Neill and his three siblings were raised on a dairy farm in western Minnesota. Resources were limited growing up, but 4-H gave Brian an avenue to explore opportunities outside his community and expand skills he would need throughout life.

"Our parents worked hard, so hard to ensure we had the essentials. There wasn't much more available to us beyond that. But they gave us 4-H. And in 4-H, mentors helped me discover a whole world of opportunity."

Hard work and determination were of high value in Brian's family. He was able to apply and grow those skills in many 4-H experiences, especially during a 4-H entrepreneurship project he participated in as a senior in high school.

“I started a rabbit breeding business as part of 4-H’s Youth Entrepreneur Seminar (YES). 4-H staff and volunteers mentored me through the process of building a business from the ground up. My grandfather loaned me the start-up capital. I can’t tell you how much I learned.”
Brian with Extension home economics agent
Katherine Huebner

Brian’s Rabbit Ranch, which existed for four years, taught its young owner financial management and record keeping skills he uses to this day. It was a successful business too, with enough revenue to both pay back the loan from his grandfather and fully fund Brian’s first year of college.

“That experience made such a difference in my life. Rabbits were always interesting to me, but seeing how my interests could lead to financial success and leadership opportunities was transformational.”

Brian started a 4-H club for other youth in his community who were interested in rabbits. The records he kept about his learning and leadership earned him a trip to the National 4-H Club Congress in 1988 and a 4-H State Ambassador position around that same time. Every step of the way, generous mentors prodded him to expand his impact and make a difference.

“Mary Ann Scharf, who was our local 4-H agent, encouraged me to grow and learn. She, and other mentors, gave me opportunities to showcase what I was learning and share that knowledge with others. Caring adults really do make a difference for youth.”

Brian with fellow Minnesota 4-H State Ambassadors
1988 - 1989
It was during Brian’s college years that he realized just how meaningful 4-H was in his life. He started to explore ways of giving back by serving as a 4-H intern in Lac qui Parle and Swift counties during his summers at home.

“I came to realize that the role of adults in 4-H is to see the spark in youth and ignite it. We can provide them with opportunities and encouragement they need to thrive.”

After college, Brian knew that working for 4-H was the best way he could make a positive impact on youth in his community. He first served in a temporary 4-H position in Douglas County during fair season and then accepted his first fulltime position as Swift County 4-H agent on Feb. 1, 1994.

“I’ve been doing this work for 23 years and I love it. Providing youth with opportunities to evolve and be involved where they care to learn is exciting. I learn new things all the time, just like our youth.”

Brian is married to Julie who is a teacher in Benson. They have three children, all of whom have grown up as members of the 4-H Cool Club in Swift County.

“What is my hope for the future? That youth will seize the day. That they will take the opportunities in front of them and make things better, grow, and be willing to explore.”

Learn more about the Minnesota 4-H rabbit project.

Discover 4-H citizenship and leadership opportunities.

University of Minnesota
Extension Center for Youth Development

Print Friendly and PDF