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In 4-H, people see my potential along with my disabilities.

Natalie D. is a 4-H’er from Scott County. This week, she’s representing Minnesota at the 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships in Nebraska.

We often tell stories on this blog about the impact 4-H has on Minnesota young people. Today’s post is straight from Natalie in her own words. She’s a force. Enjoy.

My name is Natalie.

Being a kid with allergies, arthritis, anxiety, depression and autism, I didn't fit into the past clubs and sports I tried. I had to act like someone I wasn't to try to fit the clubs instead of the clubs fitting me. I felt alone. My depression got worse and I had to go to an inpatient program. After I was back home, I wanted to be part of a group, to feel needed and part of something. My dad suggested 4-H.

I went to a meeting with the Credit River Comets 4-H Club. I sat in the back being very quiet. They got to the point of their meeting where they vote on the monthly outing; they picked going to a trampoline park, which doesn't work well for someone with arthritis. When they were figuring out who all could attend my mom said I wouldn't be able to. Then something I've only experienced with 4-H: they changed the outing and no one was upset. For the first time I felt like a club wanted me to be part of it. For the first time I wasn't a burden.

They saw me, not my disabilities.

Soon after, I joined a 4-H LEGO robotics group. This experience has helped mold my future by getting me interested in mechanical engineering and showing me that I can do whatever I set my mind to. I can ask questions without feeling judged. My teammates problem-solve with me to make sure I can pull apart the small pieces. With them, I can let out my inner nerd. No matter what age or physical ability, in 4-H everyone helps everyone so we all can have a great time.

Scott County 4-H's shooting sports team has made a large impact on my life. I didn't think I would be able to do much with the club –my arthritis and anxiety always hold me back. But 4-H didn't see my limitations, only my potential. I'm so appreciative for the ways they work with me and help me, so I can be part of the team no matter the challenges.

4-H has made accommodations that help me be successful. I use a special tool that makes my pellet pistol light enough for me to hold. And I can use a Moses stick at any range instead of just at 50 yards when shooting a muzzleloader. The volunteers work so hard with me to help make sure I understand and feel comfortable.

Sometimes our shooting sports club has cookouts. They always make sure there is food I can eat instead of putting it on my mom to take care of. We are so grateful they always take us into consideration.

4-H has changed my life for the better in so many ways: by giving me skills, proud 4-H friends, passions I didn't even know about, ways I can be active despite my disabilities. I hope that more people like me will be able to find 4-H – it’s a place that fits you, not a club you have to fit.

Thank you.

Curious to learn a little more about Natalie? Read this article from the Grand Island Independent about her experience at the National Championships.

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