University of Maryland Extension

Maryland 4-H Student Talks Poverty with President Obama

Gabrielle Parker (second from left) talks with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office
Image Credit: 
Pete Souza

On April 13th, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack selected eight 4-H students from across the nation to talk to President Barack Obama about issues of child hunger and poverty, giving voice to the nation’s youth as a part of the White House Rural Council’s latest initiative.

Alongside students from Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, and Utah, Gabrielle Parker from Camp Springs, Maryland relied upon  her work as a four-year 4-H member and current 4-H Healthy Living Ambassador to address the issues that affect so many of today’s families and children.

“Meeting with the President was absolutely one of the best moments of my life,” said Parker, a homeschooled high school senior. “I was extremely nervous preparing to speak to him but his personality when I was speaking with him put me at ease. When I explained how we’ve started the Healthy Living Ambassador Program for the State of Maryland, he was very pleased to hear that we are working with the same initiative that his wife is working with (Let’s Play).”

During her involvement with the 4-H program, Parker has held numerous executive positions, serving as Secretary (2011-2012), Vice President of the Trailblazers 4-H Club (2013), and eventually President (2014). Staying active in the community, Parker has promoted healthy living in Prince George’s County at the Montpelier Farms Harvest Festival, was invited to participate in the Teens Take on Health Town Hall meeting, and taught her local Extension office about geographic information systems.

“Gabrielle’s work as a 4-H Healthy Living Ambassador and her work helping to alleviate food insecurity for low-income families and homeless persons were key factors in her selection for this honor,” Catherine Porterfield, Events Coordinator at the Maryland 4-H Center, explained. “Every President since President Taft (1912) has hosted a delegation of 4-Hers at the White House for some youth-related event and President Obama continues that tradition. For Gabrielle this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience; one that will likely shape her life and inspire her future career and accomplishments.”

The selected students met with President Obama for fifteen minutes in the Oval Office, and were also invited to attend the National 4-H Conference held at the National 4-H Center in Chevy Chase, MD between April 11th and the 16th. 4-H is administered nationwide by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as well as the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), however, the Healthy Living Program is supported by National 4-H Council grant programs.

There are 75 4-H Healthy Living Ambassadors, including Parker, between the ages of 8 and 19 in varying clubs and counties in Maryland where ambassadors promote healthy lifestyles through nutrition and fitness, as well as making smart choices regarding drugs and alcohol.

“Gabrielle is an exceptional young lady,” Porterfield said.  “Gabrielle didn’t set out to meet the President of the United States – she just wanted to help people in her community, especially children.  Because she was honest, true, and tireless in working to make her community a better place, she has achieved more than even she imagined possible.  I’m sure there are many more wonderful successes in her future.”

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