ATLANTIC CITY – New Jersey State Agricultural leaders learned the benefits of promoting 4-H Clubs from an Ocean County student ambassador at their convention last month.
Nora Hansen, 17, a Barnegat Township High School senior, offered some keen insight regarding her experiences in the last nine years as a member of the Ocean County 4-H program.
“When I was only eight years old, I stepped onto a horse farm in my town and fell in love with the animal,” said Nora to the room filled with approximately 125 participants. “The idea of keeping and caring for livestock fascinated me from a very young age.”
As part of her equestrian journey, Nora said she moved on to join the Cross Street Riders 4-H Club and ultimately became part of the Horse Science team for Ocean County 4-H. She not only competed in events like the Horse Bowl, Hippology, and Horse Judging; Nora also became immersed in Veterinary Science, Animal Science, and photography projects.
Nora’s exposure to caring for animals undoubtedly helped her map out a plan for the future as she prepares to graduate high school in June. An extremely focused and determined young woman, Nora intends to pursue a career in veterinary medicine – and she’s thinking big.
The future should find a young Dr. Hansen in either a zoo or wildlife preserve, continuing to make a difference. Nora’s got her heart set on treating exotic species and large animals like lions, tigers, and bears.
Amelia Valente, Senior Program Director of the 4-H Program of the Cooperative Extension of Ocean County, explained why Nora was selected to speak before the state’s agricultural leaders.
“Each county sends a teen ambassador down to the convention,” explained Valente. “They host a display table and talk to dignitaries about their program.”
Nora and Alex Morgan of Jackson earned the honors of attending the convention. When the New Jersey 4-H chair asked if any of the leaders could think of someone to present, Valente knew she had the perfect candidate.
Not only does Nora have a go-getter attitude, in Valente’s opinion, but she also shines as a product of the 4-H program. She exudes confidence, is radiant, and seems comfortable talking in front of the other kids and the general public.
“When many people think of agriculture, they think of sheep, cows, and goats,” Valente shared. “These are parts of traditional farming and important and needed in our state.”
However, Nora also proved she was invested in the collaborative side of farming practices and how important environmental efforts are to agriculturalists. As a member of the Ecology Club and the founder of Barnegat’s Adopt-a-Street program, Nora demonstrated her commitment to the environment.
“Though it may not be obvious to most, there is a direct correlation between environmentalism and agriculture,” said Nora to the group of agricultural leaders. “Environmentalists and agriculturalists do not always get along, but I am here to share why it is important for all of us to collaborate together – to help our Earth.”
By way of example, Nora said that she recently teamed up with “Save Barnegat Bay” to help keep our waters clean and protect our ecosystems by fighting back against unsafe fishing practices.
Additionally, Nora has developed a passion for soil, composting, and vermiculture, which is the artificial rearing or cultivation of worms. The teen reminded the agriculturists that it was crucial to the environment to ensure compostable items weren’t wasted by being sent to landfills.
Valente said Nora’s presentation made a significant impact on the group that was impressed by how the teenager married the two subjects. The feedback is not surprising to those who know Nora in her hometown.
The summer before she entered Barnegat High School, Nora and her friend Jenna Marcy appeared at a meeting before the governing body. The two girls worked with then-Dunfee School Counselor Michele Cucinotta to present a targeted environmental program.
At just 13 years old, Nora was already on the way to demonstrating her skills as a gifted speaker who could convince adults to do the right thing as far as the environment. She and Jenna did an audio-visual exhibition on the merits of volunteer clean-up of local streets. The Adopt-A-Street proposal was put into effect in 2019 and continues to thrive.
Like many graduating seniors, the next year of Nora’s life may well be in the hands of college admissions officials. She’s already received acceptance letters from TCNJ, UCONN, Susquehanna, Delaware Valley University, and Rowan Universities. Good things often come to those who wait, as Nora hopes to hear from her first choice of Duke University with positive news soon.