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NMSU freshman wins reserve national champion at Western National Roundup

CARRIZOZO, N.M. - A Lincoln County 4-H participant "seized the moment" at a recent Western National Roundup competition and walked away with the title of reserve national champion.

Jenna Cleckler attended the national competition Jan. 6-9 in Denver, Colo., where she earned second place for her skills as a public speaker. The New Mexico State University freshman said that not so long ago, she wasn't a person people would expect to see stand up and deliver a speech.

"I was that shy kid who never talked in front of anybody," she said.

But her experience with 4-H has changed that. Cleckler started participating in the Cooperative Extension Service's youth program when she was in high school, where she was interested in doing work with livestock. Her focus changed though when her county 4-H leader encouraged her to try her hand - or voice - at public speaking.

"I loved it," Cleckler said. "It's changed my life and made me a better person."

At the recent Denver event, the freshman delivered a speech to an audience of peers and judges on leadership, not procrastinating, and seizing the moment to accomplish big and small tasks. Cleckler said she drew inspiration for her topic from her cousin who passed away two years ago.

Cleckler was judged on how well she projected her voice during the speech, how well she knew her topic, her confidence and her general presentation.

"I thought this was a really good competition," she said. "The kids who were there were the top in their competing categories and it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed participating."

Cleckler is working toward a bachelor's degree in agricultural communication. She said she chose to delve into public speaking with 4-H - as well as pursue a career in communication - because having good speaking skills and knowing how to communicate with people are essential life skills. Good communicators appear responsible and knowledgeable about their specific craft.

"It is an honor to have a reserve national champion in public speaking," said Marsha Palmer, Extension home economist in Lincoln County. "Jenna is a hard worker and a very dedicated 4-H'er. She is a positive role model to all the 4-H youth in Lincoln County. We appreciate all that she does to make sure that 4-H is a positive experience for our younger 4-H'ers and a successful program."

The Western National Roundup is an annual event that gives 4-H and FFA members an opportunity to participate in social and educational programs, experience personal growth, and develop leadership and citizenship skills.