Developing Leaders

A woman, wearing all black clothes and a red, white, and blue scarf, smiling in front of flower bushes with her arms crossed.
Nicole Boyd, Mississippi state senator, Lafayette and Panola Counties

State senator credits 4-H background for commitment to service

Story by Nathan Gregory • Photos by Kevin Hudson

Helping Mississippi’s economy survive a pandemic and supporting historic legislation to change the state flag are just a few of the votes that have made Nicole Boyd’s rookie legislative session an unprecedented one.

But leading through trying times is something the District 9 senator representing Panola and Lafayette Counties says being a member of 4-H prepared her to do. One of 14 new faces in the state senate in 2020, Boyd credits her experiences in the Mississippi State University Extension Service’s youth development program for helping her develop these skills as well as a desire to serve others.

“Building self-confidence, nurturing the ability to communicate and debate with others publicly and privately, and refining life skills are just some of the things I learned in 4-H,” says the Oxford native, who was state 4-H president from 1987 to 1988. “Because volunteer service is inherent in every 4-H project, I learned at an early age the value of helping my community.”

Boyd’s major project areas in 4-H were home environment, citizenship, public speaking, and leadership. As the daughter of then-Extension agent Joyce Akins, 4-H was integral in her upbringing.

“I was always the person who got ‘recruited’ to fill the numbers to make a team or help a junior member,” she remembers. “I participated in everything from land judging, dairy judging, food and nutrition, forestry, and poultry cooking to clothing. I learned skills from 4-H that I use daily, in both my personal and professional life.”

Boyd enjoyed her 4-H projects and competitions— she still remembers winning her first blue ribbon—but some of her best memories were the trips she took with other state delegates to national 4-H meetings. These functions, many of which took place in Washington, D.C., afforded her the chance to meet Mississippi’s elected officials on the national level, including U.S. Senators John Stennis and Thad Cochran and Representatives Sonny Montgomery and Jamie Whitten.

“For many of us, national meetings were some of the first exposures we had to people and communities with different ideas and values. They ignited a spirit of learning about new concepts and gave me confidence in my becoming an independent young adult,” Boyd says.

“The national meetings were where I became especially fascinated with government and how it could make the lives of our citizens better.”

An attorney when the legislature is not in session, Boyd worked in the Mississippi attorney general’s office early in her legal career. She first worked with the legislature during her tenure there.

“4-H gave me the confidence to try things that I knew nothing about and instilled a love for learning that I am incredibly grateful for today,” she says. “4-H gives youth the ability to try new and different programs. In 4-H, you could try and fail at something but learn the necessary skills to better your chance of becoming successful in the future.”

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