Jaylin Smith’s captivating speech earned her a standing ovation in the Mississippi Senate chamber.
4-H president works toward inspiring future
Story by Keri Collins Lewis · Photos by Kevin Hudson
Nerves jangling, Jaylin Smith of Greenwood stepped to the podium to address legislators and guests gathered in the Mississippi Senate chamber in February 2019. Her audience seemed preoccupied, checking their cell phones. By the time she finished her speech, they were on their feet, applauding.
As 4-H state president, Jaylin had already given dozens of presentations, but this one was different.
“I wrote the speech the night before, because diamonds work best under pressure, right?” she jokes. “But something special happened. I wanted them to be interested in 4-H, not because of who was saying the words but because of the content. I memorized it, but I wanted it to come from my heart and head. When they stood up and applauded, I was like, ‘Whoa, they liked it.’”
Jaylin may not have started her 4-H career until she was a junior at Greenwood High School, but what she lacked in time she has made up for in ambition. Jaylin embraced as many opportunities as 4-H provided and tried to keep an open mind.
“Before 4-H, I was never into animals, but, when I saw the 4-H’ers at the county fair, how they took care of their animals, I realized how fun it was to try new things, to adapt to different ways of life, and learn how other people live,” she explains. “I let a cow lick me! I always try to get out of my comfort zone.”
She quickly discovered one of the biggest challenges every 4-H’er faces: choosing a project.
“I wanted to be part of everything, but you have to stick to one major thing and give it your all, I realized,” she says.
Jaylin focused on public speaking and participated in PRIDE, Potential Realized in Diverse Environments, a 4-H leadership project that connected her to students from all over her community. She also attended 4-H State Congress on the Mississippi State University campus, ran for president, and won the election.
“Any time when the adults aren’t around, and we can just interact with each other, just natural human connections and making lifelong friendships—I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world,” she shares.
Raised to be independent by her single mom and grandma, Jaylin values how 4-H expanded her network and broadened her circle of influence.
Jaylin started her college career as a sophomore at Mississippi Valley State University after completing her freshman-year credits during high school. She has a double major in mass communications and speech communications.
“My end goal is to be a motivational speaker and travel the world,” she says. “I love lifting people up and feel that has been the cause of a lot of my success. I want to let people know they have the power and potential to be whatever they desire. The only limitations are the ones you put in front of yourself.”