Approximately 1,000 laughing and cheering students representing 43 schools from throughout Livingston Parish gathered in the gym at Walker High School Friday for the annual 4-H Achievement Day, which recognized successes realized by the clubs and individual members throughout the past year.

Students in 4-H clubs from the fourth through 12th grade had the opportunity to test their knowledge in a wide variety of fields of interest against their peers in testing held in individual classrooms and to present an accounting of their achievements accumulated during the school year.

Keynote speaker for the event was Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser.

“If you have great passion in what you want to achieve in life, then you will achieve it,” Nungesser said during an assembly. “I know that you are very special students because you have joined 4-H and you have put your passion into the projects that you have undertaken. You are learning important lessons that will last you a lifetime.”

Nungesser opened his address by showing a video of the Port Celeste Therapeutic Horse Riding Center that he helped found in his native Plaquemines Parish. Nungesser said seeing the disabled children show marked improvement through horseback riding was one of the most rewarding things that he has accomplished in his life. “I’m made it through about five hurricanes and a huge oil spill, but seeing the faces of the children whose lives were changed at Port Celeste gives me just about the most joy and satisfaction that I have known. Helping others achieve a better life is what it is all about,” he said.

Nungesser encouraged the students to give back to their state and their communities when their formative school years are over.

Also addressing the gathering was Daniel Wendt, drum major for LSU’s marching band.

Wendt, a native of Livingston Parish, said he joined 4-H at Lewis Vincent Elementary and then continued his involvement in the club at Seventh Ward School, South Side Middle and Denham Springs High School.

“The fantastic leaders I came to know in 4-H helped me realize whatever successes I have had in my life thus far,” Wendt said.

Following the opening session, 4-H members participated in competitions. After lunch, winners of talent shows held earlier entertained the crowd.

The day’s slate of events ended with the cheer and yell competition.

The event was coordinated by LSU Agricultural Center agents for Livingston Parish Christy Sorenson and Jessie Hoover. Sorenson, who has worked with 4-H for 15 years, said Achievement Day is a celebration of what the students have worked on throughout the year.

Each member of 4-H must complete a project book and a record book in a chosen field. She said 4-H offers a very wide variety of areas of interest that members can pursue.

“Today’s 4-H offers its members the opportunity to explore many different areas of interest. … it’s not ‘cows and cooking’ anymore. There is still a lot of interest in animal husbandry and agriculture related activities, but much more is offered. Students can choose from many areas of interest such as photography, robotics, areas of science and technology. … The choice is up to the individual members,” Sorenson said.

Hoover added, “Membership in a 4-H club gives students the opportunity to be involved in something that is positive and uplifting. Students find their place, make friends and learn what it means to be part of a team, a group, with similar interests. When 4-H members master a project, it gives them a sense of accomplishment that is very rewarding.”

Sorenson said 4-H is still relevant and that even though today’s students have many other avenues of interest to pursue such as athletics, video games and other electronic gadgets, interest in 4-H remains strong. She said 1,400 Livingston Parish students are active in 4-H and that the parish enjoys one of the highest numbers of membership enrollment in the state.

Sorenson and Hoover meet with each club at least once a month to monitor the progress of the club and individual members.

However, they said much of the support for 4-H comes from the teachers and club leaders, parents, grandparents and volunteers.

The two agents maintain communications with the 4-H clubs through various media and keep them informed about events and activities.

Financial support for 4-H comes through dues, fundraisers, donations, gifts from various foundations and grants from corporations.

Dozens of awards were presented to winners in a variety of categories.

Principal winners included: OVERALL RECORD BOOK: Junior boys, Orin Cobb, of North Corbin Junior High; Junior Girls, Sydney Salassi, of French Settlement Elementary; senior boys, Matthew Seguin, of Walker High; and senior girls, Chelby Hampton, of Albany High

OUTSTANDING PET AND DOG CARE RECORDS: Justin Coats, of Albany Middle

OUTSTANDING CLOTHING AND TEXTILE RECORDS: Cara Thompson, of South Fork Elementary

LEADERS OF THE YEAR: Amanda Lavigne, of South Fork Elementary, and Bronwynn Cobb, of North Corbin Elementary.

TALENT SHOW FIRST PLACE: Barrett Morgan, of Doyle Junior-Senior High, elementary school division; Jesi Dier, of Amite Christian Academy, junior high school division; and Peyton Manotas, of Denham Springs Freshman High, high school division.

SONG AND YELL COMPETITION: North Corbin Elementary, elementary school, and Live Oak Middle, junior high division.