Sophie Small is youngest delegate to ever attend state 4-H legislative day

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By Reece Murphy

A 10-year-old Lancaster County girl was recently the youngest delegate ever to attend the South Carolina State 4-H Teen Council’s Legislative Day in Columbia.

Sophie Small, a fourth-grader at Heath Springs Elementary, was one of  only 12 delegates chosen statewide to join 10 junior council members during the 4-H Legislative Day event March 5.

The annual Legislative Day is intended to teach youth about how state government works by, among other things, allowing them to observe the state Legislature and Senate in action. Students also get to meet public officials.
Lancaster Clemson Cooperative Extension Agent Steve Hucks, who is in charge of local 4-H youth development, said he wasn’t surprised that Sophie made an impression on 4-H officials in charge of Legislative Day.

“When I sat down with them, they remembered not just that she was there, they remembered her name,” Hucks said. “She’s new to 4-H, very energetic and she’s a member of our 4-H shooting club.
“She comes across very well in person and is always very polite and mannerly,” he said. “After you’ve been around Sophie for a while, you always come away feeling good.”

The daughter of Brent and Lesa Small of Unity, Sophie has been a member of the Lancaster 4-H Sportsman Shooting Class for a year.

She was one of only three 4-H students chosen out of the seven-county 4-H region that includes Lancaster County.

To qualify, she had to write a letter expressing her interest in the event, what she hoped to learn and what her plans were for using the information when she got home.

“It wasn’t anything like I thought it would be,” Sophie said of watching representatives and senators conduct business on the floor of each chamber. “They were talking over each other and hard to understand. They were very busy.

“I went back to school the next day and discussed how they worked with my classmates,” she said. “They were excited for me and really enjoyed it, I think.”
Sophie said in addition to watching lawmakers at work, she also got a chance to meet such dignitaries such as state Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers and Lancaster’s S.C. House District 44 Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell.
The group wrapped up the day with a visit to Gov. Nikki Haley’s office, where they got a chance to meet the governor’s staff.

Sophie said she had a great time in Columbia and in addition to learning how state government works, she also learned other important leadership lessons.

“I joined 4-H because I believe in what it stands for: To educate young people, and teach them life skills and values,” Sophie said. “They explained all of that to us, and how we could be active in the community.

“I also learned the importance of making major decisions, that they need to be discussed and the importance of working together as a team for the best interest of the majority of people,” she said.

Sophie said she enjoys her 4-H class, in large part because she enjoys shooting and hunting with her dad. As an extension of her love of the outdoors, Sophie said she’s also interested in conservation and soil science.
“All human nature and animals rely on the soil to keep them alive because of the plants,” Sophie said. “Soil is an extremely important part of our environment and it provides a habitat for plants and animals to grow and live.”
Lesa Small said she and Sophie’s dad are proud of their daughter for having been chosen to attend Legislative Day.

Small said she and her husband are glad to have their daughter be a part of 4-H as well.

“We work hard to teach our children to respect the land and to always leave things better than they found them,” Small said. “In 4-H, they try to instill values and life skills in them (youth) that will help generations to come.
“We were very honored she was chosen (for Legislative Day) and think it was a great opportunity for her,” she said.

For details on local 4-H programs, call Clemson Cooperative Extension at (803) 283-3302 or visit www.clemson.edu/lancaster and click on the 4-H link.

Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151