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Posted: December 3, 2016 2:51 p.m.

4-H’er encourages others to be themselves

“I can get up and talk in front of a big crowd, now that I was in 4-H,” said Rocky Plains Elementary fifth grader Miranda Leslie.

“I didn’t want to go to competition,” said Leslie of the county and district 4-H competitions last year. “I was scared.”
“My face was a red as a tomato,” she added.

She said her mom and her classroom teacher, Shannon Barron, encouraged her to take her demonstration on calico cats to competition.

She practiced almost every day for parents Tiffany and Matthew Leslie, and brother Hunter.

They made suggestions each time on how to improve her demonstration, and helped her prepare for the presentations.
Fourth graders present in the classroom, then move on to competition against other fourth and fifth graders from across the county and district.

Barron and fellow fourth grade teacher Linda Linton also attended the competitions to support their students, even though one was in the evening and the other on a Saturday.

“They were there the whole time,” said Leslie. “It feels good because they’re supporting you, and the teachers cared about our presentations.”

Leslie said this describes pretty much any teacher at Rocky Plains Elementary, where she has been a student since the third grade.

“I haven’t had one mean teacher. Every teacher is strict, but you still need to be nice sometimes,” she said.

When asked about bullying at her school, Leslie reported it doesn’t exist because teachers and administrators are quick to address misbehavior.

She said this means she isn’t afraid to be herself.

The 5-foot, 5-inch student’s purple shirt reads: “Dream. Believe. Do. Repeat.” She’s wearing black Converse sneakers with the tongues hanging loose at the top and a smiley emoji necklace with hearts for eyes. Freckles are scattered across her face under dark rimmed glasses.

She said she smiles a lot and is funny.

“Everyone needs to express themselves,” she said, and added that’s one of the things she thinks she teaches friends.
Her best friend Maddie “is more of a girly girl,” while Leslie said she is “more of a tomboy.”

She said her friend does things like give her lip gloss, and she has learned tips from her about her wardrobe.

In exchange, “I think she’s learned that you don’t’ have to be what other people want you to be—just be yourself.”

Whether you express yourself by what you do in your free time, like playing, reading or drawing, or what you wear, like pink clothes and tennis shoes, she thinks that freedom is important.

She knows that freedom of expression goes further than school clothes and hobbies, though: her favorite things at school right now are long division and the Bill of Rights.

“It’s a challenge working out the math problems,” she said about why she enjoys long division and decimal work in math class.

And she reported the Bill of Rights “is easy to remember” and important “in case you ever get in a problem.” The most important to her right now, she said, is freedom of speech.

Leslie is also good at writing, she said, and keeps a journal to practice.

She learned to ride horses from her grandmother, and she enjoys karate so much she wants to go every night. She’ll test for the orange belt soon at her school in Locust Grove.

She has “always wanted to become a professional dancer or a veterinarian.” Asked about which types of dance she prefers, she said, “all of them.”

Singing also ranks high on her list, and she enjoys singing songs like Shawn Mendes’ “Treat you Better.”

The best part of her summer, she reported, was 4-H summer camp, partly because of all the singing and cheering.

She enjoyed shopping in the Rock Eagle canteen every day and making new friends.

Leslie’s eyes light up when she talks about plans for summer camp next year. 4-H members her age head to Camp Wahsega in Dahlonega on June 26-30, 2017, and she’s already excited about new friends and more camp adventures.

The north Georgia camp features gold panning, river tubing, high ropes elements and plenty of adventure for this outgoing fifth grader, so I look forward to seeing her there.

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