'I don't slow down'

State 4-H ambassador from Dora lives full life

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DORA - Dora High School senior Garrett Lomoro notes he is most of the programs in his school, and likes to know what is going on around him.

"That's why, everyone is like, 'Why are you posted everywhere?' and I'm like, 'I like doing everything.' I don't slow down. I'm not the person to slow down. If I have to sit down all day and do nothing, I feel like I have accomplished nothing in life and I will feel so bad." 

Lomoro should feel wonderful - and exhausted. 

He's demonstrated a desire to excel in leadership, making it easy for him to celebrate National 4-H Week this past week as one of 31 Alabama 4-H state ambassadors in the state for this school year. 

Lomoro, 17, was mentioned at a presentation on 4-H Week at Monday's meeting at the Walker County Commission. It was noted he was the first from Walker County to be a 4-H ambassador in about a decade and that he was going to be instrumental in helping this program this year in the East Walker area. He is also involved with an after school program that is being developed there. 

The 4-H program is the youth development organization of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, working to instill leadership abilities in Alabama students. 

"I just want to get it out there and get more kids involved (in 4-H) and be kind of a light in this time where everyone is just down and upset," Lomoro said, noting the program can teaches you more than what you expect. "4-H is one of the best programs I've gotten myself into." 

Fifty or 60 students applied statewide, he said. While the program usually take in a couple of dozen students, leaders allowed more in due to so many applicants showing outstanding qualities. 

Rebecca Persons, who heads up the 4-H program in Walker County, called the Dora High senior one of Walker County’s most enthusiastic 4-H’ers.   

"He demonstrates his ability to be a consistent role model, not only for the younger boys and girls but also for his peers," she said in an email. "Whether participating in the Chick Chain project or helping plan the annual 4-H mid-winter retreat (which was virtual this year!), he always welcomes new challenges. During the time I have known him, Garrett has certainly fulfilled the 4-H mission of 'making the best better' and pledged his head, heart, hands and health to the betterment of his community." 

A release from the state 4-H program, which is based at Auburn University and has center for meetings in Columbiana, recently said the ambassadors "represent the organization statewide while assisting with virtual 4-H clubs and youth council meetings throughout the club year," impacting state, regional and local 4-H programs with their unique talents and leadership. 

Lomoro said as ambassador he is not just working in his county, but with other counties. He will get calls requesting he be on Zoom online meetings originating in south Alabama, or he will travel to Auburn to meet over planning. 

He also noted it involves "being a mentor to younger students and leading them on the right path, and being an example." While he said many think of 4-H being agricultural in nature, he said much of it is general leadership training, including public speaking and networking. 

"My goal is to get more people involved in 4-H in Walker County and make it a bigger thing where people know where it is," he said, adding many older people are even surprised the program is still around. 

"I honestly want to get younger kids to know what 4-H is because nobody really knows about it," he said. 

One challenge is the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring meetings to date being on Zoom, although he anticipates more leniency soon. One online mid-winter conference is scheduled for Zoom, "but it is going to be super fun." While the distancing is tough, he feels the pandemic is forcing people to seek out activity as there is nothing to do. 

"Even if it is Zoom, this is something you can get into and when all this is over, you are going to be a better person from it and you going to have a new hobby," he said. 

The son of Lynn and Debra Lomoro, he was a native of Adamsville but eventually attended school in East Walker. He now lives "on the edge of Dora, right next to Corner."

Lomoro, who is also vice president of FFA at Dora High, noted his involvement at 4-H started due to his long involvement with chickens and the chicken events in 4-H. He also is involved in the Golden Egg contest, where eggs are sent to Auburn for grading.

After about a year, he learned the program is so much more than agricultural themes, and knows what he missed over the years, including leadership, public speaking and teamwork.

"You can't just get things done by yourself," he said of teamwork, noting one day "you are going to have to have someone help you. So I've learned to be a leader of time, but also when it is my place to be a team player, then it is my time to be a team player." 

On the other hand, leadership makes him feel better that he is helping others. Lomoro said, "I've been through a lot of stuff sometimes, and I've been raised in a good family, but I've been through things with myself that has been hard. 

"Being a leader, I can be a light to others. Just knowing I am in all these programs that are teaching me to be a leader, I can walk into a room and change somebody's life if I just help them out, because somebody in that room is going through something bad. Honestly, like, just having somebody there is great and leadership has helped me honestly being more happy doing what I love." He said a good leader is concerning about others equally around him as he does himself. 

Asked what is needed by today's youth out of youth organizations, Lomoro said many youth look forward so much to opportunities in the future, such as college, work and marriage, that they miss the present opportunities they have. 

"We're going to be 25 and look back, and say, 'I shouldn't have bullied that kid. I should have been that person's friend. I shouldn't have done this. I should have played basketball,'" he said. "My biggest fear as a person overall, everything, my biggest fear is regret. Sometimes I will sit in my bed and I'll just let my mind get ahead of me, and I'll start regretting things I didn't do and opportunities I should have taken." 

He said regret is the biggest problem he sees in society and at his age. "They are so focused on the future they miss the opportunities that are now. I'm bad about that, too," he said. "4-H helps me to live in the present and help others now."

Lomoro said he loves when people come up to him to say what he said helped them, or how his leadership has been a good example and that some have looked up to him.

"I love that. I feed on that. It makes me feel I am doing the best I can, and I'm not going to live with any regrets," he said.  

As for future goals this year, he said local 4-H officials are trying to get a 4-H after school program for Sumiton Christian School, Dora High, Sumiton Elementary and Middle School, and possibly more in the future. "We're going to start out small and expand from there," he said. 

"Like my sister, she can't do anything. There is nothing going on," he said. "She didn't play sports this year, so there is nothing she can do, other than come home. So it is a good program for people who want to do something other than just school."

He said the after school program actually started last year, but the COVID-19 pandemic hit, interrupting its launch. 

"We also reach out to homeschool kids, too. We have a homeschool kids program. You would think homeschool kids don't get those opportunities to be in organizations, but they can, so we do that," he said. 

Information will be announced soon as far as when the after school program relaunches   

Meanwhile, he has plenty of other things to do. He is a Junior Ambassador for Walker County. He plays a shooting guard in basketball for Dora High, noting he used his spare time this summer to practice and that he also mentors younger players. He also runs track for Dora.

Lomoro is involved in the Youth Leadership Development Program of Alabama, which also allows him to be active across the state, as participants have to do six service projects during the year, which builds points for scholarships. "I'm looking for the $40,000 scholarship to Auburn," he said. 

He is working (through the construction of a prayer garden) to become an Eagle Scout, as he has been a Boy Scout since third grade. He attends Sumiton Church of God and is on the student leadership team.

Also, he was to go to Boys State this summer. As that was cancelled due to the pandemic, he said he and some others from the 2020 group will be allowed to join next year's Boys State gathering. 

As for his studies, "I have a 4.21 GPA and I've taken six college classes that are Dual Enrollment at Bevill (State Community College)," he said. "Most definitely, I want to go so bad - I'm waiting for them to accept me to Auburn. That has always been my dream school. I'm hoping to go there, but wherever God takes me I'm good with it because I know He's got a bigger plan for me." 

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