Personal experience propels Shirley to first-place award

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Amber Shirley proudly displays her awards for placing first in the statewide 4-H public speaking contest.

Pike County 4-H member Amber Shirley won first place for public speaking at the 2016 4-H State Competitions Thursday at the 4-H Center in Columbiana.

Emily Rolling, Pike County Extension Foundation agent, said having a Pike County 4-H’er win first prize at the 4-H state competition is a very big deal.

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“I am so proud of Amber for her success,” Rolling said. “She has been an outstanding 4-H’er and is a brilliant young lady with dynamic leadership skills. She is always first to sign up when I ask the kids to volunteer for local causes.

“She will be greatly missed when she leaves for college in the fall. Amber has a great love for serving God and such a kind heart. I know she will have great success with any path she chooses in life.”

Amber has been a member of 4-H since fourth grade. Over the years, she has competed in various programs but this year was her first to compete in information public speaking.

Her topic, postural orthostatic tachycardia or POTS, was personal. She was diagnosed with POTS in December 2015. Through 4-H public speaking opportunities in the county, regional and state competitions, she was able to share first-hand information about the disease that is a mystery, even to doctors

“The condition appeared suddenly and, within a few days, it was in full force,” Amber said of her experience with POTS.

“The symptoms were a rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, dizziness, brain fog, headaches and passing out.”

Once the disease was diagnosed, Amber and her parents, Ed and Sharon Shirley of Brundidge, were dedicated to doing what had to be done get the disease under control and keep it under control.

When Amber competed in the 2016 4-H Public Speaking Contest she was in control, not only of POTS, but also of the subject of her speech.

“I had rehearsed my speech backwards and forwards, so I wasn’t nervous at all,” she said. “My parents were in the audience, along with other people, and the panel of three judges. If I had not had an audience, I probably would have been nervous, but I wasn’t. I was excited and honored to win.”

Amber said she has benefited from participation in 4-H programs in many ways.

“I’ve learned a lot from the different programs offered,” she said. “I especially have enjoyed Alabama Quilters: The Next Generation, The $15 Challenge and The World I See.

“Four-H has taught me leadership skills, about community service and to reach out to others,” she said. “I’ve met so many people and developed so many friendships. I wouldn’t have had those opportunities for learning and for friendship if I had not been in 4-H.”

Amber will begin a new chapter in her life in two weeks as a freshman at Huntingdon College in Montgomery.

“It has always been my dream to go to Huntingdon,” she said. “I can’t see myself going anywhere else.”

Amber’s major will be biology and pre-med with the goal of practicing family medicine in a rural area of Alabama.

“We have lived in several areas of Alabama and I have seen so many people who are in need of competent health care and that pulls at my heart,” Amber said. “I want to stay in Alabama because people here seem to really care about each other. In Alabama, friends are like family and this is where I want to live and work.”