Steady Focus

A teenage boy wearing a Shooting Sports National Championships shirt stands between his mother and father as they all smile.
Michael Guy, Pearl River County 4-H’er, and his parents, Darlene and David Guy

Story by Leah Barbour • Photos by Kevin Hudson

If Dad considers himself a “gun person,” but Mom sees herself as “gun-shy,” what should their son do if he’s dreaming of a career in the military?

If you ask Michael Guy, a senior at Pearl River Central High School who faced such a challenge, he might just laugh and explain that there’s a simple solution: have a Mississippi State University Extension Service administrator ask that “gun-shy” mom to get more involved with 4-H Shooting Sports.

Back in 2016, Michael was already considering military service, which goes back in his family at least to his great-great-grandfather, who served in the Army during World War I. Michael was planning to join the Navy JROTC in high school, and two of his scouting friends had already joined the 4-H Shooting Sports club. Michael joined, too.

Dr. Curt Lacy, the Extension Delta regional coordinator, and Alex Shook, local Extension agent in Pearl River County, saw Michael’s potential when he won at state competition in 2019 and earned himself a chance to go to the 4-H National Shooting Sports Tournament in Omaha, Nebraska. Michael’s mother, Darlene Guy, asked Lacy how she could help get Michael ready.

Lacy recommended she take Michael to the 4-H Shooting Sports meetings to see for herself. She agreed.

“I’ll never forget that first meeting I attended,” Darlene says with a laugh. “It was safety, up one side and down the other. Safety is constantly preached while they’re practicing: Safety in what to do if something goes wrong, safety in what to do if something is on the range, and everyone there is a safety officer. It’s part of the curriculum; safety is at the center of everything they’re doing.”

How to Join 4-H

4-H serves kids 5-18, does not charge membership dues, and does not require a uniform

  1. Visit your local county Extension Office.
  2. Your local county agent will help you fill out the forms to bring your child into 4-H.
  3. Attend meetings as directed!

Michael was originally set to participate in nationals in 2020, but the pandemic hit, and the competition was canceled. Michael waited another year for nationals to be scheduled again. When he made it to the Omaha range, he was ready to compete in the 4-H national air pistol competition.

“Sometimes, trying to get to the national level, even getting to the state level—where I wanted to be—hasn’t worked out so well,” Michael remembers. “But I moved on, kept trying, and I managed to get somewhere I didn’t expect. I had encouragement from my family, and my 4-H friends encouraged me as well.

“They all motivated me to keep going, focus on what I was doing, and it was an awesome experience.”

Michael placed fifth nationally in the air pistol silhouette competition, impressing himself, his family, and the 53 other 4-H’ers he was competing against. Michael was able to succeed in a high-stakes situation by remaining calm and focused, and he made new friends along the way.

“I met a lot of people at nationals from different states. There was one kid near me who had really fancy guns with grips and everything. And he said to me, ‘You’re doing better than me,’” Michael shares. “My practices were not my greatest; my aim was up and down. But, the day of the competition, I was focused on what I was doing: excelling.”

Michael’s grandmother, Sharon Monju, is quick to credit 4-H for Michael’s success.

“Michael has learned life skills, self-worth, and confidence in himself,” she explains. “He has also learned responsibility, sportsmanship, and self-discipline. He learned the importance of concentration when shooting an air pistol.

“It required dedication, hard work, and determination to reach this level of success,” she emphasizes.

Michael’s parents, Darlene and David, agree. They’re proud of their son’s accomplishments, especially because they are additional proof that Michael is achieving, even considering his diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

“Autism isn’t stopping Michael from doing things. Instead, intervention has been the key,” says Darlene. “Having 4-H, Extension, his family—it’s having all those special angels along the way. He is succeeding, making big accomplishments, and taking on responsibility.”

For his part, Michael is just grateful, extending thanks to his parents, grandparents, and fellow 4-H’ers.

“4-H will teach you life lessons like making friends and working together as a team to compete and perform at the highest levels,” Michael emphasizes.


The 2022 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships will be held June 26–July 1 in Omaha.




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