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Illinois 4-H prepares youth to make informed decisions about their careers and college path. Programs assist young people with developing skills that will lead to greater persistence in college and employment. By participating in a college or career readiness program, youth gain awareness of higher education options, identify relationships between careers and 4-H projects, develop college and career readiness skills, aspire to and enroll in higher education, be engaged in on-campus events, and actively explore careers. 

CLICK HERE to download the Build Your Future Spark Sheet

Build Your future

Through career and college readiness programs youth develop important life skills, including:

  • Social skills
  • Stress management
  • Self-discipline
  • Self-motivation
  • Responsibility

Resources to help you learn

  • Build Your Future Notebook: Explore potential careers while you create your own business plan and career portfolio.
  • Tackling the Tough Skills: A Group Curriculum Building Skills for Work and Life. Designed for middle and high school youth, your members will learn how attitude affects life experiences and the important of cultivating positive attitudes. Youth will understand how responsibility and responsible behavior can impact success in future careers, as well as using effective communication to resolve conflict and related to others.
  • Build Your Future Facilitator Guide 

State Fair Exhibit Rules

Each county may submit 1 entry from 50365; and 1 entry from 50366.

Build Your Future (SF 50365)

Develop a Career portfolio which includes the items listed below. Members are encouraged to spend more than one year involved in this project so they have time to thoroughly explore the learning modules and develop a greater understanding of planning and preparing for their future and develop a comprehensive career planning portfolio. The original OR photocopies of the completed activities from the project manual should be included in the portfolio. Each year enrolled in the project should build on previous year’s learning experiences.

  • First Year – Complete a minimum of Activities 1-4 from the Build Your Future project manual which includes: Skills…Choices…Careers; Making Career Connections; Build Your Future Through Portfolios; and Education Pay$.
  • Second Year – Complete a minimum of Activities 5-7 from the Build Your Future project manual which includes: Career FUNds; Turn Your 4-H Passion Into Profit; and Pounding the Pavement.
  • Third Year – Complete a minimum of Activities 8-9 from the Build Your Future project manual which includes: Putting the Pieces Together: Goals for the Future; and Pathways to Success.

College & Career Ready4Life Challenge (SF 50365)

Open to 11- to 18-year-olds enrolled in the College & Career project. Exhibits in this category must include the following: a) a physical representation of the career or business product such as a model, prototype or display/portfolio that includes images of accomplished work; b) verbal or written explanations that demonstrate knowledge of the related career or business fields, potential careers, and the appropriate requirements for achievement in those fields. The judging criteria for this class values thoroughness of career and/or business exploration and pursuit above the workmanship of the physical specimen on display.


Counties may submit 3 entries TOTAL combined from all Maker exhibit divisions.

Exhibits in this category are designed to be multi-disciplinary in nature, innovative, and must not fit into any other exhibit category. To qualify for this category, your project MUST abide by the following guidelines:

  • Exhibits must be an object or device that has an intended purpose and uses technology in either a mechanical way, digital (computer) way, or combination of the two.
  • The device must be something that can be used in everyday life by multiple people (a target audience), and MUST be manufactured/built by the exhibitor (If not fully manufactured by the exhibitor, the device MUST be modified structurally or be reprogramed to perform a different function other than what it was designed to do
  • Exhibit MUST be able to interact with the outside world. (e.g. an on off switch, input sensors, feedback, etc.)
  • Exhibits MUST include a detailed build log with instructions on how to make or build the exhibit, AND contain either a 3D rendering or detailed and labeled sketches of the device/product.
  • All parts and software used in the design/build MUST be listed in a detailed Bill of Materials including cost per item and total cost. Total time spent on the build must be documented in your build log.

In addition, exhibitors are HIGHLY encouraged to use tools such as 3-D printers, laser cutters, routers and/or other hand/power tools to help in the manufacturing process (NOTE: Simply 3-D printing or laser cutting an object without the other specifications does not qualify as a Maker Project). It is also HIGHLY encouraged that exhibits use Open Source Software and/or Hardware in the build.