Illinois 4-H challenges youth to try new things, experiment in project areas they may enjoy, and explore opportunities around the state and country. A new award was created this year to recognize youth who exceled in that challenge.
“The 4-H Experience Award celebrates youth whose 4-H experiences have expanded to the state, national or international level,” said Debra Stocker, University of Illinois Extension 4-H youth development specialist. “The two elite levels are the diamond level for six experiences and the emerald level for eight or more experiences beyond their local 4-H club.”
Winners were recognized at an award ceremony held Oct. 7 in Champaign. Achieving the Diamond Experience Award in Leadership were Lydia Oker of Kendall County, Tanner Scherer of Richland County, Nalia Warmack of Grundy County, and Garrett Williams of Richland County.
Emerald Experience Award winners included Rhiannon Branch of Marion County, recognized for leadership excellence; Danielle Brinkmann of Clinton County, recognized for leadership excellence; Austin Brockmann of Boone County, recognized for project excellence; Josephine Hubele of White County, recognized for leadership excellence; Brock Irwin of Boone County, recognized for project excellence; Justene Jennings of DeKalb County, recognized for leadership excellence; Rachel Miller of Franklin County, recognized for leadership excellence; Brittney Muschetto of Will County, recognized for leadership excellence; Samantha Obermark of Massac County, recognized for leadership excellence; Jill Parrent of McLean County, recognized for leadership excellence; Zachary Perkins of Kendall County, recognized for project excellence; Keeton Reynolds of Massac County, recognized for leadership excellence; Julia Taraszewski of Macon County, recognized for leadership excellence; and Isabella Warmack of Grundy County, recognized for leadership excellence.
The award is sponsored by the Illinois 4-H Foundation. “Through gifts from our generous donors, we are grateful for the opportunity to recognize the hard work and commitment these young people have put forth,” said Angie Barnard, Illinois 4-H Foundation executive director. “Illinois 4-H and our youth are truly making a difference in our world.”
About our winners:
Lydia Oker: Lydia has worked in a variety of leadership positions in her unit. She is a member of the Science Ambassador Team and taught lessons on Hands-on Minds 2.0 and the Food Challenge as a part of that team. She was a member of the International Night planning committee and recruited new attendees to that event. She visited state legislators on her own to share her 4-H story and promote Extension educational programs. Lydia serves as a mentor to new members in the 4-H Rabbit project. Her 4-H leadership skills have helped her in other aspects of her life as she also serves on the Student Council and as a youth representative on a planning committee for the United Way Food Drive. Lydia is involved in community service activities, including Senior Bingo, charity bowl-a-thons, and adopt-a-family for the holiday season.
Tanner Scherer: 4-H has impacted Tanner, teaching him how to be successful in many areas of life. His interest in welding led him to the technology based side of the welding industry, CNC programming, and drafting. His last two years in high school, he operated a CNC machine that he assembled and programmed. He started a small metal fabrication business, dealing primarily with CNC cut parts and decorative pieces. 4-H allowed Tanner to develop skills in public speaking, record keeping, work ethic, responsibility, tenacity, respect, and the courage to never give up. Tanner is pursuing a degree in agricultural engineering and credits his 4-H experiences for contributing to his success.
Nalia Warmack: From visual arts to wildlife and photography, Nalia enjoys learning new things and challenging herself to find ways to share her knowledge with others. She has led youth in the National Youth Science Day Rockets to the Rescue activity and served as a volunteer facilitator for the local Earth Expo. She works to increase her leadership skills by serving as a mentor to younger 4-H’ers and as a concert band helper. She is a member of her local Expansion & Review Committee and has shared her 4-H story with state legislators at Legislative Connection as a member of the Speaking for Illinois 4-H team. Nalia also serves others by participating in community service activities such as the fair memorial, Operation Christmas Child, Random Acts of Kindness, and her church’s giving tree. Stepping forward in 4-H leadership opportunities, Nalia will continue to grow in her abilities to lead and share her skills with others.
Garrett Williams: Between his 4-H projects and activities on the local and state level, as well as involvement in other groups, Garrett’s time is spent learning, sharing what he’s learned, and leading others to new opportunities. From conducting research with his corn and soybeans project in conjunction with GROWMARK Weed Warriors to working on landscape and beautification efforts as a club community service project, Garrett stays involved. He is a member of the Illinois 4-H Livestock Ambassador Team, advocating for livestock. Recently, he finished a term on the Illinois Farm Bureau Youth Education in Agriculture Committee where he worked alongside corporate sponsors to provide educational opportunities for 4-H and FFA members across the state. He serves as a mentor to younger members in his club and continues to recruit new members each year. Garrett also teaches Ag in the Classroom sessions through the 4-H program.
Rhiannon Branch: Rhiannon’s love of agriculture has been obvious throughout her 4-H involvement. Livestock judging and showing cattle are just two of the activities that highlight her 4-H career. Starting on the county level, she was active in community service and 4-H Federation. Rhiannon took part in the Speaking for Illinois 4-H training and attended 4-H Legislative Connection, telling her story to state legislators. She just completed a 4-year term on the Illinois State 4-H Youth Leadership Team, helping to train others in public speaking, teaching workshops at the Illinois 4-H Jr. Leadership Conference, working at State Fair, and helping with other state events. She was the 4-H representative to the Illinois Farm Bureau Youth Education in Agriculture Committee. She is a member of the Illinois State 4-H Livestock Ambassador Team where she has also planned and taught workshops at the Youth Livestock Conference for two years and advocated for the livestock industry throughout the state. Rhiannon is a former delegate to both National 4-H Congress and National 4-H Conference.
Danielle Brinkmann: While Danielle has been involved in a variety of 4-H projects and activities during her 4-H career, it is her devotion to leadership at the county level and beyond which has earned her the award today. Locally, she trained her 4-H club officers and assisted at the county Federation training while serving on county committees and groups. Danielle has worked with the Food Packaging Event in her unit, helping to organize, promote, and carry out the day’s program. She has served on the Illini Summer Academies planning committee twice and assisted with taking photographs of that event. She was actively involved in the Illinois State 4-H Youth Leadership Team for the past four years and just ended her last year serving as chairperson. She trains youth at Speaking for Illinois 4-H and has attended several 4-H Legislative Connections in Springfield. She is a past 4-H representative to the Illinois Farm Bureau Youth Education in Agriculture Committee.
Austin Brockmann: Austin’s desire to take better care of his sheep led to his interest in animal science and the veterinary science project. He has focused his research in animal genetics in order to match desirable traits in rams with solid traits in ewes while watching for genetically-based diseases or less desirable traits. He has been involved in sheep judging and showing, as well as teaching workshops for other members. On the state level, he worked with the state lamb weigh-ins which are required for state fair exhibition. Austin also serves as a Science Ambassador, attending training and then teaching the National 4-H Youth Science Day experiment. He serves as president of the county sheep producers organization and donates frozen lamb meat to 4-H silent auctions to help raise funds. Austin is a previous State 4-H Key Award and State 4-H Award Scholarship winner.
Josephine Hubele: Josephine has a wide variety of interests, but the development of her leadership skills helps her in all of her life activities. From serving as a 4-H Science Ambassador to leading a 4-H Cloverbud group to coordinating community service activities, she has assisted people of many different ages and backgrounds. She teaches workshops in several different project areas, serves as a mentor to many youth, and helps advocate for change in her community via the 4-H Kids Helping Kids program in White County. Josephine is a member of the Speaking for Illinois 4-H team and has talked to state legislators during Legislative Connection events. She is a Teen Teacher and has travelled on several mission trips to other countries. Josephine is a previous State 4-H Key Award winner and delegate to National 4-H Congress.
Brock Irwin: As a 4-H club officer, Brock has worked on several committees and expanded his skills as a county 4-H Ambassador and Federation member. He became a Teen Teacher and Science Ambassador to teach skills to other children in the community. As a Teen Teacher, he not only taught the younger youth, but also helped teach the other teens how to organize a class session. As the oldest member in his club, it is his goal to serve as a role model for all of the younger members. By explaining parliamentary procedure to new and younger members. His leadership skills will help him greatly in the future as he moves on to college and becomes involved with other clubs and organizations, as well as in future career opportunities.
Justene Jennings: The variety of leadership opportunities that Justene has experienced has helped her advance her skills beyond the basic level. She has served as a club officer and provides youth voice to a number of programs on the local, county, multi-county, and national level. Justene serves as a 4-H Science Ambassador and planned a Cloverbud Space Camp. She has taught workshops at both the Illinois 4-H Junior Leadership Conference and the Youth Livestock Conference. She has served as an overnight camp counselor for the popular Science Siesta program. Her 4-H leadership skills have been an integral part of her involvement as a high school mentor for freshmen and various FFA activities. Justene currently serves as a member of both the Illinois State 4-H Youth Leadership Team and Illinois State 4-H Livestock Ambassador Team. She is a past delegate to both National 4-H Conference and National 4-H Congress.
Rachel Miller: As a first generation 4-H member, Rachel was mentored by an older member who helped her step out of her shell and get involved in a variety of things on the local level. As Rachel grew older, she stepped up her involvement becoming a member of the Speaking for Illinois 4-H roster and participating in Legislative Connection at the State Capitol. From there, she was selected as a delegate to National 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C. and worked on a briefing for the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Agency. During high school, she took a nursing assistant class and had rotations at a nursing facility. Her 4-H club began volunteering at the facility a few times a year to both aid the residents and teach the younger members the importance of respecting elders. Rachel is currently a student at St. Louis University, on her way to a medical degree. She is a past winner of the Illinois 4-H LCP Award.
Brittney Muschetto: Brittney is a confident public speaker, member of the Illinois State 4-H Youth Leadership Team, past delegate to National 4-H Conference, and the founding member of a county 4-H Ambassador Team. She served on the planning committee for the new Illinois 4-H Teen Leadership Conference and is a regular attendee at 4-H Legislative Connection events at the State Capitol. She is actively involved in her club’s annual 4-H food drive, preparing and delivering 1,200 food bags to local residents and annually providing about 28 families with bags of food around the holidays. Brittney has mentored 4-H’ers in cake decorating, poultry judging, and leadership. Currently, Brittney is a freshman at the University of Illinois, living at the 4-H House Cooperative Sorority.
Samantha Obermark: Samantha attended a national 4-H training on the Monsanto Honeybee Challenge Program where she learned the challenges we face with a shortage of bees in our world. She came home excited and ready to make a difference. Samantha collaborated with her teammates and other groups and organizations from across Illinois to become Teen Teachers, providing training to 4-H members, volunteers and staff about honeybees and their importance to our ecosystem. In addition to promoting this national curriculum, Samantha is a member of the Extension Expansion & Review Committee, served on the fairgrounds clean-up committee and recruited new members to the 4-H program. She has facilitated a booth at the county International Program for her club and served as a mentor to younger members and 4-H Cloverbuds.
Jill Parrent: Over her 4-H career, Jill demonstrated her leadership abilities in almost everything she did. She was a member of the County Fair Director Board, assisted with the Extension Unit’s officer training program, and recruited new members for her club and 4-H Cloverbuds. Jill served as a member of the Illinois State 4-H Youth Leadership Team and was Chairman her last year on the team. As a YLT member, she was instrumental in planning the Jr. Leadership Conference event and taught workshops at that event. She mentored members of her club in 4-H records. Jill represented Illinois at both National 4-H Congress and National 4-H Conference. On the National level, she served on the National 4-H Conference Youth Leadership Team and as a youth facilitator for one of the round table discussion groups. She received a 2016 Legacy of Leadership Scholarship.
Zachary Perkins: Zach finished his tenth year in the swine project. He is a member of the Illinois 4-H Livestock Ambassador Team, advocating for the livestock industry by talking with legislators and educating consumers. He has attended the World Pork Expo and Illinois Pork Expo, learning about swine genetics. Zach has toured large farrowing and swine operations and volunteered at the State Fair Swine Birthing Center. Zach has given numerous presentations on various aspects of the swine industry. On a local level, he is involved in a variety of community service activities, including working at the Northern Illinois Food Bank, cooking pork burgers for fund-raisers, helping with tornado clean-up, and assisting with events at a local nursing home. Zach previously received the State 4-H Key Award and attended National 4-H Congress as an Illinois delegate.
Keeton Reynolds: Keeton has developed his leadership skills through the 4-H program by stepping up and accepting challenges that were offered to him. As a member of the Illinois delegation, he went to Washington D.C. to learn about the Monsanto Honeybee Challenge and then returned to Illinois to work with other 4-H’ers to start this program in Illinois. He met with groups from northern Illinois about the challenge and gave presentations to various teen groups, training them in the information. As a Teen Teacher, Keeton taught youth during Jr. Chef Camps and provided additional training to the other Teen Teachers. Keeton continues to recruit new members to the 4-H program and brings friends to the 4-H fair so they can see the benefits of belonging.
Julia Taraszewski: While Julia participated in and enjoyed a wide variety of 4-H projects during her 4-H career, her animals have provided her with the most personal growth. Her career goal of becoming a large animal veterinarian has been stimulated by a passion for helping all animals. She has a wide collection at home to work with! From horses to sheep, rabbits and a variety of poultry, Julia has her hands full not only taking care of her own animals, but working as a farm caretaker and pet sitter. She is a full-time student at Milliken University after graduating from Richland Community College this past spring. She has also been employed as a biology lab assistant for the past two years. Julia competed in the Superior Young Producers Contest at State Fair and was named a skill-a-thon winner and top five overall. Julia is a previous 4-H LCP Award winner and represented Illinois at National 4-H Congress.
Isabella Warmack: Isabella serves her community by doing random acts of kindness throughout the year, such as writing encouraging notes, placing dollar bills in library books, bringing donuts to the fire station, and giving gift booklets to an organization that distributes them to individuals in abusive families. She also works within her 4-H club, providing holiday gifts, caroling for nursing home residents, and crocheting shawls for cancer patients. Isabella mentors her 4-H club’s Rube Goldberg team, encouraging teamwork, documentation, and delegation. She is actively involved in the Speaking for Illinois 4-H program, attending Legislative Connection events each spring and helping mentor younger members in public speaking. She is a new member of the Illinois State 4-H Youth Leadership Team and is a previous National 4-H Congress trip winner and National 4-H Conference delegate.