The Illinois 4-H Key Award emphasizes community service and mentorship by 4-H members throughout their 4-H career. Eight 4-H teens were honored as the 2017 award recipients at a ceremony Oct. 7 in Champaign. The award is sponsored by the H. Richard and Sarah F. McFarland Endowed 4-H Youth Leadership and Character Development Support Fund through the Illinois 4-H Foundation.
The late Richard McFarland was a 4-H and University of Illinois alum who experienced tremendous success in the food industry, agriculture, and real estate; and he shared the fruits of that success with the organizations he treasures, said Angie Barnard, Illinois 4-H Foundation Executive Director.
A past chairman of the U of I Foundation Board, McFarland pledged $1 million for the McFarland Student Alumni Center in the ACES Library on campus, in addition to $1.5 million to construct the McFarland Memorial Bell Tower which stands on the campus’ South Quad.
Each year, he honors 4-H members who exemplify the traits he admires. This year’s winners include Andrew Cunningham of Macon County, Taylor Hartke of Effingham County, Devin Koester of JoDaviess County, Jacob Larkin of Livingston County, James Martin of Kendall County, Brittney Muschetto of Will County, Kaley Rouse of Stark County, and Isabella Warmack of Grundy County.
“Our awardees embody the true spirit of 4-H, having made a difference not only in their communities, but also Illinois and the nation,” said Lisa Diaz, U of I Extension assistant dean and director of Illinois 4-H. “As we look ahead to the future, we are proud of the dedication, service, and fortitude of the young men and women who have developed through our 4-H programs.”
About the Winners:
Andrew Cunningham: Andrew credits the 4-H program with teaching him a variety of skills that has allowed him to help others through doing community service projects, teaching, mentoring, and providing leadership to those around him. His 4-H experiences have directly affected how he treats others and how he works with his community. Whether he is volunteering or working, Andrew has learned to organize his thoughts and tasks which helps when speaking to others. Working to create solutions for issues around him has helped define who he is and how he wants to interact with others. Andrew is involved in school, church, and his community. He volunteers at the local children’s museum, raises funds for charitable organizations, and teaches children about different types of technology. He has served as a Teen Teacher, Expansion & Review Committee member, 4-H Ambassador, Student Leadership officer, and Speaking for Illinois 4-H member.
Taylor Hartke: As a younger 4-H member, Taylor attended the Illinois 4-H Jr. Leadership Conference and observed the older 4-H’ers working with younger members to help develop their skills. She set a goal at that time to become that type of 4-H’er. She reached her goal and is now an Illinois State 4-H Youth Leadership Team member, assisting with the planning and organization of that same event. When a 4-H member and friend was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, Taylor saw the many challenges the family faced and decided to start her own non-profit organization. It’s The Small Things provides backpacks and bundles to children and their families to help brighten their time in the hospitals. “4-H cannot only help influence a child, it can assist in helping them find their passion and potential. I have found a place and passion, and 4-H is helping me reach my potential. 4-H is helping me be the change.”
Jacob Larkin: Helping others and his community have been a big part of Jacob’s 4-H experience. He has learned about hard work, dedication, volunteering, and helping others when in need. That included helping clean up after a tornado hit a local 4-H leader’s home, visiting nursing homes to talk with residents and provide activities, working with the Salvation Army, collecting food donations for a local pantry, and more. Jacob has been involved with Operation Snowball for several years, mentoring younger youth about being drug and alcohol free and helping to plan educational programming. Serving as a role model for the younger youth in his area is important to him and his community. Jacob started a “Buddy Up” program within his 4-H club where club officers mentor younger members in the responsibilities of being a club officer, gain experience and build confidence in preparations for their turn to lead the club.
James Martin: With most of his project work focusing in the food, nutrition and health area, James is proud that he has been able to share his knowledge with younger 4-H members through teaching at the county level and mentoring others. His most significant community service efforts focus on juvenile diabetes and sharing information at classrooms and community groups. He has served as president of his county 4-H Federation. He learned to build an effective team that had a sense of ownership in the program and were willing to step forward to provide county programming efforts. He advocated for the 4-H Federation to select the Illinois Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to be the recipient of the funds raised through its annual 4-H Federation Bowl-a-Thon. Over $2,000 were raised this past year. James is a past National 4-H Congress delegate.
Devin Koester: In addition to taking a variety of 4-H projects and activities, Devin takes time to serve others and has a long list of community service programs in which he is involved. These include cleaning up the fairgrounds, making blankets for Project Linus, and putting together holiday packages for our U.S. servicemen and women. He volunteered to chair a 4-H event at the local state historical site. He secured speakers, designed a promotional brochure, and taught games from the 1800’s. His 4-H leadership skills are shared with others as he served as the county 4-H Federation president. He has taught various workshops throughout the county as well as recruited others to help share their knowledge with younger 4-H’ers. He has served as a mentor to help guide them in various aspects of the 4-H program. Devin is a past delegate to National 4-H Congress.
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.
Kaley Rouse: From the very beginning of her 4-H experience, Kaley has been involved in club and individual community service activities. She helps at fall festivals, works on a variety of benefits, collects food, and created her own charity to benefit The Children’s Hospital of Illinois and St. Jude. “Helmets & Heels” has been her own special project for the past seven years, collecting new toys, stuffed animals, and various other items to deliver to St. Jude right before the holidays. Since starting the toy drive, Kaley has collected over 4,000 items. Her service will continue as she has chosen to become a nurse practitioner, specializing in pediatrics. Kaley is a past recipient of a State 4-H Award Scholarship.
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.