Twenty-two 4-H members from across the state were honored for their lifetime 4-H achievements. The Illinois State 4-H Award recognizes exemplary work in five major areas: communications, community service, leadership, personal growth, and project mastery. The winners were recognized during a ceremony held Oct. 20 in Champaign.
Winners select either a trip to National 4-H Congress or a $1,000 college scholarship as their prize. The award is supported through gifts to the Illinois 4-H Foundation by donors, including the Illinois Farm Bureau, Jennifer Cowsert, Keith Engel, Carrie Francis, Paul and Kristen Hadden, Peter Johnson, Victoria Jozef, Janet Kolmer Grommet, Donna Mueller, Keith and Lissa Parr, Michael Razim, Ryan and Elaine Ruwe, Marvin and Elizabeth Schnitzler, James and Jean Shinn, Jason and Andrya Smith, Kenneth and Lorna Smith, Gerald and Linda Thiele, and John and Tania Wilken.
Craig Logan of Effingham County received the state award in communications. In the community service category, the winners include Jessica Anderson of Macon County, Lindy Couch of Henry County, Aaron Fishburn of Sangamon County, Evelyn Martin of Kendall County, and Christivie Nzengo of McLean County.
Four 4-H members were honored for their leadership, including Maddie Franklin of DeWitt County, Anne Becker of Morgan County, Kate Mueller of Peoria County, and Lydia Widener of McLean County. Five others received recognition in the area of personal growth: Daria Cleland of Boone County, Gwendolyn Fowler of Mercer County, Brady Haring of JoDaviess County, Josh Rossi of Grundy County, and Dillon White of Morgan County.
Honored for their exceptional project work are Grace Betz of Will County, Bradley Bruhl of McLean County, Mackenzie Kraft of McLean County, Jake Ryan of Boone County, Abigail Steffens of Logan County, Jonathan Timm of Marion County, and Nalia Warmack of Grundy County.
About our winners:
Through 4-H, Jessica has developed skills such as leadership, public speaking and teamwork that have helped her give back to her community. Serving as a 4-H Ambassador provided her with the confidence to lead a workshop at a 4-H STEAM science activity at the Decatur Celebration. She also organized the county International Night. Jessica credits her parents and grandparents for getting her hooked on community service, and she now encourages her younger siblings to get involved in community service.
Anne learned the value of helping those in need at a very young age. She took a trip to Australia, organized an Illini Fighting Hunger meal packaging event, and created her own “Birthday Bag” program, established after she spoke with the local crisis center about their needs. This amazing program gifts a bag to child who is in need so that they are able to have a present for their birthday. Anne wrote grants that allowed her to provide 10,056 meals to 2,133 families in need.
At 8, Grace raised her first rabbit and has now built a successful business. She is president and captain of the Illinois State Rabbit Judging Team. She is a national show winner and queen of the Illinois State Rabbit Breeders Association. There have been many lessons along the way. One year, disease claimed three-quarters of her herd before a national show. Grace did not let this slow her down and showed the few she had left, resulting in a national title.
Bradley never thought he would be leading community college classes about robotics or work with State Farm’s IT Department head; but today he is doing just that, thanks to his 4-H robotics project. When Bradley started, he just followed the instruction of his mentors. Once he became comfortable, he started teaching others, using his own strategies for teaching and plans. He has learned many skills, including engineering principles and real world applications of building.
Through her experience and involvement in 4-H, such as Live it Up! and Super Saturday, Daria has become a confident communicator and skilled public speaker. Serving on committees in her 4-H club helped her find her voice. The leadership skills Daria gained from 4-H have driven her to volunteer with her local Ag in the Classroom program and serve as a Vacation Bible School leader. Her swine and veterinary science projects have inspired her to pursue a career as a veterinary technician.
Being raised in a 4-H family, Lindy understood that serving your community was important. Joining 4-H provided her opportunities to make a positive impact in her community. She was a 4-H Teen Teacher and a 4-H Hunger Ambassador. Not only does she help provide meals to the less fortunate, Lindy also formed a group, the 4-H Music Ambassadors, to provide entertainment at community meals. Lindy’s dedication to service has not only made a great impact on the people around her, but it has also impacted her future. She plans to pursue a career in education and work with underprivileged youth.
Aaron supports his community in many ways through Scouts, Children of the American Revolution, FFA, National Honors Society, church, Habitat for Humanity, and 4-H. One mission trip helped him to better understand homelessness. He worked at a homeless shelter with his church which helped him understand the causes of homelessness, such as, generational poverty, mental health disease, drug addition, or domestic abuse. With patience and a caring spirit, Aaron works to better his community and encourages other youth to volunteer.
Community service and protecting the environment motivate Gwendolyn. She started her own recycling company. She participated as a citizen scientist with the River Watch project in an effort to understand and correct the weak points of our ecosystem. She said that she feels like a superhero taking out the bad guys of the environment to save waterway creatures. Gwendolyn comes from a family of community advocates and knows that they have worked together to make their world a better place.
Madeline credits her tight-knit community for her leadership success. She serves as a role model by assisting at award nights, leading workshops, and speaking to the county board about 4-H. Her mission is to spread the word that
4-H is more than animals. Youth learn technology, art, cooking, and more. She serves as team lead in her robotics club. She uses data to guide team decisions, create agendas, lead meetings, and direct discussions. Madeline continues to practice leadership and mentoring while she pursues her love of technology.
Brady began his 4-H poultry project by raising baby chicks. Now, he has the skills to judge the quality of an egg and the quality of a chicken, which landed him on the State Poultry Judging Team. Brady volunteers at many contests. Holding multiple offices within his club and federation has provided him with leadership skills and opportunities to give back to the community. Brady collects food for the food pantry, items for nursing homes, and made blankets for children in need.
Mackenzie’s goat project has opened many doors for her, including relationships with industry experts, teaching others about goats, and discovering career opportunities. When she began raising goats five years ago, she knew very little about goat production and faced challenges such as nutritional and reproductive problems. She knows now those challenges are part of life’s lessons which will make her a stronger leader.
Craig’s desire to start a school garden started his public speaking career. His first speaking event was a proposal for the garden to his entire school. This gave him the confidence to speak with local businesses for financial support and to the school board. He has organized the 4-H Club Showcase where clubs demonstrate their community impact. Craig also sets up booths with hands on activities at county-wide events promoting 4-H. He attributes his confidence and communication skills to opportunities he received through 4-H.
The phrase “hands for larger service” in the 4-H Pledge set the tone for Evelyn’s time in 4-H. As her first volunteer experience, she made tray favors and greeting cards for the nursing home. Since, she has expanded her service within the community. She met with the mayor, the school superintendent, and a pastor to talk about needs in her community. She volunteers with youth sports camps and the annual Winter Walk. By serving her community she has gained leadership skills and life lessons she will carry with her forever.
As a 4-H Teen Teacher, Katherine has taught workshops on cooking, science, technology, engineering, and math programs. She pushes herself to learn more every day. She’s excited to step out of her comfort zone and put others first. Katherine volunteers with local businesses to help inner city kids see farm animals and understand the agriculture industry. She has empowered young girls by teaching them the endless possibilities in the STEM fields .
When Christivie moved from the Congo to Illinois, she became involved in the Future Leaders 4-H Club afterschool program. Her work as a 4-H Teen Teacher allowed her to give back to 4-H. She first taught science to children whose parents’ primary language was not English. She also teaches adults at her local community college. Christivie planned McLean County’s first Pep Rally during National 4-H Week. 4-H has inspired her to become a child psychologist living out the “and my world” portion of the 4-H Pledge by helping people in the Congo.
Through programs like Speaking for Illinois 4-H, Josh has become confident in his ability to present to a variety of audiences, ranging from the local Home and Community Education group to state legislators. He is active in Federation and the Illinois State 4-H Youth Leadership Team. Josh values community service and has participated in projects such as Illini Fighting Hunger food packaging events and the birthday in a box project. He credits 4-H for fostering valuable lifelong skills.
Jake’s participation in robotics taught him what it means to be a leader, how to set goals, and the importance of giving back to the community. While he has learned technical skills, such as welding and electrical components, he has also been able to develop his teamwork and public speaking skills. This helps him and his team overcome challenges. Jake is a camp counselor and teaches youth about building robots and electrical cars. He is considering a medical career.
Abigail works in many mediums in her visual arts 4-H project. She began working with paper and clay, and as her skills developed, she advanced to plastics and chalk. While glass and plastic are her favorite mediums, she has expanded her knowledge with painting and working with different types of metals. She teaches arts and crafts at Cloverbud Camp. Abigail creates paintings for the Shooting Sports charity auction. 4-H has helped Abigail become comfortable speaking in front of people and sharing her ideas during classroom discussions.
Jonathan’s livestock projects began nine years ago with one 4-H market steer. Today, he has a growing multi-enterprise operation of cattle and swine. Jonathan has learned about nutrition, breeding stock, and the importance of a working relationship with your veterinarian. He has used his livestock industry knowledge to educate others at petting zoos, schools, churches, and community celebrations.
Nalia’s Visual Arts project has taught her problem solving skills, the importance of perspective, and how to overcome challenges. She started with a simple mosaic; now, her work includes drawing, painting, knitting, and more. She offers knitting lessons and she taught members of her club to make dog toys which were donated to a local animal shelter. In the future, she wants to use her love of creating to impact others.
Dillon believes that 4-H shaped him into the person which he is today. His project work includes pigs, wethers, goats, corn, beef, hay, and woodworking. He has held several offices in his 4-H club which contribute his leadership, confidence, and communication skills. Dillon is proud of his patio project, saying it is rewarding to walk past the patio and see people visiting and catching up. He is pursuing a degree in animal science.
In 4-H leadership trainings and her robotics club, Lydia learned to shift from a “boss” to a leader. She once considered these terms to be synonymous, but quickly learned that a boss tells people what to do and takes all the glory while a leader works alongside others and shares the credit. She led her robotics team to raise $25,000. By learning how to communicate with and motivate others, they accomplished the goal. Together they built a 120-pound robot.