Twenty 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, including communications, community service, leadership, personal growth and project mastery. The winners were recognized during a ceremony held Oct. 7 in Champaign.
Winners received either a trip to National 4-H Congress, $1,000 toward the cost of another national 4-H event, 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, Renita Anderson, Jennifer Cowsert, Carrie Francis, Susan Moore, Donna Mueller, Keith Parr, Phyllis Ruwe, Ryan Ruwe, Elizabeth Schnitzler, Jean Shinn, Kenneth Smith, and Gerald Theile.
In the area of Communications, the winners were Nathan Hill of Effingham County and Anne Preston of Macon County. In the area of Community Service, the winners were Abbey Bowrey of Macon County, Nicholas Hembrough of Lee County, Katie Lynn of Logan County, Abigail Mongan of Ogle County, Katie Lynn of Logan County, and Abigail Mongan of Ogle County.
In the area of Leadership, the winners were David Bruns of Christian County, Brock Irwin of Boone County, Rachel Miller of Franklin, Beth Warden of Cass County, and Beth Warden of Cass County.
Winners in the Personal Growth area were Andrew Cunningham of Macon County, Rhett Geisz of JoDaviess County, Molly Schempp of Logan County, Brittney Muschetto of Will County, Molly Schempp of Logan County, and Jordan Witte of McLean County.
In the area of Project Mastery, winners were Miriam Hoffman of LaSalle County, Kara Froidcoeur of McLean County, Miriam Hoffman of LaSalle County, Reed Jostes of DeWitt County, Suzanne Russo of Winnebago County, and Addison Wetzel of Lee County.
About our winners:
Abbey believes that everyone should have the opportunity to volunteer and give back to their community at least once in their lives. Under her leadership, her 4-H club served their community as a yearlong focus. Some of their activities includes providing sleeping bags and care packages for the homeless and baking cookies for the fire station, police station, church and nursing home. While working on this project, Abbey and the older members in their club mentored the younger members in basic baking skills. Under Abbey’s leadership, club members filled out holiday cards to send to those in our armed services. The members landscaped a local church and the library, cleaning up old plants, replanting new ones, pulling weeds, and cleaning leaves away from the flowerbeds. Members learned the benefits of hard work, perseverance, and teamwork to get the job done. Abbey realizes now what a small group of dedicated youth can do.
David is extensively involved in his county 4-H Federation and Ambassador group. He has served as a Teen Teacher and participated in Speaking for Illinois 4-H training, as well as Legislative Connection in Springfield. David’s true love is the medical field. He started a 4-H special interest club focused on the medical field which has opened doors for him and his fellow members. David has mentored members from five counties as a member of the club, and has invited and secured speakers from a variety of medical professions. He has shared his story with media, state legislators and the Governor. Because of his 4-H public speaking training, David feels comfortable talking about the opportunities that are available through the 4-H program. Now a freshman in college, David has already worked for several years on cancer research with professors from Milliken University and has other 4-H’ers looking to follow in his footsteps.
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.
Kara’s primary project work has been in the Dog and Leadership projects. She co-founded a Special Interest club to teach about dogs; mentored other members in agility, obedience and conformation; and prepared lesson materials which she taught to 20 youth. When Kara’s dog didn’t do well on his recall exercise, she decided that she needed to do something different in her training. She started speaking commands in French, instead, and it worked as she won her class at the State 4-H Dog Show. Now she uses both French and English to train her dogs. Kara volunteers with her dogs in pet therapy sessions. Her primary goal in the dog obedience area was to continue to learn and help the younger members so they could avoid some of the mistakes and disappointments that she faced.
Rhett’s personal growth in the 4-H program is illustrated through the skills he has learned in the various projects that he’s taken and the leadership roles he has experienced. From simple snacks to food preservation and yeast breads in Foods; from sewing a simple pair of shorts to constructing a button down shirts with cuffs, collar and yoke; he has definitely worked hard to develop those abilities. His horticulture project has developed from caring for a simple houseplant to handling the rototiller between rows of potatoes and tomatoes. The skills and experiences from 4-H have benefitted Rhett in school, the community and his church as well. The leadership skills he has developed have aided him as a class and FFA officer. He has volunteered with the community fair board and has travelled on mission trips to help others improve their lives.
4-H and community service are a huge part of Nicholas’ family heritage. Nicholas has worked to carry on the family tradition by serving food at a soup kitchen, working at volunteer recognition banquets, and shopping for and packing holiday gifts into shoeboxes to send to youth around the world. He helped coordinate a county-wide meal packaging event for Illini Fighting Hunger by setting up, recruiting volunteers, packing, sorting and distributing the meals. The group packed over 11,000 meals in the one day. The first year was so successful, they tried a second year and packed over 12,000 meals that year. He plans to continue his lifestyle of community service and help people wherever and whenever he can.
Nathan is not someone who is afraid of public speaking, thanks to his work in the 4-H communications project. He teaches a safety workshop to approximately 25 youth each year at the multi-county tractor school. He researches the topics he wants to cover, prepares his notes and practices, all essential elements of feeling comfortable in front of any audience. Nathan prefers demonstrating something over just talking about it. Nathan does admit that written communications are a bit more challenging for him. As club reporter, he soon realized that he needed to listen to all that was said at a meeting, then organize those notes into a well-written report that the newspapers would publish. He also learned that the sooner he writes his stories, the fresher the information is in his mind and the easier it is to remember. Nathan has been interviewed by county newspapers and the local radio station to promote 4-H. He realizes that communication is the basis for keeping people informed and knowledgeable about your program. 4-H has made a huge impact molding him into who he is.
Miriam takes a wide variety of 4-H projects, including sewing, visual arts, floriculture, and citizenship, but none are as important to her as her 4-H dairy project. She’s built her herd to 30 animals, a mixture of Milking Shorthorns and Dutch Belted dairy cattle. Miriam is involved in all aspects of the dairy operation, from feeding and milking to breeding decisions and exhibiting the show cattle. She is the one responsible for coordinating the five shows that her family attends. Miriam sees an incredible opportunity and responsibility to advocate for and educate others about the dairy industry. She has not only learned about the dairy industry, but also gained leadership and communication skills that will last her a lifetime.
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.
At the beginning of his 4-H career, Reed learned from older 4-H members about his poultry project. In time, he was the one who was teaching and mentoring the young members in that project area. He advised young members regarding live animal startups for their projects. He expanded his leadership impact again when he realized that the old cages at the 4-H show were dangerous for the birds so he created a Poultry Barn Revamping Committee. He spearheaded fundraisers, applied for a grant, and involved other exhibitors to help. The knowledge and skills Reed developed through 4-H has helped him in other organizations as well. He feels the 4-H Poultry project made him a more effective communicator and more efficient time manager.
Katie’s caring heart drives her to find different ways to serve the communities around her. A church mission trip opened her eyes to the challenges that people face. She worked with her 4-H Ambassador group to become active in working with a homeless shelter. The group served food last year and will be returning this year to assist again. In addition to serving a meal, the group is collecting socks and gloves for residents at the shelter. While Katie works to provide service to those less fortunate, what she enjoys most is the conversations with those she is serving and listening to their stories. She collects donations prior to an annual fund-raising trail ride each year, and then rides her horse the 60 miles to the trail ride location to present the donation. In three years, she raised over $6,300 for St. Jude’s. She loves helping her community by doing something that she truly loves.
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.
Throughout her 4-H career, Abigail has focused on using her project skills to help others. Abigail and her sister became Junior Leaders in the community service area and they expanded the club’s involvement. They plan a Abigail Mongan variety of projects for members, such as providing donations to a battered women’s shelter, sending candy and letters to troops, playing bingo with nursing home residents, and writing letters to ill children. One special project was at the Serenity Hospice and Home where Abigail’s grandfather had stayed. The group made cookies and root beer floats, landscaped the gardens, cleaned windows, and served Thanksgiving dinner. Abigail is a past recipient of both the Illinois 4-H LCP Award and the State 4-H Key Award.
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.
Anne is exceedingly active in her 4-H program, is a member of several school organizations, serves as a Special Olympics volunteer, and volunteers as a YMCA Counselor. She feels the communication skills she has learned through 4-H help on a daily basis in these activities. Those same skills have helped her promote the 4-H program to her community, serving as a 4-H Ambassador and giving presentations about 4-H to various audiences. Anne states that communication as a whole has impacted every aspect of her life. She feels she is more prepared for college, class presentations, job interviews, and building strong relationships and can succeed in life because of her 4-H background.
Suzanne’s goal is to give back to her community by instilling the qualities and skills of leaders who have mentored her. By enrolling in the Leadership project, she learned about understanding herself, communicating with others, making ethical decisions, and working with groups. She became a club officer and was able to directly apply those skills to her job. Suzanne was selected to join the Winnebago County Youth Leadership Team to expand her leadership. She organized multiple events, delegated, and worked with other teens from the county. She has served as a 4-H camp counselor and been involved in the Live It Up! Conference and the Illini Summer Academies, both which allowed her to develop her skills and meet other 4-H members from across the state.
Molly’s primary work in the 4-H program has been in the Public Presentations, Meat Goats, and Beef project areas, but she credits her overall 4-H experience for helping her grow as an individual. She started taking multiple projects in her early membership years, but kept narrowing it down to the projects that were most interesting to her. Her goal in creating project displays for the 4-H shows went from “Is it blue ribbon worthy” to “Does it effectively show and tell what I learned?” Molly now strives for depth in her project exhibits and says that working on her projects has taught her to reflect, efficiently communicate with strangers what she has learned, and design fun displays. Her leadership abilities have developed over time as well. She has taught a session during their summer 4-H Creativity Lab which helped to improve her organizational and teaching skills.
4-H has played a key role in preparing Beth for her future. She is a Teen Teacher, helping children from a high poverty area learn to choose and prepare healthy snacks and meals. Beth participated in the Speaking for Illinois 4-H training and has used those skills to advocate for 4-H on a local level. She has served on the Illini Summer Academies planning committee, helping to plan social events for over 300 teens on the University of Illinois campus. Beth’s 4-H opportunities have encouraged her to become a leader in other organizations as well. She is an officer and leader in several school organizations and started a school-wide recycling program to encourage others to care for the earth and its resources. Her leadership skills helped her become a member of the Illinois State Board of Education Student Advisory Council. Beth was also recently selected to serve as a member of the Illinois State 4-H Youth Leadership Team.
Addison participates in several different 4-H projects and activities, but the sheep project is her definite love. She began with four ewes and now has a flock of 14 breeding ewes. She purchases, feeds, and cares for numerous feeder lambs over the course of a year. While showing lambs is a big part of her project, Addison is also a livestock advocate, teaching county fifth grade students each year and presenting at various Ag Expos. She mentors younger 4-H’ers in the sheep project and provides animals for judging contests and petting zoos. She is active in various county, regional and state activities such as livestock judging, meats judging, skill-a-thons, and more. She is a county 4-H Ambassador and serves in a variety of leadership positions both within 4-H and other organizations.
Jordan credits the countless opportunities and experiences offered by the 4-H program for the skills he’s attained. He speaks in front of others on a regular basis, leads club meetings, and teaches others. Jordan has developed a strong desire to lead and give back to others. He has not only served as his 4-H Federation’s president, but also served on several committees. Each experience provided him with opportunities to learn about group dynamics, decision-making, team-building, parliamentary procedure, teaching, and organization. Jordan plans to apply to medical school. 4-H has given him the desire to help and serve others. Because of the 4-H influence, Jordan has developed a yearning to continue reaching, achieving, learning, and bettering himself.