The career achievements of Illinois 4-H members were lauded at the Illinois 4-H Celebration of Excellence held this spring at the I Hotel & Conference Center. The ceremony celebrated career achievements of 4-H members and the Illinois 4-H Foundation awarded $45,000 in scholarships as part of the celebration.
The scholarships are awarded to five Illinois 4-H members in nine focus categories and are based on merit and a demonstrated standard of 4-H excellence.
“My wife Janette and I give to the Illinois 4-H Foundation in honor of my parents and maternal grandparents,” says donor Kevin Rhoades, a Fayette County 4-H alum. “I saw what a difference 4-H made for all my extended family members growing up, and what it meant to my mother, Mary Ann, who was a leader for so many years. We felt it was important to help provide resources for 4-H to continue to help bring those life skills and values to young people and future leaders from throughout Illinois.”
Forty-five young adults were chosen as scholarship winners in one of nine divisions of the State 4-H Award. Each winner receives a $1,000 scholarship. Local recognition included four McLean County 4-H youth.
The Civic Engagement & Global Living award recognizes youth that have focused on 4-H work in service to/for others. McLean County youth and member of the Teen Teachers 4-H Special Interest (SPIN) Club, Carina Engst received this honor. This award is sponsored Ron and Melanie Warfield and Nannette Armstrong.
Involvement in 4-H enabled Engst to develop life-long skills such as the ability to think critically, to communicate clearly, to problem solve, and to work collaboratively with other within leadership roles. Through opportunities ranging from Teen Teachers to completing fair entries to Illinois 4-H Youth Leadership Team, she has grown more outgoing and confident.
“4-H to me means growth, leadership, friendships, mentors, and family. 4-H means collaborating with others, learning, and building for the future. 4-H means generating new ideas, working as a team, and making a difference. 4-H means warmth and joy in your heart when you see a smile on someone’s face because of your contributions,” believes Engst.
Future plans for Engst is to attend college with a focus in biological science before entering Dental School at the graduate level. She hopes to set aside time monthly to provide free dental services to those who cannot afford proper care.
The Healthy Living & Nutrition award focuses on youth who are helping their communities make healthy decisions and lead healthy lifestyles. McLean County youth and member of the Stylistics 4-H Club Reagan Parks received this honor. This award is sponsored by Patricia Clickener, Donna Mueller, Kevin & Janette Rhoades in honor of Norman and Mary Ann Rhoades, and Dr. Janice Seitz.
Parks has participated in both state and national 4-H experiences such as the Healthy Living Summit, National 4-H Conference, Your Thoughts Matter, Culture, Cuisine, & Conversation, Speaking for Illinois 4-H, National Day of Service, and Legislative Connection. Reagan is also very active in the fair serving as one of the co-superintendents and coordinating fair events and club workshops.
Parks believes, “4-H is simply a way of life for me.”
Parks is currently a sophomore at Heartland Community College after which she will transfer to a four-year university and earn her bachelor of science in nursing.
The Leadership award recognizes youth that have focused on the development of leadership skills, including offices held, committees served on, programs led, and public presentations given on behalf of 4-H. McLean County youth and member of the Illinois 4-H Livestock Ambassadors and Livestock Judging Team Skye Schumaker received this honor. This award is sponsored by Patricia Clickener, Donna Mueller, Dr. Janice Seitz, and Chicago Farmers.
Schumaker says that leadership runs in her blood and that 4-H has helped her become a strong leader who cares about other 4-H youth’s success. As a member of the Livestock Ambassador Team, she has enjoyed her role in educating, planning, and presenting during multiple livestock conferences. Schumaker says it takes the seven C’s to lead: coaching, character, communication, commitment, contagious energy, caring, consistency, and of course 4-H.
“4-H has meant leadership,” said Schumaker.
Future plans for Skye include attending Lake Land College before transferring to another college to work toward degrees in ag business, entrepreneurship, and political science. She will then attend law school at the University of Wyoming or Oklahoma State University.
The STEM & Robotics award recognizes youth who have focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. McLean County youth and member of MetalCow Robotics and Teen Teachers 4-H Special Interest (SPIN) Clubs, Dhruv Rebba received this honor. This award was sponsored by the Lisa Woessner Memorial 4-H Science Endowment, Sharon & Art Tenhouse, Dee Murray, and Landon Frye.
Rebba founded a non-profit called Universal Help that is dedicated to improving the quality of life for people around the world. Innovative ways include donating and digitizing textbooks to schools in rural India, starting a COVID-19 isolation center in India, starting a recycling project and mall revitalization program in Bloomington, and natural disaster relief in West Bengal. Rebba serves as the vice president of the MetalCow 4-H Robotics Team, a leader in the 4-H Mission Command Team, and as an amateur radio on the International Space Station mentor.
Rebba said, “Through 4-H I have been able to learn a profusion of skills that have enabled me to pursue my interests.”
Future plans for Rebba include pursuing a degree in computer science.
Also handed out at the ceremony included the State 4-H Experience Award. This award offers recognition for members who took part in activities and events in the categories of Participation, Community Service, Leadership, and Project Mastery.
In order to qualify for the top levels of the award, 4-H members must have expanded their experience beyond just the county level. The Emerald Level award recognizes youth who completed eight or more experiences in one of the three dimensions, with at least four of those experiences beyond the county level and at least two at the state, national, or international level. The Emerald Level awards are sponsored by Patricia Clickener, Dr. Lloyd Shaw, Jim and Cheryl Wormley, and Pete Haselhorst.
The local Emerald Level Award Winners in Project Learning includes Engst and Parks.