Illinois 4-H honored outstanding youth from across the state – including three from Kendall County – during a special celebration Oct. 7 in Champaign.
“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, University of Illinois 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.”
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 excelled 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.”
Lydia Oker of Sandwich earned a Diamond Experience Award in Leadership and Zachary Perkins of Millbrook earned an Emerald Experience Award in project 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.”
A member of Millbrook Mighty Ones 4-H Club, Oker has worked in a variety of leadership positions in her club and unit. She was a member of the International Night planning committee and recruited new attendees to that event, and is involved in community service activities, including Senior Bingo, charity bowl-a-thons, and adopt-a-family for the holiday season.
She is a member of the 4-H Teen Science Ambassador Team and taught STEM lessons to other youth at multiple events. She also serves as a mentor to new members in the 4-H Rabbit project. Oker also visited state legislators on her own to share her 4-H story and promote University of Illinois Extension educational programs.
Also a member of Millbrook Mighty Ones 4-H Club, Perkins completed his 10th year in the swine project. He serves as 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; toured large farrowing and swine operations; and volunteered at the State Fair Swine Birthing Center. Perkins also has given numerous presentations on various aspects of the swine industry.
On a local level, Perkins is involved in a variety of community service activities, including volunteering at the Northern Illinois Food Bank, cooking pork burgers for fundraisers, helping with tornado cleanup, and assisting with events at a local nursing home. He previously received the State 4-H Key Award and attended National 4-H Congress as an Illinois delegate.
Perkins also was one of 10 Illinois 4-H members to receive the Leadership, Citizenship, and Professionalism Award from the Youth Education Committee of the Illinois Farm Bureau and its affiliates. In addition to the award, the winners participate in an elite leadership training with members of Illinois FFA.
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, including James Martin of Newark. 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.
Martin 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 more than $2,000 raised through its annual 4-H Federation Bowl-a-Thon. He also is a past National 4-H Congress delegate.
With most of Martin’s project work focusing in the food, nutrition and health area, he 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 is a 4-H member with Martin Family Club.
“We are so proud that three of our own have been recognized for their hard work and excellence by the state program,” said Kim Eisnaugle, 4-H program coordinator in Kendall County. “These teens are great leaders in our county program and within their clubs, and each has been active in state or regional programs as well. We congratulate them on these honors, and know they will continue these outstanding efforts.”
For more information on the 4-H program in Kendall County, visit go.illinois.edu/info4Hdkk.