The West Virginia 4-H Youth in Action Program recognized four young leaders in 2021 in the 4-H core pillar areas of agriculture, civic engagement, healthy living, and STEM.
Levi Wright received the award for agriculture; Caroline Fox received the award for civic engagement; Rosa Williams received the award for healthy living; and John Allen received the award for STEM.
Each of the four winners received a $500 mini-grant to develop a significant community project, recognition at a formal award ceremony, a full scholarship to attend West Virginia 4-H Older Members Conference, an opportunity to be featured as the West Virginia 4-H Youth Spokesperson for their pillar area, support and mentorship to apply for the 2022 National 4-H Youth in Action Awards, and an official reference letter from the West Virginia State 4-H Program Leader, Brent Clark.
Allen, the recipient of the Youth in Action STEM award and resident of Mercer County, found his spark of engineering and robotics through 4-H. He said, "4-H improved my life by allowing me to find and pursue my passion." He describes this experience as "an invaluable opportunity" that has provided him with opportunities to become a leader by teaching engineering classes at his local 4-H camps in Mercer County and serving as the team captain of his 4-H sponsored robotics team, MercerBots.
His 4-H Extension Agent, Brenda Pruett, elaborates on his STEM leadership by saying, "Over the last 3 years and especially the last year he has really stepped up to a leadership role.He has taught engineering classes at both in person and virtual week long camps, as well as both in person and virtual weekend camps. He is a leader in our VEX robotics program and has been an integral part of planning for all virtual 4-H events this year."
John also discovered that his leadership skills are meaningful "no matter what age the participants are". He is hopeful that through his leadership in 4-H he is able to inspire the next generation of youth to pursue their spark in STEM, especially within robotics and engineering. Pruett added, "I have no doubt that John has gotten other youth interested and involved in STEM and we will have some future STEM professionals as a result of his work." John can be seen teaching CAD during day three of the Mercer County younger camp in the photo. This class was virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In conclusion, John said, "4-H has allowed me to do what I love, which is learning and teaching about robotics and engineering. I was inspired and encouraged by not only 4-H leaders, but also other 4-H'ers around the county to teach classes at 4-H camp. Teaching these classes helped me to define exactly what I wanted to do in life, which I now know is becoming a college engineering professor because 4-H allowed me to have these opportunities to teach classes. I've been inspired to continue my work and therefore continue to inspire more 4-H'ers to enjoy robotics and engineering as much as I have."
For more information about this award program, please visit our webpage at https://extension.wvu.edu/youth-family/4h/join/west-virginia-4h-youth-in-action-awards-program.