The West Virginia 4-H Youth in Action Program announces four young leader in 4-H pillar areas: agriculture, civic engagement, healthy living, and STEM.
Each of the four winners will receive a $500 mini-grant to develop a significant project within their community, recognition at a formal award ceremony, a full scholarship to attend West Virginia 4-H Older Members Conference at Jackson's Mill in Summer 2023, as well as support to apply for the National 4-H Youth in Action Awards in Spring 2023.
This year, Madison Cogle received the award for agriculture; Aleynah Miller received the award for civic engagement; Paige Fox received the award for healthy living; and Emma Engle received the ward for STEM. Each will have opportunities to be featured as the West Virginia 4-H Youth Spokesperson for their individual pillar area.
Cogle, the recipient of the Youth in Action Agriculture Award and resident of Jefferson County, developed a passion for 4-H and agriculture through breeding and raising lambs for youth exhibitors to show as market animals at their local county fair. This interest grew as she became a mentor to 4-H youth exhibitors that had less experience with raising lamps, including some that had never raised livestock at all.
Through her mentor experiences, Cogle helped to educate new exhibitors on the best qualities to look for in young market lambs, provided them with information on raising the lambs in a healthy and safe manner, including how to set up their facilities and advice for feeding. Her work continued as the fair got closer as she helped to teach younger exhibitors how to halter-train their lambs and tips to succeed in showmanship. Cogle was proud that 4-H'ers with minimal livestock experiences were able to successfully raise lambs to show at the fair and noted that many continue to show or are beginning to start a flock of their own.
Through this experience, Cogle learned how much she enjoyed educating others, especially when it comes to livestock care. This is something she hopes to continue in her future career as a large animal veterinarian. When asked how 4-H has impacted her life, she said, “4-H has inspired me to chase my dreams. Growing up, I have always wanted to become a veterinarian. Not only has 4-H given me some opportunities to strengthen my communication skills and strengthen my leadership skills, but it has also allowed me to explore within the field of agriculture, which is ultimately where I want to work as a large animal, livestock veterinarian."
She continued by saying, "And more than anything, 4-H encouraged me and gave me the confidence to apply to vet school that I was recently accepted into. But with the help from the mentors I gained through 4-H, both volunteer and older 4-H members, some of which have gone through the same process of applying and going to vet school, 4-H has really just encouraged me to chase this dream right into the ag industry."
Miller, the recipient of the Youth in Action Civic Engagement award and resident of Berkeley county, has been impacted by West Virginia 4-H in a range of positive ways, including opportunities to grow her leadership skills in her 4-H club as the song leader, treasurer, and vice president, as well as her skills in cooking and sewing through her participation in the Berkeley County youth fair where she has been honored by winner grand champion twice. Miller also acknowledges the small moments that occurred monthly during her 4-H club meetings as being influential in shaping her into who she is today.
In the future, Miller hopes to become a speech pathologist and provide service to children with speech and language impairments. She credits 4-H in helping instill her passion for helping others. For example, Miller identified a need at her local 4-H camp facility, Camp Frame. As such, Miller and her team were able to resurface the nurse's cabin porch to make it safer for all those who visit it. Miller noted that everyone involved truly embodied the 4 H’s. She said, "they embody the Hands “H” by always being willing to help out with service projects like this. They embody the Heart “H” by always doing things to the best of their ability. They embody the Head “H” by always creating new ideas and solving problems. They embody the Health “H” by always going out of their way to make sure they are taking care of their selves to be able to help others."
When asked how 4-H has impacted her life, Miller said, “4-H has taught me to do many things in life. Service is just one of those... I have learned that we should always serve and do what we can for others. The importance of service has ultimately led to why I chose my career path in speech language pathology, which I am in school for right now... So ultimately 4-H has inspired me to serve and always be willing to lend a helping hand to those in need."
Fox, the recipient of the Youth in Action Health Living award and resident of Mercer County, discovered her passion for learning about food and nutrition through 4-H by participating in activities, like attending the Mercer County 4-H camp, National Healthy Living Summit, and Snowflake Conference.
Fox, who has food allergies herself, acknowledges that it can sometimes be difficult to travel and eat out; however, she notes that 4-H has always made her feel included at mealtimes, even when she is unable to eat what others are eating.
4-H has inspired Fox to go into a career that relates to healthy eating and nutrition.She looks forward to possibly becoming working professionally in 4-H within the healthy living pillar as she is motivated to help others discover their spark for learning about food and nutrition.
Fox explains how 4-H has inspired her to pursue this passion when she says, “4-H has inspired me to teach others about healthy living. Through different 4-H activities, I have learned about mental health, physical health, and nutrition. During the Snowflake Conference, teen leaders discussed different coping mechanisms. When we went to the National Healthy Living Summit, we presented one of the coping mechanisms we learned at the Snowflake Conference. At all of our 4-H camps, we have some kind of physical activity and we explain to the campers the importance of physical activity and what happens if you do not get enough physical activity. My work in 4-H has inspired me to learn more about nutrition and in the future, I hope to have a job that pertains to nutrition and healthy living.”
Engle, the recipient of the Youth in Action STEM award and resident of Berkeley County, found her passion for STEM through her 4-H experiences, as well as a desire to help others learn more about the role 4-H can play in producing the next generation of intelligent and valuable people within the STEM fields.
Engle notes, "4-H has enriched my life in many ways. I have met lifelong friends who have helped me through hard times and shaped me into the best version of myself. It has also helped me discover my passions in life," Through her participation in the Berkeley County 4-H STEM club, a specialty club for science, she has discovered that she ultimately wants to persist in a STEM related career by becoming a biology major.
Another influential part of Engle's 4-H story is the tragic loss of her club leader in 2015. Engle says, "4-H has inspired me in so many ways, but the most influential to me has been by my late club leader and mentor, Thomas Walker. He, unfortunately, passed away several years ago, but his legacy still lives on. Thomas had the goals of changing the face of 4-H and West Virginia by showing that 4-H and West Virginians can produce educated and talented individuals within the agriculture field and in the STEM field."
Since Tom passed away, Engle and her family have inherited Tom's club and have worked hard to grow the number of youth who participate in the club. Like Tom, Engle and her family like to show their community that 4-H can be so much more than just agriculture and there is a place for everybody in it.
Through these experiences, Engle has been able to learn a range of skills. She says, "The skills I have learned from growing and improving the club have given me experience and the confidence in myself as a leader to be able to start and grow new programs around me. 4-H instilled in me a desire to help others and has also made me a well-rounded individual. Being versatile will be beneficial to any space that I become a member of and give me the ability to educate others while also learning with them. My leadership in 4-H has allowed me to grow and become someone who will make a change in any atmosphere."