4-H Celebration of Excellence Awards Program 2023

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Celebration of Excellence
2023 Youth in Action Agriculture Pillar Winner Matias Habib of Kendall County

Congratulations to all of the 4-H Celebrating Excellence award winners!

We are truly proud of the skills, dedication, service, and leadership these young people have developed as part of their 4-H experience. You inspire us through your example! I also want to give a special thanks to all the 4-H staff and volunteers who play such vital roles in encouraging and supporting these young people in the pursuit of their goals. Working together, you are helping youth in Illinois be empowered and prepared for success. Illinois 4-H continues to expand and adapt program offerings toward the mission for all youth to have the opportunity to pursue and prepare for their future goals. That growth would not be possible without our generous donors and we are deeply grateful for the opportunities you make possible.

Congratulations to each of our awardees!


The Illinois 4-H Foundation is proud to be Celebrating Excellence in our Illinois 4-H members!

Our donors deeply value education, and through their generous gifts we can recognize the hard work, dedication, and commitment of this exceptional group of young people.

The Illinois 4-H Foundation is grateful to more than 2,000 donors who generously provided over $8,000,000 this past fiscal year to help young people find their spark in 4-H. Through these philanthropic contributions, educational opportunities are funded, new programs are given life, resources are made available, and youth have new experiences. These gifts help ignite the spark of the next generation of leaders.

Help us make more happen in Illinois 4-H! We think you believe the same thing as we do: that 4-H changes futures. Just look at this year’s state winners! Please consider investing in our Illinois 4-H’ers.

You may give online at 4Hfoundation.illinois.edu/ giving

Congratulations to each of our honorees!

Illinois 4-H and our youth are truly making a difference in our world.

Illinois 4-H Awards Programs | 1

Kendall County youth Matias Habib named 2023 Youth in Action Agriculture Pillar Winner

Matias Habib never aimed to be a leader of sustainable agriculture. However, when the invasive species Japanese Beetle devastated his family’s orchard, Matias spent his summer applying his 4-H Entomology knowledge to study natural methods to combat the beetle. He presented his research at the Illinois State 4-H Fair, and there the Entomologist judge gave him words of inspiration: “You’re innovating in a billion-dollar industry. Keep it up.” So he did. COVID gave Matias extra time to focus on his work, and he spent his summer building a lab, researching, running tests on a myriad of plant oils and other substances, and ultimately developing a patent-pending, all-natural formula that protects foliage from the Japanese Beetle and other pests.

Matias’ interest in science and organic agriculture is rooted in childhood challenges. Growing up overseas, he struggled with language barriers and social anxiety. Often feeling like an outsider, he was eventually diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. He now realizes those differences are vital tools to empower his passion and focus on science. Through 4-H, Matias found the connection, inspiration, and confidence to turn his ideas into reality. A senior at the Illinois Math and Science Academy, Matias plans to pursue a career to develop innovative solutions that protect the environment

With the support of his 4-H leaders, Matias launched his own business – TerraBuster – and began selling his unique bio-pesticide online and in local nurseries. He has now expanded TerraBuster’s line of products to repellents for other pests that threaten crops. In line with his personal commitment to environmental sustainability, he reduces single-use plastics through refillable spray bottles, keeps carbon emissions low by local sourcing and distribution, and raises awareness of damaging toxic chemicals.

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Through 4-H, Matias found the connection, inspiration, and confidence to turn his ideas into reality.

4-H youth named 2023 Youth in Action Pillar Award finalists

Elaan Bader attributes the spark she has for agriculture and the global health of pollinators to 4-H. Armed with a can-do attitude and a belief the one person can make a difference, 4-H has provided her opportunities and experiences that have honed her public speaking, creative writing and leadership skills. Working as a pollinator ambassador through a national 4-H grant, Elaan trained over 3,000 youth and adult volunteers and helped to plant over 36 acres of pollinator plots. Speaking out wherever she’s offered the opportunity-- at community clubs, agricultural venues and the like--Elaan is passionate about her work and is driven to inspire and enable others to be change agents to make our world a better place. A student at Washington University in St. Louis, Elaan aims to share her pollinator passion through a career in agriculture law.

On a small stage in Illinois, Avani Rai found her voice and dove into all 4-H has to offer. As her passion for public speaking and leadership grew, Avani explored several roles where she could build her skills and connect with others while serving her community. First as a McLean County Teen Teacher through a 4-H SPIN club and later as an Illinois 4-H Healthy Living Delegate and Food Advocacy Ambassador, Avani’s interest in the need for food security and raising awareness about heathy living —focusing on accessible nutritious foods — bloomed. With the support of her 4-H community, Avani is confident she will continue her path of leadership, service and mentorship. A rising high school senior, Avani dreams of pursuing law and utilizing legislation to bring the topics of Healthy Living and food advocacy into the spotlight.

Illinois 4-H Awards Programs | 3

Animal Sciences


Cole Paulek Christian County

Blue Ribbon 4-H Club, Christian County Youth Leadership Team, Christian County Livestock Judging Team

Cole’s projects revolved around his livestock operation involving cattle, goats, and swine. He has shown, judged, and worked with livestock nationally. He enjoys helping younger 4-H’ers start their own livestock projects. Over the past 8 years, Cole has been President and Vice President of his club, helped run multiple county wide youth workshops, and have helped his county fair and 4-H Project Auction.

Cole plans to major in Animal Science at Butler Community College. He plans to be an animal nutritionist and start his own show pig operation after graduation.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H has helped me become a more independent and driven person. It has opened up multiple opportunities for me that I will be able to capitalize on for the rest of my life.

Braylee Gilmore Macoupin County

Crazy Clovers, Macoupin County Top Shots Shooting Sports, Macoupin County 4-H Federation, Unit 18 Youth Leadership Team, Illinois 4-H Teen Teacher, Speak for IL 4-H, Macoupin County 4-H Committee

Braylee has taken an animal related project every year of her 11 year 4-H Career. These have included Rabbits, Poultry, Dog, Cat and Small Animals. All of these projects relate to the study of Animal Science

in their own unique ways, and allowed her to increase the depth and diversity of her study. One of the best choices Braylee made in 4-H was participating in public speaking, qualifying for State multiple times. That experience has helped her excel in other areas of life –as a 4-H club officer, FFA Club officer, and academically, as well as communication in the work force and as a teammate.

Braylee plans to turn her 4-H animal project areas into a career and start a business. She is currently an Agribusiness Major in college and plans to study Animal Behavior after completing her Ag degree.

What does 4-H mean to you?

The 4-H organization means growth to me. It has allowed me to explore many leadership roles and project areas through the years. These growth opportunities have taught me responsibility and an eager work ethic. 4-H has also helped me network in countless ways to be able to give back to my community.

Paige Lemenager McLean County

Hudson Ag

Through Paige’s animal science projects, she learned how to be a reliable communicator and strong public speaker while maintaining respect and patience in a conversation. As a 12 year member of the Hudson Ag 4-H Club, Paige has held most leadership positions in her club, as well as serving on the Illinois 4-H Livestock Ambassador Team. She was a member of the 2022 Illinois State 4-H Livestock Judging Team.

Paige attends Lake Land College in the Ag Transfer Program, studying Agricultural Economics. She plans to run her family farm and become an Agricultural Attorney focusing on rural estate issues.

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award recognizes youth who have demonstrated and maintained a high standard of 4-H excellence and mastery in their animal science projects.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H has shown me the power of leadership and civic engagement. My Beef Cattle projec area specifically has taught me to work hard towards my goals and to never be afraid to learn from others in the process!

Amanda Niemann Montgomery County

Montgomery County Clovers 4-H Club, Montgomery County Youth Leadership Team, Unit 18 Youth Leadership Team, Illinois State Youth Leadership Team

Growing up, Amanda watched the 4-H Dairy show, and as she got older, showed cattle with her cousin. She has learned a lot about dairy cattle through 4-H, giving presentations for her club, and showing animal science projects at the fair. She enjoys competing in the Illinois State Dairy Judging Contest every year. Amanda has served in various leadership positions in 4-H and helps with community service projects. She also loves to plan and lead workshops.

Amanda aspires to mentor tomorrow’s agricultural leaders by becoming an impactful high school agriculture teacher and FFA advisor.

What does 4-H mean to you?

Through 4-H, I have gained confidence, made new friends, and built a foundation for my future. 4-H has also taught me skills like leadership and communication.

Jacqueline Schertz Woodford County

Eastside Producers, Woodford County Ambassadors

Jacqueline first started animal science projects at eight years old with chickens and a poster. Fast forward ten years later and her projects have advanced to meeting with professionals to learn about diseases she chose to study each year and by designing and leading miniworkshops for her 4-H club, leading embryology lessons for elementary students. Jacqueline also is part of her club and county leadership teams, and serves on her local Extension Council.

Jacqueline currently attends Lake Land College and plans to transfer to a university to finish a degree in Agricultural Education. Her dream job would be teaching at the high school level, leading an FFA chapter, advising a 4-H club and helping run her family’s farm.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H has impacted my life in so many different ways. 4-H initially opened my eyes to fun projects like making rice crispy treats. Which then turned to shaping my character and outlook on life. From cooking and sewing my interests soon led to investing in livestock to showing at the county fair. 4-H and the experiences that I have gained from it have taught me everything I know about being a leader, speaking in front of crowds and most definitely in learning to try new things.

Illinois 4-H Awards Programs | 5
This award is sponsored by the generosity of Dee Murray, Mark & Lee Ann Gossett, Keith & Lissa Parr, and George Obernagel

Civic Engagement & Global Living

This award recognizes youth that have focused on 4-H work in service to or for others.

Andrea Schaffnit Adams County

Ursa Willing Workers 4-H Club Adams County 4-H Federation Illinois State 4-H Youth Leadership Team

Andrea was the location coordinator for a national program called Wreaths Across America. She fundraised over $10,000 to purchase 800 wreaths, which were placed on veterans’ graves. Andrea has held every single office in her club and is currently the president. She loves going the extra mile within her 4-H club by helping other members and always being a great role model for younger kids to look up to.

Andrea plans to attend a four year university, then medical school to become an endocrinologist.

What does 4-H mean to you?

When I think of 4-H, I think of a world full of possibilities. I love how 4-H has so much to offer in so many different areas that prepares members for reallife situations.

Sophia Stierwalt Champaign County

Sadorus 4-H All Stars, Teen Teachers, Speaking for Illinois 4-H

Some of Sophia’s favorite community service projects have included leading a book drive to collect donations for schools, doing activities with local nursing homes, and volunteering at the County Fair. She loves mentoring younger 4-H’ers. Sophia is president of her 4-H club and enjoys showing projects at the fair, including Family Heritage, Leadership, and Build Your Future. Sophia participated virtually in the 4-H Legislative Connection to share her 4-H story.

Sophia plans to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to pursue a degree in statistics.

What does 4-H mean to you?

I am very grateful for the opportunities that 4-H has given me to explore new projects, become engaged in my community through service, and develop leadership skills. 4-H has also given me an amazing community of inspiring people who are always there to support and guide me.

Jeremiah Todd Champaign County

Fantastic 4-Hers of Fisher Champaign County 4-H Federation

Jeremiah’s civic engagement starts with community service, both as an individual and as part of 4-H. In addition to his club’s service work, he organized supplying birthday bags to a local food pantry. This year, he was a state fair delegate with his Passport to the World project, which held personal importance because his aunt, a native of Costa Rica, who was his inspiration for the project.

Jeremiah plans to draw on his passion for civic engagement, knowledge of government, and being a good citizen to become a lawyer.

What does 4-H mean to you?

My life would be different without the knowledge and skills, such as leadership and public speaking, that I have gained from 4-H. 4-H has shown me the value of group participation, cooperation, and how teamwork makes a difference.

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of Excellence 2023

Molly Warner Knox County

Knox County 4-H Federation

Williamsfield Town & Country 4-H Illinois State Youth Leadership Team

Molly is very involved in her community and strives to have a positive impact. She has been a mentor for younger kids and led many community service activities. Over her time in 4-H, Molly has been a member of the Illinois Youth Leadership Team, president of Knox County Federation, and an officer in Williamsfield Town & Country 4-H Club for 5 years.

Molly attends the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign and majors in Agribusiness, Markets, and Management. She hopes to graduate in December 2024 and work in marketing at an agriculture-related company.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H has helped me develop leadership skills throughout the various activities and positions I have held. It has been the most impactful organization in my life thus far.

Gracie Prose Ogle County

Illinois State 4-H Youth Leadership Team, Ogle County 4-H Ambassador, Ogle County 4-H Federation, and Ogle County Carefree 4-H Club

Gracie has volunteered over 785 community service hours, all while advocating for disability awareness. She has raised money, created t-shirts and comforting letters, and has formulated lessons for youth to educate people on Type 1 Diabetes. As a 10 year 4-H’er, Gracie is the current Vice-Chair of the State 4-H Youth Leadership Team, as well as the President of her county 4-H and Federation clubs. She has served as an Ogle County 4-H Ambassador for the past 2 years. She also loves mentoring youth during the annual Junior Leadership Conference.

Gracie plans to attend a 4 year university to study Agriculture Communications with aspirations of becoming a director or future educator.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H has encouraged me to embrace who I am, and has helped me find my spark. 4-H is truly a place of acceptance and belonging.

Illinois 4-H Awards Programs | 7
This award is sponsored by the generosity of Nann Armstrong, Ron & Melanie Warfield, and Dee Murray

Creative, Performing Arts & Communications

Haven Henry Logan County

Art feels like an extension of who Haven is and when she shares her art, she feels seen or heard or felt. She enjoys connecting with people through art, either by discussing it, donating to charities, doing a project for someone, or encouraging them in their own art. Beyond art, Haven helped lead her club’s meetings, serving as treasurer, and took an active role in virtual activities during COVID. Haven has also been active working with younger 4-H’ers through Cloverbud and other camps.

Haven is currently enrolled at Heartland Community College with the goal of going into the field of Medical Assisting and Diagnostic Medical Sonography.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H has encouraged me to face my fears and has helped me grow in my character, integrity and leadership. All of these lessons, new understandings, and passions about our amazing world, will greatly affect how I live. I am committed to using all the skills added, challenges overcome, and confidence built, for the rest of my life. I am grateful for 4-H.

Sophia Schneider Logan County

Beason AG Logan County

Ambassadors Extension Council member Illinois State Youth Leadership Team

You cannot avoid public speaking whatever road you take in life, and Sophia decided to master it while she is young. Over the course of her years in 4-H, she has gotten to participate in many things, such as LEAD, and take some of her projects to the State Fair. She loves being involved with 4-H and giving back to the awesome community that has given her so much.

Sophia plans to attend the University of Illinois UrbanaChampaign at the Gies College of Business.

What does 4-H mean to you?

In 4-H I have learned how to be a successful leader and how to make the most of my youth and how to give back to others. I am incredibly thankful for the knowledge 4-H has given me.

Reagan Parks

McLean County

Stylistics, Homespun, McLean Co. Shooting Sports, Federation

Reagan has always enjoyed exploring the areas of photography, public speaking, clothing and textiles, and visual arts. Reagan loved serving in leadership positions across her different clubs, going to state and national 4-H activities, and leading other club members though workshops.

Reagan is currently attending Illinois State University, where she is majoring in Nursing. She plans to have a job relating to Women’s Health.

What does 4-H mean to you?

My time in 4-H has shaped me into a team player, a leader, and has encouraged my creativity in all aspects of life. Even as I’ve aged out of 4-H, I remain involved to help shape young clubbers’ experiences.

8 | Celebration of Excellence
This award recognizes youth that have focused their 4-H work on the arts and the art of communicating with others.

This award is sponsored by the generosity of Dr. Janice Seitz and Kevin & Janette Rhoades

Alexa Salverson Peoria County

Elmwood All-Stars

Alexa’s participation for 4 years in her school’s Drama Club was a valuable learning and leadership experience. She held the title of Stage Manager and was involved in nearly every aspect of producing a successful theatrical performance. Alexa has done archery through 4-H and competed at the 4-H State Archery Shoot for many years. She enjoyed attending 4-H STEM Academy and 4-H Memorial Camp.

Alexa plans to attend college and major in engineering. She wants to take the opportunity to study abroad as well.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H encouraged me to explore my interests and try new activities that I otherwise never would have thought to try. It taught me the importance of teamwork, service, and helped me choose my career path.

Victoria Zwilling Richland County

Country Clovers, Healthy Living Ambassadors, Federation

Victoria enjoys writing poetry for her Creative Writing project; playing piano, oboe, and banjo; and Irish dancing. As an Illinois Healthy Living Ambassador and member of her county’s 4-H Federation, she has led a variety of workshops, including ones on practicing mindfulness through art. She has also held the offices of President, Vice President, and Secretary in her local 4-H club.

Victoria plans to attend college, majoring in Environmental Biology. She hopes to study how climate change is affecting ecosystems and find ways to adapt to rapidly changing environments.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H is a community that works together to help each individual cultivate their interests in order to serve their community and prepare for their career. It inspires kids to use their talents to serve others.

Illinois 4-H Awards Programs | 9

Healthy Living & Nutrition

This award recognizes youth who are helping their communities make healthy decisions and lead healthy lifestyles.

Elaina Smith Adams County

Burton Flyers 4-H, Adams County 4-H Federation,

Elaina designed, implemented, and led a healthy living challenge in her community utilizing online apps and personal encouragement. Participants initiated small steps, or habits, over 6 weeks to show real improvement is possible for all! A member since kindergarten Cloverbuds, Elaina loves new projects, community service, and building friendships. She has served as club treasurer, secretary, and vice president; she is currently serving as club president.

Already employed as a CNA, Elaina plans to earn her nursing degree in college. She is excited about nursing opportunities that will allow her to travel and see different parts of the country.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H gives me, and all members, the opportunity to learn a wonderful variety of project skills. I love that it incorporates community service and fosters youth leadership opportunities.

Jenna Haas Jo Daviess County

Chelsea Busy Bees, Jo Daviess County Federation

Jenna has contributed many hours to northwest Illinois food banks to aid in limiting food insecurity within her community. As an 11 year 4-H’er, plus cloverbud years, Jenna’s achievements include having held every club office. She has taken part in her county fair every year and has been a 4-H Memorial Camp counselor the past 2 years.

Jenna plan to pursue a career in animal nutrition, aiding farmers in providing optimal nutrients for their animals.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H means expanding my knowledge alongside my peers, while making connections and friendships that will last a lifetime.

Avani Rai

McLean County

McLean County Teen Teachers Illinois Healthy Living Ambassadors

Avani served as a National representative for 4-H by speaking at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in Washington D.C. as a young changemaker in the area of healthy living and food insecurity. She also assisted in several projects throughout the year to strengthen Illinois’ food systems. Avani serves as a leader on the Illinois Healthy Living Ambassadors Team and the McLean County Teen Teachers SPIN Club. She’s a 7-year competitor at Illinois’ State Fair and loves to volunteer at the local and state levels of 4-H.

Avani plans to pursue law school after finishing her undergraduate education. After serving as a prosecutor for the state, she hopes to advocate for and strengthen public policy through government.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H has been one of the most formative experiences of my life. It provided me with the greatest arena to explore, learn, and serve to my greatest capacity.

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Elaan Bader

Montgomery County

Teen Teachers Club, National Pollinator Ambassador, Montgomery County YLT, Unit 18 YLT, Montgomery County Straightshooters, Sewing Club, Carbon Footprint Teen Teacher, Hunger Ambassador, Speaking for Illinois, Illinois 4-H Food Advocacy Team, Ag Innovators Teen Teacher, and International 4-H Spin Club ‘Clube Solo Fertil’

Elaan loves being a Teen Teacher—for Insect Pollinators, Ag Innovations, and Carbon Footprint—because I get to help others learn and grow. She enjoys the diverse viewpoints of fellow delegates at National 4-H Congress last fall and served as the official Illinois state flag bearer. She was also the Illinois nominee for the National 4-H Youth Leadership Team. She also shares her 4-H stories to inform and inspire at Speaking for Illinois and Legislative Connection. Learning by doing has helped me realize that if I can dream it, I can do it because 4-H has prepared me well.

Elaan currently attends Washington University in St. Louis, studying environmental and public policy and conservation with the ultimate goal of becoming an agricultural lawyer.

What does 4-H mean to you?

To me, 4-H means incredible, hands-on opportunities to learn invaluable skills, to become a leader and grow new leaders, and to help your community and world. 4-H has given me so many great opportunities to get a head start on life! I can’t think of one thing 4-H does not have a project, workshop, or program for. There are endless opportunities to take advantage of for 4-H members, and I’m proud to call myself one of them!

Hunter Kirk Wayne County

Country Kids Wayne County 4-H Shooting Sports 4-H Buddy

Hunter’s Healthy Living project was a blend of an award-winning science fair project and her desire to help young athletes develop healthy eating patterns. Her favorite activity was helping young wrestlers decide the best shakes for gaining, losing, and maintaining weight. Currently, she is the treasurer of her 4-H shooting club, a 4-H Buddy to younger members, and enjoys planning and creating 4-H Main Street display and parade floats.

Hunter would like to play softball at the collegiate level and then coach youth sports, along with obtaining a Master’s degree in Special Education with an emphasis in Math and Science.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H has taught me that being young does not mean you can’t be a strong leader, but that you have the ability to empower those around you no matter your age. 4-H is not only a community group, but it is a family that would do anything for anyone in need!

Illinois 4-H Awards Programs | 11
This award is sponsored by the generosity of Pat Clickener, Belinda & Tim Carey, Kevin & Janette Rhoades, and the Illinois 4-H Foundation Legacy Endowment


4-H Teen Science Ambassadors, Illinois State 4-H Youth Leadership Team, Illinois 4-H in Space Mission Command Team

As a seventh year 4-H member, Krish has experienced 4-H at all levels, with many county, state, and national roles. As part of the 4-H Ag Innovators Experience State Leadership Team, he also has facilitated STEM/ agriculture-related workshops to youth throughout Illinois, as well as in Brazil and Puerto Rico. Krish is representing Illinois 4-H in the development of a space experiment to be sent to the International Space Station in March 2023 from the Kennedy Space Center, as well as running his own nationwide high school level digital agriculture workshop program as a Digital Agriculture Intern for the University of Illinois Center for Digital Agriculture and State 4-H office.

Krish is a freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering. He hopes to use his degree to pioneer advances in technology tailored to the needs of individuals and society.

What does 4-H mean to you?

To me, 4-H is about helping youth to convert a fantasy into a reality. To be clear, I never saw myself involved in this realm when I first joined 4-H in 2015, let alone the local, statewide, and national opportunities I was fortunate to be part of. 4-H has been involved in my growth that got me here, without a doubt. Because of 4-H, I have grown. I have become a better leader and mentor. I have become a better public speaker. I have become a better inventor. I have become a better problem-solver. And most of all, I have become a better human being.

Ross Vancil Henderson County

Stronghurst Hustlers Illinois 4-H State Youth Leadership Team

Ross serves on the Illinois 4-H Youth Leadership Team, where he has helped at the Junior Leadership Conference, the Illinois State Fair, and Speaking for Illinois 4-H. He attended National 4-H Congress in Atlanta, Georgia in 2021. Locally. Ross served as club president and was an active member of his county federation. At the state level, he serves as the 4-H representative on the Youth Education in Agriculture Committee.

Ross is completing his freshman year at Illinois State University where he is majoring in legal studies and political science. His long term goal is to attend law school.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H has given me the opportunity to explore outside my comfort zone and improve upon my leadership skills. 4-H allows me to help others with these skills.

Libby Larkin Livingston County

Pontiac Power Rockets Livingston County Federation Livingston County Teen Teachers Livingston County Ag Innovators

Libby is passionate about food advocacy and fighting food insecurity. She has hosted 6 food packaging events, raised over $30,000, recruited 450 volunteers, and distributed 120,000 meals to kids and families struggling with food insecurity. Libby is also very active in her local 4-H program, having held officer positions in her club and county Federation. Outside of 4-H, she is active in FFA, National Honor Society,

12 | Celebration of Excellence 2023
This 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.

and Operation Snowball. Libby served on the Illinois 4-H Food Advocacy Team for 2 years and led breakout groups during the last 2 Food Action Summits. She participates in Speak for Illinois, and serves as a 4-H youth representative.

Libby will be attending Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo, IA, to study Agribusiness and compete on the Women’s Golf Team. She plans to complete her Bachelor’s degree in Agribusiness with a minor in Precision Ag Technology.

What does 4-H mean to you?

To me, opportunity is the definition of 4-H. The opportunity to learn, grow, work hard, have fun, try new things, meet new friends, work with others, volunteer, and lead. I have learned and expanded my public speaking skills, leadership skills, communication skills, and above all, service to others.

Emma plans to become a counselor.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H has giving me a place to grow and succeed. It has helped me to become a better leader and in doing so, learn the real meaning of community.

Teen Teacher, Illinois State Youth Leadership Team, Unit 18 Youth Leadership Team, Montgomery County Leadership Team

Emma helps run the Macoupin/Montgomery Counties

food backpack program. They provide food for kids over the weekend, which Emma finds to be an amazing opportunity. Emma is a part of her state, unit, and county level youth leadership teams. She has also had the opportunity to go to National 4-H Congress.

Willing Workers Illinois State 4-H Livestock Ambassador Team

Throughout her years in 4-H, Emma has had a very diverse leadship experience. She has held every officer role in her local 4-H club, served on the Illinois 4-H Youth Leadership Team, the Illinois State 4-H Livestock Ambassador Team, the 4-H Foundation Board, her county 4-H Foundation Board and her county’s Federation. Emma has also helped facilitate workshops at the Junior Leadership Conference and the Youth Livestock Conference.

Emma is current studying animal science on a pre-vet track at Iowa State University.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H is an opportunity to explore your interests, grow your skillsets, and make life-long friendships.

Illinois 4-H Awards Programs | 13
This award is sponsored by the generosity of Pat Clickener, Donna Mueller, Dave & Lisa McMurtry, and Chicago Farmers
Emma Hughes Montgomery County Emma Coursey Warren County

Natural Resources & Environmental Science

This award recognizes youth who have focused on environmental stewardship.

Fenley Lopez Champaign County

Sadorus 4-H All-Stars

Fenley’s 4-H Geology and Beekeeping projects sparked their initial interest in the natural world, in addition to attending a Circular Economics Forum. In their 10 years in 4-H, Fenley has held numerous leadership positions for their club. In addition to being a Junior Leader since 2020, they were the clubs’ reporter, Teen Teacher, and the organizer of several workshops, fundraisers, activities and celebrations.

Fenley plans to attend Lewis and Clark College in Oregon and major in Environmental Science to enable them to be part of the movement to save our natural environment.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H has always been a huge part of my life. It gave me skills in public speaking and leadership, and inspired me to pursue a career in Environmental Science.

Emilee Cox Hamilton County

- Barbwire Gang - Hamilton County Federation - Teen Teacher

- Junior Leader - IL Healthy Living Ambassador

Emilee spent the last year focusing on our environment, learning how to protect/preserve it, and teaching lessons about how to grow your own clean food at her local GIFT Garden in McLeansboro. As an 8-year member, Emilee held all officer positions, hosted many events, and tried many project areas, including visual arts, interior design, sportfishing, photography, and more, some even resulting in Superior awards at the Illinois State 4-H Show.

Emilee plans to attend University of Illinois UrbanaChampaign and major in Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences to work as an environmental engineer, focusing on renewable energy sources.

What does 4-H mean to you?

To me, 4-H represents having leaders and friends that will be by my side no matter what, encouraging me to be my best self. This ultimately helps me grow as an individual and become a great role model for the future.”

Seward Kids and Critters 4-H Club; Kendall County Teen Federation; DuPage, Kane, and Kendall County Science Ambassadors.

Emily has helped with water conservation and protection efforts through the DuPage, Kane, and Kendall Science Ambassador Program. Emily is a 10 year 4-H member, holding various officer roles in her club and her county’s Teen Federation. She has also served on the DuPage, Kane, and Kendall Science Ambassador’s Leadership Team and as a youth representative on the Unit 5 Extension Council.

Emily is currently attending Joliet Junior College and will graduate with an Associate of Arts and an Associates of Applied Sciences in Digital Media Production in May. In the fall, Emily will be transferring to DePaul University to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Film and Television Production.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H has given me opportunities for personal growth which has led to life-long connections.

14 | Celebration of Excellence
Emily Reppy Kendall County

William Weber

Livingston County

Flanagan Town & Country

William’s project focused on removing invasive species of plants as well as created better fish structures to improve fish habitat. As a 12 year 4-H’er, William held the offices of President, Vice President, and Treasurer in his 4-H club and was also crowned the 2022 Livingston County Fair King. He loves to volunteer by helping to set up the swine barn and clean up the fair ground property.

William is currently at the University of WisconsinStevens Point majoring in Fisheries and Water Resources. He hopes to become a Fish Biologist to help maintain healthy water and fish populations.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H gave me the opportunity to develop my professional interests in the livestock industry and more importantly develop lifelong friendships with fellow 4-H members.

Madison Schneider

Monroe County

Monroe County 4-H Federation

Moonlight Boys & Girls 4-H Club

Monroe County- Shotgun Monroe County- Archery Monroe CountyPistol Monroe County Teens As Teachers

Madison researched and learned more about environmental science through a variety of activities. Through Agriculture in the Classroom lessons, she was able to help teach younger students about her passion. Madison has also been very involved with her county’s Federation helping with all of their community service activities. She has also taken the lead on organizing Fair Tours at the county fair for local daycare students.

Madison plans to major in Crop and Soil Science with Agribusiness at either Southeast Missouri State University or Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

What does 4-H mean to you?

To me, 4-H is an organization that helps to develop the leaders of not only today but the future also while allowing members to make friendships that will last a lifetime.

Illinois 4-H Awards Programs | 15
This award is sponsored by the generosity of Sharon & Art Tenhouse, Walter Lynn, Mark & Mary Kaufman, Dee Murray, and the Illinois 4-H Foundation Legacy Endowment

Personal Growth

This award recognizes youth that have focused on personal growth through their participation in the 4-H program.

Caleb Zwilling Champaign County

Fantastic 4-Hers of Fisher, Champaign County 4-H Federation

Caleb attended National 4-H Congress and learned many new leadership skills and how to be a better person. He has also served the president of his 4-H Club. Caleb has participated and organized many different community service projects, while serving on various committees.

After graduating high school, Caleb plans to attend a four year college majoring in some sort of engineering.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H is a place of belonging and a place to learn new things. The community 4-H offers is unlike any other.

Dylan Zwilling Champaign County

Fantastic 4-Hers of Fisher, Champaign County 4-H Federation

During his time in 4-H, Dylan has been diligent and participated in as many activities as possible to get the best experience. His hard work and dedication has helped him succeed beyond 4-H, in school, work, and FFA. As a 10 year member, Dylan has held most officer roles, attended leadership conferences, and helped plan and lead numerous community service projects. He loves to get younger members involved and teach them more about what 4-H has to offer.

Dylan plans to attend the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign and major in Agricultural Mechanics. After graduation, he hopes to work as an agricultural mechanic and return to the family farm.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H has developed me into a better leader and has helped connect me with members across the country. It also has taught me many valuable life skills that will be beneficial in the future.

Sarah Rossi Grundy County

Homes Cool Kids 4-H Club, Grundy County 4-H Federation, Teen Teacher, Speaking for Illinois 4-H

Using the leadership, communication skills, and project knowledge Sarah developed through 4-H, she became a King Conservation Science Scholar at the Brookfield Zoo. Her 4-H experiences have helped her be a confident interpreter at the zoo, and support her interest in biology. Sarah is a County Jr. Leader and serves as secretary for her club and the Grundy County 4-H Federation. As a Teen Teacher, Sarah has planned and teach many workshops, as well as participated in several 4-H service projects.

Sarah plans to attend college and pursue a degree in zoology or botany.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H has supported my interest in biology-related fields and developed my communication skills, allowing me to share my knowledge with others. I am grateful for the opportunities that 4-H has given me.

16 | Celebration of Excellence

Lauren Carlson Ogle County

By-Y-Badgers 4-H club

In 4-H, Lauren found a place of personal growth, expanding communication skills, and leadership development through her club and projects. She has shown woodworking, floriculture, horticulture, foods, cake decorating, photography, visual arts, interior design, and citizenship at both the county and state levels. As a 13 year 4-H member, Lauren has served as a club officer for nine years, and on a variety of different committees and community service projects.

Lauren plans to attend either UW-Platteville or Southeast Missouri State in Fall 2023 to study Environmental Horticulture with a Landscape Design Emphasis.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H is not only full of many learning opportunities, but also a place of personal growth, expanding communication skills, and leadership development. In the years to come, I will always remember my 4-H journey as a major stepping stone of my life as both a person and a forever alumni.

Jorgi Dupureur Tazewell County

Tazewell Country Club, Officer Board, Tazewell County Federation

Jorgi has showed poultry her entire life, along with a variety of other 4-H projects. Over the years, she has worked hard to improve each year, leading to where she is now. Jorgi has been President of her Club for two years and has served as an officer since sixth grade. She has been in her county’s Federation throughout high school, and fair time is the highlight of her summer every year.

Jorgi hopes to play volleyball in college, earn a Bachelor’s degree in Business or Communications, and go on to get a law degree. She hopes to govern and serve our country professionally someday.

What does 4-H mean to you?

I would not be who I am today without 4-H. I have built so many skills in communications, work ethic, servitude, and problem solving that I feel confident that I can accomplish anything.

Illinois 4-H Awards Programs | 17
This award is sponsored by the generosity of Pat Clickener, Barbara & George Clark, Dr. Janice Seitz, and the Illinois 4-H Foundation Legacy Endowment

STEM & Robotics

This award recognizes youth who have focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

Paige Siegmund Champaign


Champaign Mixed Clovers 4-H Club Champaign County Federation/Teen Teachers

Paige’s lifelong interest in science and medicine has led her to research a variety of STEM topics like math, chemistry, and anatomy. She has explored this interest in 4-H through her projects in food science, electricity, and computer science. Paige is satisfied to round out her 10-year career in 4-H as President of her club and looks forward to returning to work at 4-H Memorial Camp this summer. She is immensely grateful for all of the opportunities to explore her passions, especially community service, leadership, visual arts, and cooking.

Paige plans to major in Biochemistry on a pre-medical track at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She also hopes to minor in Spanish.

What does 4-H mean to you?

Having been involved since the age of five, I cannot remember my life without 4-H. Even so, it is hard to overstate what all 4-H has done for me.

Justin Gergen DuPage County

Trinity Trailblazers, Science Ambassadors

Justin has been on a high schoollevel robotics team for the last five years and was on a 4-H sponsored team for several years before then. He is now on a college-level team undertaking a NASA robotics design challenge. Justin is currently the president of his 4-H club and has recently been undertaking speaking roles on 4-H’s behalf. He attended the 4-H Ignite National Youth Summit as an Illinois Delegate this March.

Justin is currently a student at the College of DuPage on a pathway to transfer to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is on track for mechanical engineering but may move to chemical engineering.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H has given me the opportunity to explore what the world has to offer, and I learned about myself at the same time. I have learned what I want to do with my life and grow my skills along the way.

Sydney Reppy Kendall County

Seward Kids & Critters 4-H Club, Unit 5 Science Ambassadors, Kendall County Federation

Sydney was active in her unit’s Science Ambassador program, serving on the leadership team and helping as a teen teacher to teach STEM curriculum to youth throughout the year. Sydney has served as an officer in her 4-H club and county’s Federation, and as a teen teacher in Science Ambassadors. Sydney has also helped at her fair as a junior superintendent, and has served as a youth representative on the Unit 5 Extension Council.

Sydney is currently attending Joliet Junior College, and will graduate with an Associate of Arts this May. In the fall, she will be attending DePaul University to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in English and Secondary Education.

What does 4-H mean to you?

Through 4-H, I’ve been able to grow by making friends and participating in learning and service projects. 4-H has helped me discover my love of teaching while giving me opportunities to volunteer in my community.

18 | Celebration of Excellence 2023

Ojas Shah McLean County

Silverleaf Teen Teacher Illinois Youth Leadership Team Illinois Teen Healthy Living

Since his first year in 4-H, Ojas has participated in the Robotics, Aerospace, and Computer Science projects. In recent years, he has won the Superior Award for UAV/Drones and 1st place for Robotics at Illinois State Fair. As an enthusiastic 4-H’er, Ojas is part of several groups within the organization including Youth Leadership Team, Healthy Living Ambassadors, and Teen Teachers. Outside of STEM, Ojas has participated in numerous project categories at the annual 4-H fair.

Ojas plans to attend a 4-year university and major in an engineering field.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H has been a significant catalyst for my personal growth. It has provided me the opportunity and inspiration to participate in community service, improve my public speaking skills, and strengthen my self-confidence. I highly encourage every young person to get involved with 4-H!

Callysta Borders Union County

Lick Creek 4-H Union County Robotics Teen Teachers

Callysta has participated in robotics for 10 years, having mentored rookie teams as they figure out how to tread on their own wheels. This year she is working with her 4-H robotics team, Error Code, to compete at state. Callysta is an avid baker, loves to work with her community and mentor younger children through their 4-H journey. She has her eyes to the starry skies, finding her passions in creative writing, and building her general knowledge by trying a little of everything.

Callysta plans to get a degree in astro-biology, having her heart set on finding further life in the skies.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H means expanding my horizons, learning about anything and everything while teaching it to others along the way.

Illinois 4-H Awards Programs | 19
This award is sponsored by the generosity of Sharon & Art Tenhouse, Dee Murray, Lisa Woessner Memorial 4-H Science Endowment, and Pat Clickener

Food Systems

This award recognizes youth who have focused on food production, processing, distribution, and access.

This award is sponsored by the generosity of Donna Mueller, Karen Moore, and Dr. Larry Hageman

Lilie Perry Clark County

Clarksville Co-eds Club, Clark County Federation, Livestock Judging Team, 4-H Jazz Band

As a grower of beef and a future dietitian, Lilie has a heart for food systems. Throughout her years as a 4-H’er, in addition to many foods and food science projects, she also studied small grains, floriculture, and vegetable gardening, taking many projects to the state fair. Lilie is helping to grow diversity in her county 4-H by inviting youth in minority groups to join clubs and attend special events. Lilie has held almost every office and is currently her club president and Federation treasurer. Besides Food Systems projects, she has loved showing beef cattle and her poodles in dog obedience and agility.

Lilie plans to attend the University of Illinois and major in Food Science and Human Nutrition to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H has played a major role in who I am. If I had not been in 4-H since I was in 3rd grade, I would not have the social and networking skills that I have today. I love the relationships I have made through 4-H with people of all ages.

Madeline Schulz DuPage County

Roselle Go Gettems

Madeline’s 4-H career has centered around Foods projects. This sparked her desire to become a pastry chef. She has also worked with animals, participated in photography and visual arts, and health and child development projects during her time in 4-H.

Madeline plans to go into business/hospitality management and attend pastry school to become a pastry chef.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H means a lot to me, it has really helped me grow as a person. I’ve accomplished so much with being introduced to 4-H that it really makes a huge different in my life.

Halie Kohl Kankakee County

Cabery Specials 4-H Club

In May 2020, Halie established Halie’s Farmstand, where she market various agricultural products such as produce like cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, and pumpkins as well as straw bales and chicken eggs. The stand fulfills the need for fresh produce within her community, is self-serve, and operates July through October. As an 11 year 4-H’er, Halie has served as Treasuer, Secretary, and now Vice President of her 4-H club. In addition, she enjoys volunteering with her 4-H club.

Halie is dually enrolled at Kankakee Community College and Illinois State University as an agribusiness major. She aspires to expand Halie’s Farmstand into a fulltime career with an emphasis on commercial tomato production.

What does 4-H mean to you?

4-H has provided me with a multitude of leadership experiences and knowledge through officer positions, livestock exhibitions, club activities, and community service opportunities. As a committed agribusiness major, I will undoubtedly use my leadership skills in my agribusiness career to guide future ag producers and hope to someday be able to give back at least a portion of what 4-H has been able to provide for me.

20 | Celebration of Excellence 2023

Award Honorees

Diamond Level awards recognize youth who completed six or more experiences in one of the three dimensions, with at least four experiences beyond the county level. The Diamond Level awards are sponsored by Dwight Huffstutler, James and Sharon Walker, Wilbur and Marilyn Nelson, and Gary and Cecilia Balke.

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 Bill and Jane Wyffels, Carrol and Patsy Bolen, Sandra Lignell, and Doug and Edith Block.

Deb Stocker Illinois 4-H Youth Leadership Team Scholarship

• Gracie Prose, Ogle County

Illinois 4-H Sustaining the Future Award

• Dylan Zwilling, Champaign County

• Johanna Schmitz, Champaign County

• Lauren Wolter, Clinton County

• Krish Nangia, DuPage County

• Emilee Cox, Hamilton County

• Alexanndria Osborne, Jasper County

• Libby Larkin, Livingston County

Diamond Leadership

Carter Joiner, Macoupin

Emerald Leadership

Lance Woolam, Adams

Carlson Rozanas, Boone

Jenna Clemmons, Champaign

Gauri Venkatraman, DuPage

Emma Wiseman, Edwards

Emilee Cox, Hamilton

Sarah Darnell, Hamilton

Caitlyn Richards, Hamilton

Shiloh Willis, Hamilton

Ava Winternheimer, Hamilton

Emily Reppy, Kendall

Sydney Reppy, Kendall

Libby Larkin, Livingston

Morgan Crouch, Macon

Taylor Crouch, Macon

Anthony Joiner, Macoupin

Saralynn Joiner, Macoupin

Janella Neary, Monroe

Emma Hughes, Montgomery

Fallon Knodle, Montgomery

Amanda Niemann, Montgomery

Kohen Stolte, Montgomery

Gracie Prose, Ogle

Jillian Jones, Pope

Abagayle Britton, PulaskiAlexander

Victoria Zwilling, Richland

Rachel Lands, Saline

Naomi Dolan, Vermilion

Alana Dolan, Vermilion

Katie Aldrich, White

Katelyn Allen, White

Avery Edler, Will

Vanessa Edler, Will

Emerald Community Service

Elaan Bader, Montgomery

Lilah Bonny, Shelby

Delaney Nation, Shelby

Annsley Healy, White

Grace McCarty, White

Johanna Zieren, White

Peter Widinsky, Will

Diamond Project Learning

Sarah Rossi, Grundy

Blu Barrow, Hamilton

Landen Curry, Pulaski-Alexander

Mikayla Skelton, Pulaski-Alexander

Bailey Callahan, Rock Island

Nicholas Gorbach, Rock Island

Emerald Project Learning

Brooke Glander, Boone

Justin Irwin, Boone

Nora Rozanas, Boone

Willard Rozanas, Boone

Benjamin Wamsley, Christian

Sofie Heidrich, Kendall

Abi Munar, Kendall

Annie Ralston, Kendall

Makinzie Gaither, Lawrence

Braylee Gilmore, Macoupin

Wyld Gilmore, Macoupin

Makenna Harding, Macoupin

Payton Harding, Macoupin

Reese Heyen, Macoupin

Hallee Kaburick, Macoupin

Kayleigh Trimm, Macoupin

Luke Wolff, Macoupin

Claire Malinowski, McClean

Bond Knodle, Montgomery

Alden Knodle, Montgomery

Caden Crain, Pulaski-Alexander

Ashton Dillow, Pulaski-Alexander

Layla Helman, Pulaski-Alexander

Ava Ralls, Pulaski-Alexander

Landon Ralls, Pulaski-Alexander

Wyatt Ruiz, Pulaski-Alexander

Michael Skelton, Pulaski-Alexander

Emma Thurston, Pulaski-Alexander

Alaina Smith, Randolph

Chase Smith, Randolph

Seth Clodfelter, Richland

Levi Clodfelter, Richland

Wyatt Arnold, Saline

Esmi Small, Shelby

Kaylie Adams, Union

Kim Adams, Union

Callysta Borders,Union

Katryna Borders, Union

Sabryna Borders, Union

Trystan Borders, Union

Averie Dickinson, Union

Madison Dickinson, Union

Ceri Ward, Union

Katelyn Davis, White

Kenley Davis, White

Katelyn Garner, White

Jalynn Phillips, White

Breyton Sauls, White

Madison Krum, Whiteside

Alexandra Bruinius, Will

Mitchell Hocker, Will

Julia Muschetto, Will

Matt Selucky, Will

Illinois 4-H Awards Programs | 21
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