State 4-H Awards: A period of reflection

4-H members reflect on the life skills learned during the State 4-H Awards application and selection process.

The State 4-H Awards program offers a period of reflection for those that embark on the journey. That journey ends with some youth being named state winners and others gaining valuable experiences in leadership. In 2016, over 100 youth from 30 counties participated in the Michigan State University Extension State 4-H Awards program. That journey began in February when youth submitted their applications, and concluded in June at 4-H Exploration Days when they came together at MSU for the State 4-H Award Assembly.

The State 4-H Awards program allows young people the opportunity to apply for awards in 19 different recognition areas. They complete an application that asks them to reflect on the life skills they have developed through their project experiences and talk about how they can apply what they have learned to their lives. We want them to reflect and explain how the knowledge and skills they gained through their project work will apply to their life in general. We want them to understand and appreciate how life is filled with experiences that are interwoven, and discover the value of experiential learning in a whole new light. Youth in the program have the opportunity to develop their interview skills, interact with donors and participate in leadership trainings.

The applications that are submitted in February are reviewed by selection committees utilizing a standard evaluation. Committees may select up to 12 applications in each category to move forward. This year, 84 individual delegates and three groups were selected as State 4-H Awards delegates. You can view the delegates in the video below and take a glance at the 2016 State Winners. Delegates were all recognized at a program at the Huntington Club at the Spartan Stadium where winners were announced. Amanda Eicher served as our keynote speaker and inspired youth to continue to strive for excellence.

As I worked with some of the Michigan State 4-H Awards delegates and read their applications, I couldn’t help but reflect and remember some of my projects. In the next two articles of this series, we will take a look at how a few of the leaders in my life impacted me and say thanks for teaching me so many valuable life skills. As you read my stories, think about your story as a volunteer or member; what are you sharing and learning? What impact are you having? What differences are you making in the life of another? I hope it will help you reflect on how you volunteer and if you don’t currently volunteer, it may get you thinking about how you can volunteer.

When we share our skills with another, young or old, we benefit. According to research in the last few decades, volunteers have increased health benefits and report a greater sense of well-being. They may have larger social networks and enjoy healthier hearts. To read more about those benefits, check out the full report, “The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research,” by the Corporation for National and Community Service.  

If you want to volunteer with MSU Extension or find out more about the 4-H programs in your community, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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