My Story of 4-H…

I was suppose to write this for the Brand Advisory Team that I am on, but I feel like sharing my story for you to read. I hope this encourages you to start writing your 4-H story. Feel free to email me ( with your story, and I will post it here, for all to read. I’m also posting this here in hopes that this story will make you contact your congressman/woman and tell them how 4-H has made a difference in your life and to support equal funding for the Smith-Lever act. For more info: @CESValue @4h @runneals

4-H is my life! I couldn’t imagine my life without 4-H. 4-H has helped me achieve better leadership, citizenship, and presentation skills. 4-H has helped me help my community, by providing many volunteer activities. It has also, in the last few years, gotten me interested in geospatial technology (GIS Mapping, GPS, Geocaching, etc).

4-H has made me a better leader in many ways. Instead of just participating in things, I lead things! I have taken on the leadership role to help start two new 4-H clubs in my community, one on technology and one on photography. I’m very active in Story County 4-H, by being on the Youth Development Committee, which meets monthly to help lead my county’s 4-H program. I also just joined the Iowa 4-H Leader’s Retreat planning team. We help plan the Iowa 4-H Leader’s Retreat, which happens once a year in February, and attracts about a 100 youth, leaders, and staff from all around Iowa. The purpose of the retreat is to offer presentations and hands-on workshops to leaders, to offer some ideas and teach some of the happenings in Iowa 4-H. I was on the 2009-2010 National 4-H GIS/GPS Leadership Team. I got to go out to San Diego for a week and present at the 2009 ESRI Educator’s User Conference (EdUC). Along with the EdUC, I also attended the ESRI Users Conference (UC), where roughly 10-15,000 GIS professionals from around the world meet up every year. Along with presenting at the EdUC, I have also presented at the 2008 and 2010 Iowa GIS Day events held at Iowa State University, and the 2009 North-Central Region 4-H Volunteer’s Forum (NCR4-HVF) in held in Lincoln, Nebraska. I have recently taken the lead on a few different projects as well. One of them is a WordPress theme for a website that is going to feature service learning projects of youth from around Iowa! This site is going to be called Impact Iowa, and it’s a part of the Reach Out Iowa initiative, which is an initiative that gives funds to youth groups who are doing service learning projects. Another project is a Drupal site, where 4-Hers from Story County submit their volunteer hours, and the 4-Her with the most hours wins a custom built computer! The business is hoping to share their idea with other local computer businesses, and take the idea statewide, where every county can do this!

Since I have started 4-H, I have been more involved in my community. I now enjoy doing citizenship projects from being a docent at a butterfly wing and walking trails with a GPS to working on the computer creating websites for others and being tech support. Since I have been keeping track July of 2010, I have put in almost 200 hours! And you multiply that 200 by a few years, and you get thousands of hours! Finally, if you multiply those thousands of hours by minimum wage ($7.25) you get over $10,000 I have donated back to organizations. Now, take that number, and times by each and every 4-H member in the nation, and you end up saving millions, or even billions of dollars! Citizenship is a LARGE part of 4-H.

4-H has given me better presentation skills. Before giving presentations, I was a shy kid. Now, I’m more open and love giving presentations. I have spoken in front of hundreds of people so far, and this is only the start! I have given talks at the NCR4-HVF, ESRI EdUC, Iowa 4-H Leaders Retreat, Iowa GIS Day, Story County Communication Contests, and planning on many more!

A few years ago, I learned about the partnership 4-H had with ESRI. After I went down to Mahaska County Iowa to see Debbie Steven’s 4-H Tech Team’s GIS Day event, I decided I really wanted to get involved with GIS mapping. We got the grant for 25 seat licenses of ArcGIS 9.2 along with ArcPad licenses, books, and other stuff. Then 2 years ago, in the summer of 2009, I was lucky enough to go out to San Diego, California to be a part of the National 4-H GIS/GPS Leadership Team. While out in San Diego, I took part in a community service activity with the US FWS, which is another of 4-H’s partners, to help them map out endangered species in a salt pond and a future bike trail. Also while we were out there, I presented at the EdUC, attended presentations and workshops at the EdUC and UC, and showed a few of my geospatial creations (maps) off at the UC Map Gallery. I took home 3rd place k-12 for my Iowa 4-H Center map. Since then, I have done many other projects, including one for the Iowa Arboretum and a few for the City of Nevada. I’m currently planning to start and complete a Fire Hydrant Inventory map for the City of Colo Fire Department this summer. We are also currently working with Neil Smith Wildlife refuge, our local US FWS wildlife refuge, on projects because 2009 National 4-H GIS Leadership Team received a grant from US FWS to buy equipment and in return, we help out our local US FWS.

As a conclusion, 4-H is my life and if it went away, I don’t know what I would do except cry. I hope 4-H will be around for centuries to come, so my kids (when I have them) and my grandkids will be able to experience the same things I have.