Garret Basiel was a 4-H member in Middlesex County and is a freshman at UConn this fall in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. This is the college essay he submitted with his application.
My fingers felt raw, but I once again pulled back the bowstring and aimed down range at the target. After my quick lesson on safety and proper form, I spent at least four hours at the archery range that day in 2010 during my local 4-H fair. The arrows skewed across both the target and ground alike, but every time one hit anywhere near the center of the target, I was delighted. This single positive experience led me to learn not only about fletchings and points but about myself too.
As a novice 4-H club member, I made a very small contribution on the range when we brought our equipment out to local fairs. After hauling out the targets and setting up a safety line, I might chip in information on a shooter’s form every once in a while, telling them to “straighten your feet” or “keep pulling back,” but I still lacked the confidence to address the masses that poured through our setup. Despite these crowds, I managed to find time to shoot for myself. I would launch as many arrows as I could, reducing me to sore set of fingers and a pair of tired arms trembling, just as they were my first time there. A year rolled past and, thanks to my club leaders, I was able to consistently nail the bull’s eye.
Yet as my skill increased, my confidence and courage did too, and I came to discover how much I enjoyed assisting others. By the 2014 4-H Fair I felt ready to impart my knowledge onto others. For the first time I was able to walk someone through all of the steps of an archer. I would always begin by strapping an arm guard on them and showing them how to position their feet. Then I would go on to explain how to hold the bow, nock an arrow, and pull back the string. What surprised me was adults’ willingness to learn. Although towering over me, they politely listened while I taught them what to do, letting me know that my voice mattered. I shared their excitement as their skill progressed having heard “Look what I just shot!” and taking part in high fives more than a few times. My shyness was clearly on the way out.
As I matured and gained more experience over the years, I was able to fulfill assorted jobs on the fair ranges. Older club members, who used to help people put on their arm guards or teach them how to shoot, aged out, leaving me with more responsibility. I felt comfortable walking adults and teenagers through the process, but my hardest challenge was helping young children, who struggle to listen to instructions and even to pull back the bow string. I still remember the first girl who I knelt next to. I helped her straighten her arm and adjust her feet before I helped her tug back the bowstring. I urged her “Keep pulling, you’re almost there” as I had heard my club leader say so many times before. We both smiled when her arrows hit the target. Each year I have helped at the archery range I have become more dependable. Now I even run the range, not only teaching but announcing “Begin shooting” or “Go get your arrows” whenever my leader is busy.
I am very grateful that teaching archery helped me come out of my shell. Addressing the groups of people coming through our archery range gave me new found courage that has carried over into my other parts of my life. I now take on leadership roles in class, finding myself leading groups through trigonometry projects, and at cross country meets I feel more comfortable conversing with other runners. I feel ready to bring this same confidence over to my upcoming college years.
Grace Hanlon began her experience at the New London County 4-H Camp at the age of 7. The camp, situated on 24 ½ acres in Franklin, CT, provides both day and over-night camping experiences to over 2,100 youth annually. 4-H is the youth development program of UConn Extension. As part of the University of Connecticut, 4-H has access to research-based, age-appropriate information needed to help youth reach their full potential. The mission of 4-H is to assist all youth ages 5-18 in acquiring knowledge, developing leadership and life skills while forming attitudes that will enable them to become self-directing, productive and contributing members of their families and communities.
Don Beebe, President of the New London County 4-H Camp Foundation recalls, “Grace was tiny but had a big personality. She was a great camper, always enthusiastic and with a wonderful smile. She grew into a very capable young lady with a can-do attitude, participating in the camp’s Teen Leader Program as well as the 4-H Teen Ambassador Program.” Unfortunately Grace’s life ended in 2016 at the age of sixteen in a car accident, leaving her family, friends and the 4-H camp devastated and searching for a way to honor and remember her.
After her death, Grace’s mother, Beth Hanlon, invited some of Grace’s camp friends over to talk about a fund that had been started after Grace’s death in support of the 4-H camp. One of the reasons the camp was chosen for the fund was that Grace was packed and ready to go to camp days before her death. Beth explained, “She loved it there. We wanted to hear about her experience from her camp friends and ask them how the funds should be used at the camp.” The group discussed things needed at camp that would represent Grace. It started as a structure for the counselors and Teen Leaders. The conversation eventually evolved into a multi-purpose structure abutting the dining hall and the project which quickly became known as “Grace’s Place” took off from there.
The addition’s construction began right after Thanksgiving that year. One of Grace’s friends mentioned that her father had a construction company and would like to help. About a week later, Beth received a text from the young lady saying, “My Dad’s name is Dan and he’s expecting a call from you.” At that point they needed to obtain other contractors and professionals to move the project forward. Beth added, “We have never built anything. General contractors we are not, and we have also never lost a child before. We were in the early stages of grief and not really sure what we were doing or why we were doing it.”
Paul Hanlon, Grace’s father, explained that this project in Grace’s name has been very therapeutic. It provides us with something to focus on and have control over.” Beth added, “the biggest piece we have taken from this from the day the accident happened and throughout the building project has been the unbelievable support.” As an example, Paul explained that they had huge trusses and beams that had to be put in place, and the builders said when they arrive, we are going to need a crane. Paul had no idea where he was going to get such a large piece of equipment. He actually googled crane companies and contacted a company by filling out information on their website. Under additional comments Paul explained what the project was for. A company responded shortly thereafter that if they could come on the weekend, the owner would do it for free. They completed the work on Memorial Day weekend right after major storms had devastated parts of Connecticut, so they were extremely busy. This company had no connection to Grace or the camp, but felt it was the right thing to do.
Paul explained that Grace was very social. “She taught me to be social,” he added. In order to make this project happen we had to come up with ways to raise money. The ways they have come up with so far have been community social events – trivia nights that have to be capped because of the enthusiasm and interest. Beth adds that this is about the camp and the kids. It’s a multi-purpose building that so many youths will benefit from. I know how much they need the space and how much it means to them.”
“This is an incredible addition to the camp,” Don Beebe said. “The fact that it’s tied to Grace actually adds another dimension because it’s not just going to be a building. Her story will be told forever. I think that’s quite a tribute to Grace and to her family who are allowing this to happen. This addition is hard for anyone to take on especially a family that is grieving. Construction is very expensive. They themselves have put a lot of their own time and money into this project. This is a program Grace clearly loved and excelled at. Her story will be a great inspiration to help young people understand the value of the program and what it did for her. It’s also a great thing for the community. Our teen program is growing. To actually have a place where the teens can meet and have activities will be extremely helpful. Obviously, it’s very sad to lose a child, but the fact that this family was able to turn such a tragic thing into such a happy thing is amazing.” Grace Hanlon will be affecting the lives of many youth in such a positive and inspiring manner. What a wonderful way to be remembered.
Article by Nancy Wilhelm, Program Coordinator, 4-H Youth Development
UConn 4-H is a statewide program with educators in all eight counties. Each of our 4-H educators brings unique skills and life experiences to the program.
If there is one experience that has opened Emily Alger’s eyes to how special the 4-H program is, it would be asking the high school field hockey team that she coaches to participate in the National 4-H Science Experiment. Each year National 4-H Council introduces a new science experiment that 4-H members across the country take part in. In 2017 the Science Day Challenge was “Incredible Wearables”, a hands-on STEM project that challenges young people to build a wearable fitness tracker that will help people lead healthier lives. Emily explains that, “the team is not exposed to 4-H activities or our culture. Yet I walk in and hand them the science kits and the handbook, divide them into groups and ask them to complete the experiment, and every year I get responses saying it was my favorite activity of the year and we should be doing this in school.” Emily adds, “You can’t understand the impact of what we do until you introduce it to youth outside of the program and see their responses.”
As the Middlesex County 4-H Program Coordinator, Emily works with a variety of exciting and unique programs. Her introduction to 4-H came as a member at the age of seven. Emily participated in a variety of projects and was a regular participant in the 4-H fair. It remains to this day one of the aspects of her work that she is most proud of, emphasizing the patience and nurturing necessary to commit to a youth driven program such as the 4-H Fair.
“We were the first fair to have an entire youth board of directors. There are no voting adults in Middlesex County. Each youth is paired with a mentor and is responsible for their job description. We have a full fair manual. Everybody has to complete and submit reports. It’s really run by the youth. It takes a lot of follow-up to make sure that things move forward smoothly, but we are committed to it. I think the place it shows up the most is that our millennials are dying to get back into this program and mentor. Not only did they learn how to do a job and take pride in it, they want to teach another youth to do that job. They want to be the person who passes that on. They recognize they don’t have the time or space to be traditional club leaders, but they recognize how important the program has been to their life,” she says.
Emily was also destined to be around animals. As a 4-H member her project work focused on smaller animals such as poultry and rabbits. It wasn’t until she graduated from college that she got her first horse. She initially began volunteering with the 4-H horse program, serving on the State 4-H Horse Advisory Committee and helping to put on horse shows. This led to her current role as the statewide 4-H Equine Program Coordinator.
Emily works extensively with UConn Equine Extension Specialist, Dr. Jenifer Nadeau. Both bring a wealth of personal experience and knowledge to the UConn 4-H Horse Program. Emily feels the program is well respected. Very few youths in Connecticut have the luxury of owning a horse, so Emily and Jen have started doing things a little differently. One example involves working with training stables to foster the academic portion of the horse project while giving youth access to horses they cannot own or have in their backyard. They have also begun to work with rescue groups.
When asked why UConn Extension and the 4-H Program matter, Emily is quick to respond that Extension work is vital. “You never have to tell 4-H members about the importance of community service. The 4-H program is a culture of helping others. So many of the things that we naturally teach in 4-H are missing from other aspects of society.
4-H members are connected to caring adults who stand by them and encourage them when they are not holding up their end of the bargain. They understand how to be respectful and conduct themselves in public. Ultimately, 4-H celebrates our youth individually for the skills they bring to the table.
Article by Nancy Wilhelm
Angie Tovar of Danbury was a teen mentor in our CT FANs IM 4-H program. She is entering her junior year of college at Western Connecticut State University where she majors in Elementary Education. Angie currently works as a translator for St. Peter Church in Danbury and Student Worker for Pre-Collegiate and Access Programs in Danbury. We caught up with her to learn more about how her experience with the 4-H FANs program impacted her life.
4-H taught me to….. not be afraid to put myself out there. At first, a lot of the activities we conducted made me nervous, but I learned to push myself and try new things.
4-H taught me to stop…. Doubting myself. It really helped me believe that I can do anything if I really set my mind to it. It sounds a little cliché, but it’s the truth. The staff and the way this program is set up makes everyone truly believe that.
Because of 4-H….. I decided to become a teacher. I loved the experience of being in front of children and getting to pass on my knowledge of a subject onto them. I realized that teaching is what I truly love to do.
If I hadn’t been in 4-H…. I would have probably been in college, pursuing another career, and pretty miserable because it is not what I truly wanted to do.
How do you keep the 4-H motto – “To Make the Best Better” – now? I always keep this in mind, reminding me that there is always room for improvement. After every day of the program, we would reflect on what we did and how we could improve for next time. I still do this a lot after I finish anything. I truly believe that no matter how good something I did was, there is always a way for me to do better.
How did 4-H contribute to your leadership skills? 4-H helped me to be a better public speaker and think about what you want the outcome of a lesson to be. Since I want to become an Elementary School teacher I have to be comfortable speaking in front of others. 4-H provided me with the opportunity to practice this. The staff helped coach me and give me constructive criticism to better my public speaking. Also, it made me realize that when planning for activities, you have to think about others and what you want them to get out of this. It is the most important thing when prepping for lessons.
What do you wish people knew about 4-H? There are so many programs with 4-H! I feel that in our area very few people know about 4-H and all the wonderful things they do to better the lives of young people. I wish people knew that 4-H has just about everything.
Why should young people join 4-H? These programs provide youth with so many skills that they will continue to use for the rest of their lives. Each program works on bettering a child’s life in different ways. Also, each program makes families feel part of a community. They bring parents together and make them realize that they are not alone.
Involvement: New London County 4-H Alumni
Education: Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Connecticut and a Master’s Degree from Fairfield University
Current Employment: Associate Dean at Albertus Magnus College
What did 4-H teach you?
Listen to others and be a better presenter and public speaker, as that is something I use regularly in my professional job every day. There is always something to be done or someone you can help, so there shouldn’t be time for you to complain about things or people. Just learn to be a team player! I’ve gained leadership skills that I’ve used beyond high school, into college, and in my professional life.
How do you keep the 4-H motto—“To Make the Best Better”—now?
I’m always striving to be the best person and professional that I can be for myself and my students. I try to make sure their voices are heard and encourage them to put
their best foot forward and create programs and events that are better than the previous ones. This allows them to grow and make the best better.
How did 4-H contribute to your leadership skills?
Being involved with 4-H was the first time that I had held leadership positions, first in my local club, and later on in the New London County Fair Association. It taught me how to work with others on projects, delegate, and achieve a goal. It also helped me understand some budgeting and historical record keeping skills.
Why should young people join 4-H?
It is a great way to get involved in the community and give back. 4-H also teaches you many life skills that can carry over into your personal life and professional life down the line. I still keep in touch with many people that I met through 4-H.
If you enjoy working with children, have a willingness to share your time and talents with young people in the community, like to have fun, learn new skills and make a difference, then being a 4-H volunteer is for you.
4-H volunteers play a significant role in helping youth reach their potential. As a volunteer, you will help youth learn leadership, citizenship and life skills through projects and activities. If you have a hobby or interest you can share with young people such as photography, animals, plants, fishing, drama, community service, computers and technology, woodworking, fashion design, arts and crafts, rocketry or something else, consider becoming a 4-H volunteer.
Volunteer Training and Recognition Training is conducted at local, state and regional levels. New 4-H volunteers receive a general orientation. Meetings are held throughout the state several times each year to help new leaders. The statewide Connecticut 4-H Volunteer Conference is held every other year, and leaders can also participate in the regional 4-H volunteer forum.
Just as we recognize the efforts of youth, the UConn 4-H Program recognizes and acknowledges its volunteers for their efforts at the local, state and national level. Additional information can be found online at http://s.uconn.edu/46w.
RACHAEL MANZER JOINED LANDMARK GATHERING OF STATE & FEDERAL STEM EDUCATION LEADERS AT THE WHITE HOUSE
WHITE HOUSE SUMMIT WILL HELP INFORM NEXT 5-YEAR STEM EDUCATION STRATEGY
Rachael Manzer, STEM Coach at Winchester Public Schools and a UConn 4-H Leader was recently invited to attend the first-of-its-kind State-Federal Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education Summit hosted by The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on June 25-26, 2018, in Washington, D.C.
Jen Cushman, Hartford County 4-H Extension Educator says “We are fortunate to have a UConn 4-H Volunteer in attendance to share the STEM experiences UConn 4-H Youth are engaging in.”
According to the OSTP, the State-Federal STEM Education Summit convened a diverse group of State STEM leaders, including officials from governors’ offices, K-20 educators, workforce and industry representatives, State policy experts, and non-government organization executives. These attendees participated in the development of a new Federal 5-Year STEM Education Strategic Plan in compliance with America COMPETES Act of 2010.
“This event is the first time an administration has asked for this level of State input when developing a Federal STEM education strategy,” said Jeff Weld, senior policy advisor and assistant director for STEM education at OSTP. “Top-down approaches to STEM education can often yield wonderful ideas, but it’s at the State and community level where the momentum happens. State leaders know best what kinds of programs will work in their communities, and where they need the power of the Federal government to help drive success in this field. STEM education is critical to preparing our students for the jobs of the future. We must do everything we can to ensure that Federal, State, local, and tribal governments, communities, educators, and private industry partners are united for the long-term success of our Nation.”
Alongside OSTP in planning and carrying out this Summit are the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Smithsonian Institution. STEM leaders from all 50 states, as well as U.S. territories and tribes, will attend the Summit to illuminate and advance State-Federal STEM alignment.
In 1976, Congress established OSTP to provide the President and others within the Executive Office of the President with advice on the scientific, engineering, and technological aspects of the economy, national security, homeland security, health, foreign relations, the environment, and the technological recovery and use of resources, among other topics. OSTP also leads interagency science and technology policy coordination efforts, assists the Office of Management and Budget with an annual review and analysis of Federal research and development in budgets, and serves as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the President with respect to major policies, plans, and programs of the Federal Government.
Rachael Manzer is a 4-H Leader in Connecticut. She leads three different projects groups: VEX Middle School Robotic Competition Team, who won the Connecticut State Robotic Championship and competed in the World Championship; a VEX Robotic Project Group, who designs and builds robots to compete at the Hartford County 4-H Fair; and a 4-H Cubes in Space Group who had three experiments fly in space on a NASA Sounding Rocket on June 21, 2018. Rachael Manzer is passionate about 4-H and STEM Education.
Written By: Jen Cushman, Hartford County 4-H Extension Educator
Six youth from the Granby 4-H Club won the State VEX Robotics competition and qualified to represent CT at the VEX Robotics World Championship, April 29-May 1st, in Louisville, KY.
At Worlds, the youth will compete in teamwork, programming and driving competitions. In addition, they are eligible for team awards for energy, journal, design and research project. Throughout the competition, these youth will also network with teams from around the world as they promote 4-H through their team booth.
Since May of 2017, the youth have been learning about this year’s Ring Master Challenge in preparation for the build season. Using science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) concepts, competition team members developed, designed, and practiced their robot driving skills. In addition, the 4-H’ers maintain an engineering journal of their robot design process in order to develop and strengthen their record keeping skills. Participants also demonstrate and hone their public speaking and research skills through the annual STEM Research Project which is also component of the competition.
Supported by six 4-H volunteer mentors and parents, this group of 4-H youth competed as the only 4-H team in Connecticut. While 4-H volunteer mentors are there to guide and facilitate the youth, 4-Hers do all the design and construction work. Each member of the team is assigned a leadership role in a specific area. Team members meet 1-2 times per week for 8 months of the year and then 2 to 6 times a week as the competition gets closer. Along with the leadership, STEM, teamwork, communication, citizenship and life skills that the youth gain they also develop entrepreneurial skills designing and running fundraisers to cover the expenses of the robot and competition fees.
Members implement the values of the 4-H motto to Make the Best Better by improving their robot after practice and competition sessions. 4-H members note that they
have benefited from participating in the VEX 4-H Robotics Program by gaining and enhancing their skills; for example, in the area of spatial geometry or in programming their robot using the C language. Also, these experiences have provided opportunities for them to demonstrate and strengthen their teamwork and cooperation skills in preparation for their future education and careers. In fact, during the qualification rounds at the State Competition, the team was twice awarded the Judges Award for Spirit and Energy at the Regional Level and they were the Teamwork Challenge winners on the state level. The competition members also serve as mentors to the non-competition 4-H VEX Robotics group members. Lastly, members see their experiences in VEX 4-H Robotics helping them to identify future career opportunities. Beyond the VEX Robot competition, this project group of the Granby 4-H Club also attends UConn STEM events, participates in community service activities as well as county-level activities including the annual Hartford County 4-H Fair.
UConn 4-H is the youth development program of the UConn Extension in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. 4-H is a community of over 6 million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including citizenship and healthy living. To find a 4-H club near you visit 4-H.UConn.edu or call 860-486-4127.
“The lessons and experiences I have gained from this trip will remain with me forever as the most exciting and rewarding opportunity 4-H has ever given me.” These are the words of a 4-H teen returning home from National 4-H Congress. The 4-H Centennial Fund makes it possible for teens to attend these amazing leadership opportunities. Please give to the 4-H Centennial Fund on UConn Giving Day.