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University of Illinois Extension

State’s top 4-H youth leaders, servants, mentors honored with Illinois 4-H Key Award

July 19, 2014

Ten Illinois 4-H teens were honored as Illinois 4-H Key Award winners for their leadership, community service and mentoring activities throughout their 4-H career. The awards were presented in June during the Illinois 4-H Illini Summer Academies held on the University of Illinois campus.

The award is sponsored by the H. Richard and Sarah F. McFarland Endowed 4-H Youth Leadership Development Support Fund from the Illinois 4-H Foundation. Mr. McFarland was present for the award ceremony held June 24 at the Illini Union.

Winners include Codie Geisz, 18, of Elizabeth in JoDaviess County; Dena Harridge, 19, of Mt. Carroll in Carroll County; Jalyne Herren, 17, of Sheridan in Kendall County; Emily Irwin, 17, of Belvidere in Boone County; Jaylene Jennings, 19, of DeKalb in DeKalb County; Kelley Koester, 18 of Elizabeth in JoDaviess County; Cameron Parks, 16, of Bloomington in McLean County; Lura Parrent, 18, of Normal in McLean County; Meghan Price, 18, of Peotone in Will County; and Renee Tillman, 18, of Altamont in Effingham County.

Members must be at least 16 years of age and may only win the award once in their 4-H career. The selection is based on a 27-point evaluation of the member’s leadership, community service and mentoring activities throughout their 4-H career, as well as narrative provided by the member about their 4-H work and letters of recommendation.

Highlights of each award winner follow:

Codie Geisz has worked on multiple club and county 4-H community service activities, including cleaning up roadsides, setting flags out at holidays, and painting and cleaning at the local fair which led to more volunteer work with the fair board. She was invited by the town’s mayor to be a member of a management & planning program committee involving non-metropolitan groups where she works with others in her community to identify goals, strategies and projects to improve her local town. Codie was a State 4-H Award winner during her career.

Dena Harridge learned through 4-H to make her community a good place. She started the first Relay for Life Team with other students in her school, helping to raise funds for a friend that had been diagnosed with stage 2 cancer. Dena has also help train athletes for the Special Olympics and organized food drives to help local food pantries. One of the food drives she worked on was a “Pack the Bus” program to fill a bus with food which was then divided among area food pantries. Her 4-H club also took care of a community garden where they donated the items grown to a local food pantry and to an organization that provides free meals. Dena has also participated in the International 4-H Youth Exchange.

Jalyne Herren has worked with a variety of community service projects, but focused her application on the Senior Citizen Bingo project she works on within her 4-H club. The group puts on a senior bingo at a local senior housing complex.  Jalyne has helped organize, decorate, shop for prizes, prepare food, and serve refreshments for this event. The residents really enjoy the event and dress up in their best clothes to meet with the 4-H members. Some of the elderly at this facility rarely see young people, so they are very enthusiastic when they come each year. She said the residents really appreciate young people sharing a Saturday afternoon with them, playing fun games, sharing stories, and laughing. She has also helped with food collections for local food pantries, held a toy collection for a local hospital and raised funds for Honor Flight Chicago, which takes veterans to Washington D. C.

Emily Irwin was an Illinois delegate to National 4-H Dairy Conference and an Illinois State 4-H Award winner. Through her food project work, she has been able to help others in her community with the donation of desserts, main dishes, sides and treats which she shares with others. She’s active in food drives and the local “Hometown Christmas” festival where her 4-H club sponsors a Christmas tree, food and gifts for a needy family in the community. Emily helps throughout the event and helps deliver the trees. She’s been instrumental in getting her FFA chapter and National Honor Society club involved in the event.

Jaylene Jennings serves as a science ambassador in DeKalb County and has assisted National 4-H Council in demonstrating National Youth Science Day experiments on the National Mall. She serves on the Illinois State 4-H Youth Leadership Team and will serve as its chairman in 2015. She was an Illinois delegate to National 4-H Congress and National 4-H Conference. She is an accomplished stained glass artist and mentors other youth to increase their skill and passion for the project. She is an active 4-H livestock exhibitor and shares her knowledge in swine, sheep and goats. She said she is grateful to have been able to focus on what 4-H is all about – learning by doing and giving back to others.

Kelley Koester’s largest community service work has been with the Relay for Life program. She has a personal tie to the program; her father battled cancer for several years. She knows what an impact Relay for Life and giving blood can have on a patient and their family. She has made fleece blankets and pillows for Relay raffles and has used her dance skills to perform for the area Relay for Life event. Kelley has served as the junior chairman for a local Relay for Life team for four years, helping raise funds for their team and making food for fundraising events.

Cameron Parks has served on numerous leadership and service committees at the local, county and state levels.  He has been a Jr. Show director at the county fair for two years, was superintendent for the fashion review and has led modeling workshops.  He is a State 4-H Award winner and represented Illinois this spring at the National 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C. Much of Cameron’s Service has revolved around using the sewing skills he has learned as a 4-H member.  He has sewn quilts for orphanages in Guatamala, Ethiopia and Romania.  He sewed countless Christmas stockings for soldiers deployed overseas, made fleece journey bags for foster kids and a local children’s home, sewed aprons and walker pockets for Alzheimer patients who are in nursing homes, and sewed pillowcases for the Ronald McDonald House and the American Cancer Society.

Lura Parrent has helped revitalize her county’s Teen Federation group this last year.  She has led numerous county and unit workshops and has received the State 4-H Award and 4-H Blue Award, as well as the I Dare You Award.  She was an Illinois delegate to National 4-H Congress. Lura used the skills she learned in sewing and foods nutrition projects in her community service projects.  Her projects include sewing stockings for soldiers, preparing fruit trays to senior citizens, donating cookies, making capes for the library reading program, and making ceramic bows and totes for local auctions.  Much of the mentoring she has offered younger 4-H members is through the geospatial curriculum.  She was one of the charter members of her county’s GPS SPIN Club and assisted younger members with geocaching and computerizing their caches. She also led the geocaching activity at the county fair, which is now an annual activity.

Meghan Price has dedicated much of her community service time to the annual Ag Expo and food drives in Will County.  She participates in several Ag Expos each year and educates families to the importance of agriculture – particularly with chickens and horses.  She works with her family and club on a unique food drive where families receive paper bags which they fill and place at the end of their driveway on the appointed pick-up days. Meghan donates eggs to local kindergarten classes and then brings chickens to show and explains the difference of breed and colors. She is on the local and state poultry judging team and has also served as the assistant local coach. She’s a member of the Sizzlin’ Hot Equestrian Drill Team and was the Ag Expo chairman. 

Renee Tillman is very involved in Effingham County 4-H’s Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal Program (P2D2) as a county ambassador. She has served on the Illini Summer Academies planning committee and worked with the 4-H Legislative Connection program.  She has been an Illinois State 4-H Award winner, Blue Award winner, and I Dare You Award recipient.  She was an Illinois delegate to National 4-H Congress. Renee has helped with several community service projects including collecting food for local food drives, assisting in the city beautification program, and making favors and crafts for the local nursing home.  She teaches five and six year old children in her church and has used her sewing skills to make quilts for the learning process. She led the Melanoma Awareness Week and organized a 5K fundraiser race in honor of her friend Linzi who suffers from melanoma.

CUTLINE: Ten 4-H members who excel in leadership, community service and mentoring were awarded the Illinois 4-H Key Award during a ceremony June 24 at the Illini Union on the campus of the University of Illinois. The award is provided by the Illinois 4-H Foundation in partnership with the H. Richard and Sarah F. McFarland Endowed 4-H Youth Leadership Development Support Fund. Winners present for the ceremony included (left to right) Dena Harridge, Renee Tillman, Jalyne Herren, Cameron Parks, Codie Geisz, Lura Parrent, Meghan Price, and sponsor H. Richard McFarland. Emily Irwin, Jaylene Jennings, and Kelley Koester were not present for the presentation.

Source: Debra Stocker, Extension Specialist, 4-H Youth Development, dstocker@illinois.edu

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