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Our Illinois 4-H Story

Success breeds success; Marion County hosts 200 youth for judging

The Marion County 4-H livestock judging team had phenomenal success during the 2013 judging season, and that success is hard to contain. Last weekend, more than 200 youth participated in the county's annual livestock judging contest in Salem, with youth traveling from Indiana, Oklahoma and Oregon just to compete and learn from the successful team members.

Rhiannon Branch was a member of the 2013 national championship team and is a member of the Illinois 4-H Youth Leadership Team. "Every goal I've ever achieved can be linked back to 4-H," she said. Steve Austin coaches and mentors the livestock judging team, and in doing so, has created a bond with all the youth in his care. "When I get older, one of the first few people my kids will meet is Steve," said Andrew Livingston, 18-year-old member of the team.

Austin could be called the coach of champions. Since his time in Marion County, more than 20 youth have received college scholarships as members of their college's judging team, and some of those have gone on to coach teams themselves. His teams have finished in the top five at state five times. Austin says youth can use livestock judging "as a ladder to move up."

"Judging is something that teaches youth to think on their feet, make a decision and go with it," Austin said. "It's about the kids and helping them improve life skills."


Judy Mae Bingman, University of Illinois Extension Marketing and Communications Manager

Judy uses powerful words and photography to tell the Extension story. She is a skilled communication strategist and storyteller with demonstrated success in building teams and creating strong organizational brand identities that deepen Extension’s impact among key audiences, build brand loyalty, strengthen employee talent, and expand public engagement. She is a frequent conference presenter at the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents Conference and helps Extension staff across the nation tell compelling stories.