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Our Illinois 4-H Story

Oh, the unexpected twists and turns that change lives through 4-H

One never knows how 4-H experiences can shape one's future. Josh Cole Brodnax participated in 4-H nutrition sessions while a youngster living in public housing in East Moline, thinking that would be his only experience with 4-H. Little did he know that 4-H would find him again as a teen and hone his leadership skills into being an advocate for healthy living and good nutrition to underserved younger youth living as he had.

Josh was a teen teacher for the summer nutrition camps which was sponsored by the Walmart Youth Voice Youth Choice grant. His engaging personality made him a natural teacher. An avid football player, Josh was happy that 4-H had volunteer opportunities for him that would work into his sports schedule and his football prowess gave him prestige among younger youth.

Now he is serving on the university's "4-H Smart Foods Families" lead team to plan and implement a nutrition, cooking skill and budgeting program for the most disadvantaged youth and families in the state. This leadership role led him to a National 4-H Smart Foods Families "Train the Trainer" Conference at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center and an unforgettable trip to the Capitol. His charismatic personality and willingness to participate whole heartedly made him a leader among teens at the training.

At a recent 100 Years of Extension Gala in Rock Island County, Josh got up to share his story, starting from those days as a 4-H nutrition program participant. He went on to tell about participating in a Teens as Teachers experience with a retreat on the University of Illinois campus last summer learning about biotechnology, how this led to his teaching summer nutrition and leading a biotechnology 4-H SPIN Club. He went on to teaching leadership at the county's teen leadership winter academy. His positive experiences and desire to help other youth resulted in his passion for the healthy living work he is leading now.

Calling himself "a volunteer for everything," little did he know that he was opening another potential door at the college he never thought he could attend—his dream school—University of Illinois. Sitting in the audience at the Gala was Meg Cline, associate dean for advancement for the College of ACES. She said she would love to have Josh get involved in the summer apprenticeship program at U of I. While this part of the story remains for future follow-up, the impact of 4-H upon this young man is unmistakable. (Reprinted from National 4-H Council)