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Our Illinois 4-H Story

The Voice of the Illini praises 4-H

The moment he speaks, you recognize Brian Barnhart, the Voice of the Illini. What you may not know is that Barnhart is a former 4-H member and credits 4-H with providing the structure youth need to set goals and learn responsibility.

A member of 4-H clubs in both Tolono and Sedora in his youth, Barnhart raised Southdown sheep as his 4-H project. He and his brother were responsible for recordkeeping, lambing, feeding, and showing the flock. "4-H gave me responsibility early in life to be responsible for these young animals, and it exposes you into how much more goes into something rather than someone just doing it for you."

Barnhart also said he learned that life doesn't always work out how you want. "Through 4-H, I learned about competition," he said. "I learned I wasn't going to win all the time… but what could I learn from it so I could do better."

Those were all valuable experiences that paid off in other areas of his life, Barnhart said. A recent News-Gazette article quotes Barnhart echoing that same sentiment as advice to young broadcasters; "Be willing to do whatever is asked by your broadcast employer and work your way up the ladder."

Barnhart's ladder has a rung labeled 4-H.

National 4-H Week Oct. 2 -8 celebrates the 6 million 4-H members, 540,000 volunteers and more than 25 million 4-H alumni across the country. 4-H supports young people from elementary school through high school with programs designed to shape future leaders and innovators. Fueled by research-driven programming, 4-H youth engage in hands-on learning activities in every county in Illinois, from rural farms to metro and urban cities.



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.