Google made quite a splash at the Illinois State Fair.
Rob Biederman, head of Google's Midwest external affairs office, and Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO of National 4‑H Council, announced a $1.5 million dollar grant from Google to the national 4-H program to expand nationwide computer science education. The pair made the announcement in the Orr Building on the Illinois State Fairgrounds surrounded by more than 3,000 Illinois 4-H members and their families during the Illinois State Fair.
To say we at Illinois 4-H are happy is an understatement. We're giddy.
But, as good as that announcement was, it only got better when a 4-H member named Russell took center stage.
With the confidence of a skilled speaker, the teenager stepped to the microphone, flanked by Google, National 4-H Council, and Gov. Bruce Rauner, and said, "I'm seriously having a wow moment right now."
We all were.
Russell Moore III is a product of Sangamon County 4-H. His journey there was unique.
"Today is a big deal for kids across our nation, for the youth of Illinois, and yes," Russell smiled, "especially a big deal for me personally.
"You see, 4-H changed my life."
Russell described his life and the struggles he faced growing up. "The pressure to make bad choices was overwhelming, and the promise of a better future was sometimes bleak," Russell said. He described himself as a loner at school who lacked confidence and didn't look like everyone else.
"I never had a place where I felt I belonged."
That was life before he met Extension 4-H Youth Development Educator Erica Austin. Austin coordinates 4-H for young people in the Springfield metro area.
"When I was 12 years old, 4-H came at just the right time," Russell said. "The staff and volunteers saw something in myself I didn't see." Russell praised the 4-H volunteers for setting positive examples of service and leadership and challenging him.
"They trusted me with real chances to lead," Russell said. His interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) was nurtured.
"I know that STEM is for me and a career in computer science is my future." Russell currently attends Lincoln Land Community College on a full scholarship and plans to complete his masters at University of Illinois.
As Russell's applause died down, Google's exec stepped back to the microphone and said, "Russell, get us your resume in about four years."
He wasn't teasing.
Illinois 4-H has a dream for all Illinois youth to be empowered and prepared for success. Whoever you are. Whatever your interests or talents. 4-H is the place to help you channel your gifts and achieve the personal goals you have set for your future.
Don't know where 4-H is near you? Just google us!