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Our Illinois 4-H Story

How the State Fair ignited my passion for 4-H and youth leadership

cow in a show ring

My name is Allyson Aves, I am the fifth generation to be raised on my family’s dairy farm and a fourth generation 4-H member. It is truly an honor to represent  Illinois 4-H as the Illinois 4-H Livestock Ambassador Team president. 

Being a part of this team as well as a member of 4-H and FFA has truly afforded me some of the greatest lessons and experiences that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I vividly remember the excitement that came with my first trip to the state fair. I was 10 years old and I had been chosen by my older peers in 4-H to join them in presenting a group project researching a different country. I was so excited that I could barely sleep the night before, even after the long week prior at my own county fair. While we did not place in our project, that red, white, and blue state fair participation ribbon was one of the things I was proudest of. That trip to the state fair was not simply memorable because it was my first taste of the famous Sweet Martha's cookies, but because it was the first time that I was able to be a part of a team full of older peers I viewed as role models, I was able to work on a project and take pride in my work presenting it, I grew a deeper love and pride not only for my club but for my state, my country, and the world around me. From there I was hooked, any opportunity to be a part of a 4-H event or project I was in without hesitation. As I mentioned earlier, there are many exciting and memorable activities to enjoy at the state fair, however for the 4-H and FFA members with the opportunity to exhibit here it is a once in a lifetime experience.

In a rapidly changing world, we will need the passionate, driven, hardworking, innovative, and goal-oriented leaders Illinois 4-H and FFA are creating by instilling these skills and values in today’s youth be it through a club leadership position, a conference, or a project.

This would not be possible without the time, dedication, and support of many different people. It is truly heartwarming to see the dedication of individuals providing these opportunities. On behalf of 4-H members across the state, I would like to thank those that make this possible. Thank you to the county 4-H Extension Coordinators, volunteers, parents, University of Illinois Extension Youth 4-H Development Program, The Illinois 4-H Foundation, the Illinois Department of Agriculture, those on the House of Representatives and Senate agriculture committees, Governor Pritzker, and Lieutenant Governor Stratton, and many more who make it possible for Illinois 4-H to continue making the best, better.

Thank you all for coming and showing your support this evening. To the 4-H members who have made it to this level and to the young members striving towards it, congratulations. Enjoy this moment and I hope you have a wonderful 4=H year.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Allyson is a Sophomore at Iowa State University where she is majoring in Agriculture and Rural Policy Studies with minors in Food Science and Economics. She is involved in Dairy Science Club, Sigma Alpha Professional Agricultural Sorority, and serves as executive vice president of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Ambassador team. Allyson is from Boone County and was a member of and held positions in the Flora Producers 4-H Club for 9 years and the Boone County 4-H Federation for 6 years. She currently serves as the Illinois 4-H Livestock Ambassador Team President. Allyson is grateful for the opportunities 4-H has given her and hopes to continue her involvement in the organization.