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Our Illinois 4-H Story

4-H Legislative Connections – one never knows where it will lead

Youth pose at the Capitol in green shirts.

The positive attitude of the energetic 4-H teens dressed in a neatly pressed green button-down shirts was infectious. There they stood in the State Capital in Springfield, Illinois in the commons area of a State Senator’s office and began a conversation with the receptionist. Within seconds all three are sharing 4-H stories from their past. The receptionist had just started a new 4-H Club in her community nearby, and the 4-H teens told her with great reverence about their 4-H journeys from their homes to the State Capital.  

The Senator was late for this scheduled appointment with the 4-H teens.  But the conversation with the receptionist never lagged. The 4-H stories kept flowing like M&M candies from a bag – which really happened as the green ones were shared and held special. The Senator arrived and introduced himself to the teen and told him he was from the Chicago metropolitan area.   He then asked the teens where they were from.  “We’re from the entire state of Illinois Mr. Senator. I live in a rural county in southeastern Illinois, and my new friend here is from Rockford, but with Illinois 4-H we get exposed to people, programs, and areas of the state we otherwise would not have known”.    

The Senator caught the infection of these two young 4-H youth.  He asked them to come into his office and stay awhile. It was then this conversation took and unexpected turn. The Senator asked the two teens in green shirts this question. “Did you know that last year NASCAR, in its attempt to grow it’s numbers of fans, held a race on the streets of Chicago?"  


"And one of the most successful crew chiefs of any NASCAR team ever grew up in Rockford, Illinois."  


"I have a lot of friends now that are new NASCAR fans because of this bold move."   

"Me? I was a NASCAR fan before that race last year, but it reminds me of what you two are doing with 4-H here. Raising awareness, reaching out, showing leadership, displaying your pride in something you think worthwhile. If either of you are interested in politics for a career, I can get you started as I can tell you have what it takes."

One 4-H teen said “Sir, I knew nothing about NASCAR before today but I know something now.  A career in politics is something I have never thought about before but from what I’ve witnessed today, yes I am very interested”.   

The second 4-H teen said “I too sir am flattered you’d make such an offer, but I’m a Ford guy and I’m going to be a lawyer, so when I pass my bar exam, I’ll send you my card.” 

After much more laughter, everyone shook hands and agreed that 4-H was a very good investment for our future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Curt Sinclair is the 4-H Youth Development Extension Specialist for Shooting Sports and Environmental Education. He received his B.S. in Forestry from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale in 1982 and his Master's in Recreation Resource Administration from North Carolina State University in 1988.