Illinois 4-H educators receive national awards

sara marten sandra prez win national youth development award

URBANA, Ill. – Two University of Illinois Extension 4-H youth development educators were recognized by the National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals for their dedicated and creative work in Illinois 4-H. Sara Marten, Hillsboro, and Sandra Prez, Grayslake, received the Achievement in Service Award during the association’s virtual national conference this week.

Sara Marten
Marten currently serves youth in the central Illinois counties of Christian, Jersey, Macoupin, and Montgomery. She began her Extension career with Purdue Extension in 2015, then returned home to Illinois where she had been an active 4-H member. On returning to Illinois, she served two years developing innovative programs in Franklin, Jackson, Perry, Randolph, and Williamson counties.

Marten’s excellence has long been recognized in state and national Extension efforts, and she is an early adopter of new 4-H programs in natural resources, STEM, and health program areas.

She implemented the 4-H Pollinator Habitat and the 4-H Honeybee Challenge programs, both through National 4-H Council, where she recruited teen teachers and volunteers to help teach youth the importance of providing safe habitats for pollinators. She helped youth develop more than 5,000 square feet of native pollinator plants and grasses at the Bremer Wildlife Sanctuary.

When the 2017 solar eclipse crossed Southern Illinois, Marten worked with area schools and libraries to provide summer day camp lessons on solar science. She brought the nationally-acclaimed 4-H Health Jam program to Southern Illinois. The program encourages healthy choices and the study of health careers by involving local health professional in a 9-week intensive program.

Marten also introduced area school districts to the Welcome to the Real World program where middle and high school youth investigate careers, then participate in a simulation of paying bills, buying cars, finding housing, and purchasing groceries as an introduction of the decisions they’ll need to make as adults.

Marten is sought by her peers for her mentoring and creative approach to youth development. She has presented at two national conventions. In addition to the ASA, Marten was honored by the Illinois Extension Professionals for Youth Education association for work in STEM and camping.

Sandra Prez
Prez has brought hundreds of new youth in the urban regions of northeast Illinois to 4-H. As a bi-lingual Spanish speaker, she is breaking through the language barrier to open new opportunities to youth and their families.

Prez serves youth in Lake and McHenry counties. She initiated the national 4-H Tech Wizards program in Round Lake. The program offers after school mentoring to middle school youth. Using science, technology, engineering, and math as the program content, Prez creates a welcoming environment where students want to learn. Adults provide mentoring, while teens, trained by Prez, provide the technology lessons. Prez was the first to include teens in the delivery in Illinois.

In 2016, Prez initiated a bilingual Parenting Success program which introduced 4-H to new audiences in Waukegan. She presented both Spanish and English portions of the lessons concurrently so that both sets of learners were receiving the information at the same time. The program has expanded to eight schools in the city.

Prez was also the early adopter of Juntos, a college readiness program which helps youth and families receive career and academic counseling. The program includes summer college visits and meets as 4-H clubs.

Prez is one of 16 Illinois Extension staff trained as a facilitator for Navigating Difference, a cultural competency program, which reaches over 600 Illinois Extension staff members. Prez trained her national peers on her Latino outreach efforts at the 2017 National 4-H Conference. She was honored as a member of the state’s interdisciplinary team and for her work in the STEM area.

WRITER: Judy Mae Bingman, Marketing and Communications Manager, Illinois Extension

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