URBANA, Ill. – Innovation and dedication of University of Illinois Extension staff has been recognized by the state’s youth development association. The Illinois Extension Professional for Youth Education association announced award winners in program development and marketing.

Shelby Carlson
Shelby Carlson earned state honors in three marketing divisions: promotional piece, photography, and press release. Carlson provides youth development activities for youth in Henderson, Knox, McDonough, and Warren counties.

The Warren County Livestock Judging Contest was the inspiration for Carlson’s winning photo and news release, illuminating the skill and focus a 4-H member must use to assess and rank a livestock class. The promotional postcard, aimed at high school teens, led to an increase in membership in Warren and Henderson County.

Carlson, a 10-year 4-H alum from Knox County, earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Western Illinois University and master’s degree in ag education from University of Illinois Extension.

Martha Ebbesmeyer
Extension 4-H Youth Development Educator Martha Ebbesmeyer won state IEPYE honors in two divisions: ag literacy and health living programming categories. Ebbesmeyer began her career in 2015 and serves families in Carroll, Lee, and Whiteside counties.

Through the 4-H Health Jam program, 275 fifth graders in northwest Illinois understand the importance of making healthy choices in the areas of nutrition, fitness, and substance abuse. The program featured 12 health topics and included tours of hospital departments and a walking challenge for youth.

Ebbesmeyer teamed with colleague Bruce Black, Extension horticulture educator, in a 4-H garden program that earned the ag literacy state award. During 2019, gardens were planted at four locations in the region, and 200 elementary-aged youth planted, nurtured, and harvested vegetables. In addition to gardening, participants ate the vegetables, many tasting foods they had never before eaten. Garden produce was donated to community pantries.

Kristi Stout
Since 2014, Extension Youth Development Educator Kristi Stout has focused attention on teens in the state’s southernmost counties. Her work was recognized as the IEPYE Excellence in Teen Programming Award winner.

In 2019, more than 100 teens in Alexander, Johnson, Massac, Pulaski, and Union counties accepted Stout’s challenge and served as 4-H teen mentors, teachers, ambassadors, and advocates across the five-county unit. The teens complete 30 hours of training, then teach workshops in a variety of topics, such as video making, photography, team building, experiential learning, nutrition, and healthy living.

Stout focuses on helping youth find a place of support and belonging in 4-H. The teens, most new to 4-H, meet in a traditional 4-H club, then expand the 4-H outreach in the community by teaching workshops and school programs, advocating for service projects, and promoting 4-H membership. Teens in the program say they’ve developed partnerships with adult mentors through 4-H.

Sara Marten, Curt Sinclair
The Extension duo of Sara Marten, Extension 4-H youth development educator, and Curt Sinclair, Extension 4-H state youth development specialist, were honored as the state’s best natural resources and environmental 4-H programs by IEPYE. Marten began her Illinois Extension career in 2016 and serves youth in Christian, Jersey, Macoupin, and Montgomery counties. Sinclair served as 4-H Memorial Camp director from 1993 to 2019 when he transferred to the state 4-H office.

Through their work, more than 1,500 youth learned ways to protect pollinators. In the 4-H Honeybee Challenge, youth learn how bees pollinate plants and relay locations to other bees in hive. Because of the program, youth report a greater understanding of the importance of pollinators to food production and know ways to protect pollinator habitat.

4-H Teen Teachers were instrumental in expanding the reach and engagement of the program. In addition, 4-H partnered with the Illinois Audubon Society’s local Bremer Sanctuary to plant pollinator-friendly plants. Part of Sinclair’s and Marten’s work included a planting day with 4-H Food Access Advocate Jackie Joyner-Kersee who planted pollinator-friendly plants with elementary students at 4-H Memorial Camp.

“Seeing these kids, who had never planted anything in their lives, put their hands in the dirt and kneel down with their trowels next to Jackie Joyner-Kersee is something I didn’t think I’d ever see,” a volunteer said.

Susan Sloop
As a former Extension family life educator, Susan Sloop brings a wealth of youth development knowledge to her new role as 4-H educator serving Clark, Crawford, and Edgar counties. An inspired motivator, Sloop adds creative new programs in the areas of healthy living and emotional health.

Sloop was selected as a scholarship winner by the National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development to attend the group’s national meeting. The conference was held virtually in October.

SOURCE: Information provided by Tina Veal, Shelby Carlson, Rachel Hazen, and Alcha Corban
NEWS WRITER: Judy Mae Bingman, Communications and Marketing Manager

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