New 4-H specialist strengthens Extension commitment to youth education in Central Illinois

URBANA, Ill. – Illinois 4-H strives to unlock the potential in every young person, helping them to dream, plan, design, build, and achieve. Around the state, University of Illinois Extension 4-H youth development staff guide the next generation of leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs.

In June, Illinois Extension and 4-H welcomed Ben Steele to serve as 4-H youth development educator in DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt counties.

“We are very excited to add Ben to our team,” says County Director Doug Harlan. “His decades of experience as a teacher in Central Illinois will help us continue to build relationships with area school districts and provide engaging learning opportunities for youth to help them thrive inside and outside the classroom.”

Steele joins Extension with more than 20 years of experience as a public-school educator for 2nd through 8th grades. He saw Illinois Extension as an opportunity to work with youth in a new setting and he will work to provide leadership to the youth and development program that supports 4-H clubs and special interest groups, as well as educational programs in Central Illinois.

“The opportunity to provide programs that can appeal to and benefit youth inside or outside of the classroom is exciting,” Steele says. “I look forward to continue to positively impact the youth of Macon County,” Steele says.

Steele is originally from Champaign and has a degree in Elementary Education from University of Illinois. His graduate degree work focused on how to implement the engineering design process with youth.

He plans to expand partnerships with local school districts and find new ways to deliver 4-H programs Decatur area youth. Steele is based in the Macon County office in Decatur and can be reached at or (217) 877-6042.

University of Illinois Extension educators and specialists connect every county in Illinois with university research through in-person and distance-learning programming and other educational outreach. They work to provide businesses, families, and agricultural producers with the practical tools and resources needed to solve problems.

WRITEREmily Steele, Media Communications Coordinator, Illinois Extension

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions.

ILLINOIS 4-H is the flagship youth development program of University of Illinois Extension. 4-H grows true leaders, youth who are empowered for life today and prepared for a career tomorrow. The hands-on approach in 4-H gives young people guidance, tools, and encouragement, and then puts them in the driver’s seat to make great things happen.