They do it because someone did it for them.

They do it because their parents modeled the behavior and created a mindset in them that helping others is important.

Mainly, they do it for Deb. Debra Hagstrom has led the Illinois 4-H equine program for years as Extension equine specialist. In addition to hosting the annual contest, she mentors the young people advancing to national competition in horse judging, speaking, horse bowl, and Hippology. That one-on-one time creates lasting bonds with the young people going through her programs.

I wish I could promise you that the fair is going to work out the way you want. I wish I could tell you that you'll have the success you worked for. I wish I could tell you that you'll be recognized for your hard work, your kindness, your dedication, your grit. I wish I could tell you that others who didn't work as hard won't stand ahead of you in the ring, won't get the bigger trophy or the prettier ribbon.

Now, go back and read that again, except this time, instead of "the fair," substitute "your life."

I've smiled every morning for the past six days.
I smile because every morning, I check the Farmfluencer website and see that Montgomery County 4-H member Kendall Knodle's amazing video is still in the running to win.

I smile because it's a good video, based on science, featuring University of Illinois' top crop researchers who are searching for answers to feeding the world's growing population.

I smile because Kendall is 16, and in addition to doing all the things 16-year-olds do, he's out climbing on his tractor and dreaming of saving the world.

For 1,347 4-H members, the next few days will bring the end of high school and the beginning of what comes next.

What comes next may mean new homes, new friends, new jobs, new pursuits, new lives. Wherever and whatever next means for you, let 4-H carry you through the challenging days. Never doubt you are well prepared for what comes next.

The July 21, 1969 issue of The Columbia Missourian said this about Michael Collins, third astronaut joining Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong on the first landing on the moon:

"While the world breathlessly watched and listened for the moon walk by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Mike Collins cruised in orbit overhead. His job was to undertake emergency action if something went wrong, or to pick them up from the lunar module for the return to Earth if everything went right.

Sometimes learning comes in thundering waves; other times as tiny nuggets of wisdom.

More than 500 4-H members studied through the winter and early spring to learn as much as they could about the horse industry. They competed in four regional contests until the best of the best remained to compete in the Illinois State 4-H Horse Bowl, Hippology, and Horse Speaking contests held on campus April 13-14.

It has been a difficult month in rural America. The rain is relentless. Levies are breaking. What crops were planted are washing away. We're all tired and hoping for a break in the weather.

Farming is filled with opportunities for life lessons, but that's nothing new to farm families. We have lessons for breakfast! Let's review some important lessons for this show season.

Be your best self

Photo of Cathryn Frisby
A group of 4-H alumni enjoy 4-H so much, they’re still meeting, 90 years after the oldest began her 4-H journey.

The benefits of overnight camping extend far beyond the simple joys that come from eating roasted marshmallows and jumping into a cool lake on a hot day. Overnight camping is a valued part of the 4-H experience for thousands of children each year and teaches valuable lessons, whether campers realize it at the time or not.

Never doubt how hard Katelyn Hamilton is willing to work. The Randolph County 4-H member has faced serious challenges, yet she has emerged stronger and more determined in spite of them.

Katelyn spent the first 28 days of her life in a neonatal intensive care unit. Doctors said she would likely be wheelchair bound and unable to care for herself. She proved them wrong. At age 5, Katelyn's family home was destroyed, and her family was forced to move frequently.

Aaron Dufelmeier is living the dream, just down the road from where his Extension journey began.

Dufelmeier manages the Extension program in Calhoun, Cass, Greene, Morgan, and Scott counties. In April, he hosted Dr. Kim Kidwell, dean of the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, and Dr. Shelly Nickols-Richardson, interim director of U of I Extension.