Four Canadian university students inspired in their career paths by their 4-H experiences are getting an extra boost from the organization.
The annual Leadership Excellence Awards of Distinction (LEAD), presented Monday during the 4-H Leadership Awards event in Ottawa, aim to recognize 4-H participants who, according to the organization, “demonstrate 4-H values in the way they live their lives” and honours youth who have become exceptional leaders through the program.
This year’s four winners were each given a $20,000 scholarship.
Josiah Lodewyk of the Niagara 4-H Goat Club is studying systems design engineering at the University of Waterloo with the goal of becoming an agricultural engineer.
“It’s an incredible honour; growing up with 4-H you really realize how much effort and time the volunteers put in to make it possible,” he said. The award “enables me to give back to my community and club through my education and pursue my studies in science and technology.”
Award winners were also paired with a specialized mentor who can help guide the students.
“The future is always a little bit foggy and just knowing there is someone who has already travelled that road, who has similar passions like entrepreneurship and engineering like myself, knowing she has advice for me and can give me some counsel and guidance to reach those goals that I really want to reach,” said Lodewyk.
Doug Sroka from the Maidstone Gully Multiple 4-H Club is hoping to become a clinical psychologist as he pursues his studies at the University of Saskatchewan.
The organization “is a really big thing in my family. My grandma served as the president of 4-H Canada, she served with 4-H Saskatchewan and my mom has been involved with 4-H as well, and all of her siblings – my siblings have all been part of 4-H so this is a really big deal for me,” he said.
“Lots of people perceive 4-H as just being a farming-type club. But it’s trying to shift towards an emphasis on youth development and providing opportunities for youth across the world. So for me, that’s kind of more my avenue within 4-H.”
Riley Callahan from the River Valley 4-H Club is hoping to become an engineer with a focus on the environment and water as he studies at the University of New Brunswick at Fredericton.
He was thankful for the honour as well as the financial award.
The money “allows me to focus more on my studies and not have to worry about not being able to pay my tuition or having to pay off a student loan at the end of the day, so that’s really one of the best benefits and why I’m so honoured to have this award,” he said.
Growing up, Callahan occasionally lost faith in 4-H over his 11 years in the club, but was encouraged to stay involved by his leaders.
“I can clearly see the goal and the mission of 4-H clearly and how this is developing young kids into great leaders for the future,” he said.
University of Saskatchewan student Courtney Taylor, who participated in several 4-H clubs in Alberta, most recently the Warner Beef 4-H Club, was also an award recipient.
Shannon Benner, CEO of 4-H Canada, said the award recognizes the work of the students, but also gives them an opportunity to tell their 4-H story and the impact it can have in communities.
“There’s no better time than now for 4-H. Whether it’s looking at the effects of climate change, to some of the staggering numbers around young people in Canada, to feeding nine billion people by 2050, you know, the time is now,” she said.
“We need to make sure every young person in Canada is thriving, not just surviving, but thriving. And you know, there’s no reason why we can’t do that here and 4-H has got a big role to play there.”
— D.C. Fraser reports for Glacier FarmMedia from Ottawa.