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Erin Anderson is an 8-year member of the Fountain Creek Stitch ‘N Do 4-H Club. Erin’s parents are Todd and Sara Anderson of Rankin.

She was awarded an $1,000 scholarship and will be attending Danville Area Community College majoring in Agriculture Communications.

Her scholarship essay is printed below:

How 4-H Has Influenced Me

For me, 4-H has been such an important part of my life for so long. Through this organization, I have learned so much. I have made lifelong friendships, tried new things, stepped out of my comfort zone, and have grown into a better leader because of this organization. 4-H has brought my love of agriculture to new heights. Through both 4-H and FFA, I have been able to discover my love for the agriculture industry and find my future career very early in life.

There have been so many life changing experiences during fair week that have taught me so much about myself and my future. I have learned how to take a loss and accept success with grace and gratitude, despite the outcome. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and that there is always something to be learned when you do not win. Every year, I come back to the fair with a fresh perspective and a new attitude that makes fair week so special. I get to spend time with my friends and gain encouragement from them in every way. I know that win or lose, the memories I have made in 4-H only better prepare me for the future.

I joined 4-H after a lot of the other kids. I was hesitant because I was very shy when I was young. Joining 4-H sounded like a good idea until I realized that I would have to talk to a total stranger during judging. I knew the judges were going to be judging me on every decision on a project that I worked so hard to make. I found it really difficult to talk to these people when I was first starting out. Talking in front of the judges didn’t become an easy thing for me until I was in middle school and high school. Even then, I was hesitant about what to tell them. During middle school, I was so worried about what other people thought of me and what they were going to say. It wasn’t until I modeled onstage for the first time during the Iroquois County Fashion Revue that I actually liked the judging portion of 4-H. I got to model something that I made or bought and talk to the judge with ease about a new item of clothing that I was going to wear. The judges had nothing but positive things to say about my project and what a pretty smile I had. From that point on, I was able to get on stage with ease and have even taken on a role as an Iroquois County Fashion Board Member. I get to help other girls with modeling for the first time and prepare them for clothing judging.

4-H has given me the confidence to really speak my mind about things that I love and has even given me more confidence in my appearance. 4-H is where I gained my confidence. For years, I wasn’t able to smile or talk to people because I was so shy. 4-H gave me the skills I needed to take on the various challenges that I have faced. Starting 4-H at a young age gave me more experience in areas of leadership that I couldn’t have gotten from any other organization. When I got to middle school, I already knew what a meeting would be like and what was going to be discussed. I was also able to make friends with different groups of people and in different organizations. This made my transition from middle school to high school easier. I got involved and found my passions during my freshman year. 4-H gave me the confidence I needed to talk to the scary upperclassman and ask for help whenever I needed it. Looking at me now you probably wouldn’t think that I would ever have a problem talking in front of people. 4-H helped me overcome my fear of public speaking and turn it into something that I love very much. As I am preparing to go to college, I know that the experiences I have had in 4-H will prepare me for what’s to come.

Through 4-H, I have learned how important it is to be a team player and accept that others have other opinions than you. My first encounters with people, other than at school, was in 4-H. I learned how to speak up and not be afraid to voice my opinion. As Student Council President this year, I have taken charge of different committees and have encountered various issues. I have learned how important it is to resolve these issues with respect and accountability.

There have been times where this was difficult and I wasn’t able to make everyone happy. Even as Senior Class President, I have had to learn how to work with people that don’t necessarily respect what I have to say. I had to learn how to respect this and go with their opinion even if I didn’t like the idea. Leadership is about compromise and what will act in the best interest of your organization or task. When working with different groups of people, you have to learn how to a proach hem and how to ask them for help. I was able to tackle these different situations and encounters because of my early experiences within 4-H. Different people react to situations differently than others. You will encounter issues before you are able to accomplish anything, but what is most important is using teamwork to achieve your goal.

My favorite project to participate in is Scrapbooking. I have participated in this project since my very first year of 4-H. It wasn’t a difficult decision to start in this project area because my mom has been scrapbooking for many years. At first, I wanted to be just like her and make memory books to showcase some of our families’ best memories. Over time, I have learned to love it and find my own personalized way to showcase these memories. Recently, I have been

scrapbooking each year of high school in books to display at my graduation party. I decided that this was a more personalized way to display these memories instead of putting pressure on my mom to do it all herself at the end of my high school career. I was able to spend more time on each year and really take the time to reflect on these memories. I try to make every book better and more unique to show how much I have grown over the past four years. The most important skill I have learned in this project area is that there is no right or wrong way to do something when it comes to personal creativity. It is being able to explain why you did what you did and

why a certain book or event is important to you. Looking at my first book, I lacked a lot of organization and personal creativity to really make it my own. I have learned from these mistakes and found ways to give each book the uniqueness that I wanted. This project has given me the opportunity to show my personality on each page while also learning how to switch it up each year.

Leadership is something that I have grown to love over the years. Through my roles as President and Secretary of the Fountain Creek Stitch ‘N Do 4-H Club, I have learned how to correctly lead a parliamentary procedure meeting. This is a skill that I will be using for the rest of my life and is also something that I must understand. I have also found my love for public speaking. Acting as a member of our 4-H club’s officer team was one of my first experiences speaking in front of people. I had a lot of help from the older members in order to get me comfortable with the transition. The older girls in our 4-H club acted as role models for me of how involved I wanted to be in 4-H. I found what I was really good at and picked projects that fit my interests. Over the past few years, I have been one of the two junior leaders. I get to talk to these girls often and learn about them as individuals. I have learned how important it is to encourage our younger members and make sure that they know what they should be doing in their project and at the fair. Throughout my time in 4-H, I have learned the true definition of what it means to lead by example.

4-H has given me my drive for success in every area of my life. I hold myself to the highest of standards and expect myself to get better with every passing day. 4-H taught me that it is okay to fail but to get up and work harder the next time. Through judging, I have been able to take the advice that the judges give me and come back better next year. I have stayed involved in 4-H because it is something that I enjoy and continues to make me better. It gave me my drive and keeps my dreams alive. I have gained so many friends that love this organization as much as I do. They inspire me to achieve my dreams and how important it is to work hard to achieve them. 4-H truly has inspired me to make the best better with every passing day.