4-H Youth in Action: Year in the Life of a 4-H STEM Youth Spokesperson

By Ava Lonneman February 22, 2018

Looking back, 2017 has certainly been a whirlwind of excitement. I’ve traveled to both coasts of the United States, spoken at incredible STEM events with some of the most influential people I’ve ever met in my life, and continued to do what I love, sharing my passion for learning.

I started off my year as the 2017 STEM Pillar winner in February with a film crew and members from National 4‑H Council arriving at my home in Mogadore, Ohio. We filmed for a few days at my home and school to create my Pillar Video. I had such a wonderful time getting to know all the crew and Council members and had a wonderful start to my experience as a Pillar winner.

In March, I began readying myself to embark on what has been the adventure of a lifetime. I flew out to Washington, D.C. for the official 4‑H Legacy Awards ceremony. I had a wonderful stay at National 4‑H Conference Center and enjoyed sightseeing in the D.C. area. While in D.C. I got to meet three of the most inspiring and driven youth I know: Amelia Day, Bryanne Sanchez, and Bubba Sugarman, the other three 2017 Pillar winners. We had media training, photo sessions, tours, hung out with each other and our families, and an overall amazing week. When the night of the Legacy Awards came around, it was so surreal. Just being in a room with so many incredibly influential and powerful people was an experience beyond words. I met some of my biggest idols and found so many new incredible people to look up to. The representatives from my sponsor, HughesNet, were an absolute delight to sit with at the ceremony and just as wonderful as we kept contact throughout the year.

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When I returned from D.C., I had a lot of local paper interviews, and I was even interviewed for RFD-TV. I loved sharing my journey and my message of empowerment with the world. In May, as the school year was beginning to wind down, I set off on my next trip. I flew all the way from Ohio to San Diego California! I had the incredible opportunity of serving as a speaker on a STEM Mentors panel at the U.S. News and World Report STEM Solutions Conference. I got to meet Ursula Burns, Susan Hockfield, and Ellen Ochoa, some of the most powerful women in the STEM world.

When summer rolled around, I had an even busier schedule than during the school year. The week I got off of school, I headed straight to Washington, D.C. on a bus full of other Ohio youth to participate in Citizenship Washington Focus (CWF). I had a great time and met a lot of new people. When I returned from D.C., I headed straight to 4‑H Camp for my third year as a counselor. Once camp was over, it was time for the County Fair life skills project judging and then the State Fair. As soon as I got back home from the state fair, I was onto the next pillar activity. I headed back to Washington, D.C. to host the 4‑H National Youth Science Day Preview Event, hosted by HughesNet.

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When I got back home from my final trip to D.C., it was time to prepare for the County Fair. This year I was named the 2017 First Runner-Up Portage County Fair Queen. I had a whole booth at the Fair dedicated to my time as the STEM Pillar winner and had a wonderful time representing 4‑H.

For my final event as the 2017 STEM Pillar winner, I went to New York City to help host 4‑H National Youth Science Day. I had a great time working with all the students and meeting STEM Ambassadors from around the country. I also had the opportunity to present trophies to two of the three 4‑H NYSD sponsors, HughesNet and Lockheed Martin, and thank them for their continued support of 4‑H.

The past year has been filled with so many incredible opportunities. I’ve had an abundance of new adventures and visited so many new places. Most importantly I met some pretty incredible people and made some amazing new friends. The 4‑H Youth in Action title certainly came with a lot of responsibilities, and they were all incredible. I would never trade my experience for anything in the world.  I am forever thankful for National 4‑H Council and all of their sponsors for growing the leaders of tomorrow and making the best better.