SPOTLIGHT ON MICHIGAN 4-H STATE AWARDS – AMANDA TOWNE: 2023 SENIOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AWARD
A Michigan 4-H State Award is the highest honor given to a Michigan 4-H’er. The awards recognize honorees’ knowledge and life skill development.
The awards are typically given out during 4-H Exploration Days, which is held in mid-June on the campus of Michigan State University.
Excerpts from the awards portfolios of 2023 Michigan 4-H State Award Winner Amanda Towne follows. Her responses have been edited for clarity and length.
Amanda Towne, 17, says she has always been shy, “but the leadership experiences I gain through 4-H help build my confidence so that I am comfortable speaking in front of others, providing guidance and setting examples for others.” Towne is in her eleventh year in the Michigan 4-H program and tenth year in the Van Buren Voyagers 4-H Club, where she is now a teen leader and club vice president. She is also involved in Young Explorers.
Towne has shown dogs, cats, draft horses, chickens and goats, and over the years, has expanded her 4-H interests to include shooting sports and environmental science. She says one of her biggest accomplishments is being a member of the first Envirothon team in Van Buren County in 10 years. The team placed first in regionals and second and third in two categories at the state level.
In 2022, Towne won the junior Michigan 4-H State Award for shooting sports. In 2023, she won the senior Michigan 4-H State Award for environmental science.
“4-H makes me a more rounded person as I learn how to help others in need,” Towne said. “If I had not been introduced to 4-H, I would not have the same type of outgoing personality or be able to communicate as effectively.”
Q. How did you become involved in 4-H?
A. I joined 4-H as a Cloverbud and began learning how to make still exhibits. Over the years, I expanded into other project areas, with a growing interest in environmental science.
Q. What other 4-H projects have you participated in outside your award area?
A. Some of my other 4-H projects have been showing dogs, cats, chickens, draft horses, goats and sheep. I also create exhibits and sometimes perform in the annual talent show playing the piano, guitar or ukulele.
Q. What are some skills you’ve learned in 4-H?
A. Through my environmental science project, I have developed skills in personal safety, communication, contribution to group effort, and critical thinking. Being in the outdoors teaches me the importance of safety, such as being aware of my surroundings and what gear I should take with me when I go into the wilderness. My 4-H activities have helped me become a better communicator. Communication is related to so many other important life skills, such as decision making and being able to cooperate with others.
Q. How has 4-H helped you grow as a leader?
A. As a 4-H member, being an officer in my club, participating in 4-H Exploration Days as a delegate, and attending educational workshops has contributed to my development and personal growth as a leader.
Q. What are some ways you give back to your community through 4-H?
A. A 4-H community service experience that means a lot to me is an outdoor adventure day for kids with special needs. The event is Outdoor Adventures for Kids with Special Needs (OAKS) and it is hosted by the Van Buren Voyagers 4-H Club. The event helps special needs children experience outdoor activities and learn more about the environment, and inspires them to spend more time outside. OAKS had a positive impact on my community. Not only did the kids enjoy the day and discover new ways to enjoy the outdoors, but their caregivers became more comfortable with getting the kids outside.
Another way I have given back to my community is when our Envirothon team organized a beach cleanup at the Casco Township Lake Michigan Beach Preserve. After I explained our plan at a Casco Township Board meeting, the board approved the plan and provided a dumpster for the event. By doing the cleanup, we were able to bring awareness to the community and made a positive step toward cleaning our waters.
Q. What unique opportunities or experiences have you had through 4-H?
A. For the past two years, I have attended 4-H Capitol Experience to learn more about our local, state and tribal governments in Michigan. I was part of the environmental science issue group both years.
I also attended 4-H Citizenship Washington Focus, where we learned about the federal government and how laws are made at the federal level. Participants from around the country were able to share their ideas and experiences.
Q. How has your 4-H involvement influenced your future plans?
A. I plan to study biology and genetics at Northern Michigan University. I am exploring the possibility of becoming a wildlife geneticist. The skills I gained from 4-H motivate me to continue my path in protecting the environment and promoting land conservation.