After graduating from Central Michigan University in spring 2021, Mecosta County 4-H alum Kiara Cushway sent a follow-up letter thanking Mecosta County 4-H once again for her 4-H scholarship, citing 4-H for helping in her educational and career choices.
By Abbey Miller
Mecosta County 4-H alumna Kiara Cushway was involved in Michigan 4-H, Michigan State University Extension’s youth development program, for 14 years. She started out as a member of Big Rapids Community Club and spent most of her 4-H career as a member of Grant Center Pioneers 4-H Club.
“4-H was one of the most memorable experiences I had growing up and played a large role in shaping me to become who I am today,” Cushway said. “The life lessons I learned and the skills and friendships I gained during 4-H, as well as the connections I forged with my animals, have meant a lot to me and have helped foster my passion and love for animals and nature.”
Cushway participated in a variety of 4-H project areas, including turkeys, pigs, ducks, arts and crafts, flower arranging and basketry, among other things. She attended the Mecosta County 4-H Camp as a child, and was a 4-H camp counselor.
“4-H helped foster my love for learning and taught me many valuable skills that helped me succeed in school and as a developing member of my community,” she said. “4-H also provided me with mentors who were invested in my success and who believed in my abilities and were willing to help me grow and learn. As a young person, these relationships and opportunities meant the world to me and helped me grow into the person I am today.”
She continued, “When I was young, pledging my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living may have just been words that were spoken at meetings or before shows. But as I have grown and developed, they have become a mantra that I strive to live by. The meaning behind these words and the actions required by them encourage me to use the lessons I have learned in 4-H to work towards making the world a better place in whatever ways I can.”
After graduating from Big Rapids High School, Cushway received the 2017 Mecosta County 4-H Scholarship from the Mecosta County Fair Board that she applied towards her post-secondary education at Central Michigan University (CMU). During her undergraduate years, she had the opportunity to study abroad and complete a variety of research projects. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in spring 2021.
Ever grateful for the foundation the 4-H program provided her and for the financial support of the scholarship, Cushway sent a follow-up letter thanking the Mecosta County 4-H community after her graduation.
“I am very thankful for the support of Mecosta County 4-H and its investment in my future,” wrote Cushway. “I would not have had the flexibility and opportunity I did without the support I had from groups like yours. I am also very thankful for the experiences, lessons learned, friends made and skills that I acquired during my 4-H years participating in the Mecosta County 4-H program. The memories I have from 4-H are some of the best I have, and 4-H was an integral part of the foundation of my educational and life success!”
Cushway also shared some of the highlights of her college experience at CMU. This included a faculty-led study abroad in New Zealand and a semester abroad in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands where she studied tropical ecology in the rainforests of the Amazon, island biogeography in the famed Galapagos Archipelago and marine ecology in the Pacific Ocean. Cushway was also engaged in a CMU research lab that was focused on native freshwater mussels. Through the lab, Cushway conducted her own research in Michigan rivers, presented at local, state and national and international conferences, and submitted her work for publication. Cushway’s prestigious efforts at CMU were honored with the 2021 CMU Provost’s Award, a group of awards given to only 10 outstanding undergraduate students.
With her undergraduate work complete, Cushway plans to continue her education at Texas State University where she has obtained a fully funded graduate assistantship and she will pursue a master’s degree in aquatic resources. Cushway credits 4-H for helping to shape both her educational and career choices.
“When I graduated high school, I was unsure about what I might want to pursue, but because of 4-H, I knew that I loved working with nature and animals. When I found the biology program and the scientific research that I eventually became involved in, it felt natural to fall into a path that involved animals and conservation. My experiences with 4-H left me very well prepared for both working with and caring for animals in a research setting and designing and conducting scientific research. The love that I have for animals and science that 4-H fostered within me became one of the driving forces behind my post-secondary education, and the feeling of being a part of something bigger and better than yourself that came with being a part of 4-H is something I strive for as a student and a future career professional.”
Beyond helping set her down her current path in life, Cushway also thanks 4-H for helping to develop life skills that benefit her personally and professionally.
“The life lessons that I gained through 4-H have been both multitudinous and indispensable. Caring for my animal projects taught me responsibility and dependability and helped me develop a strong work ethic. Completing record books for my market animals taught me how to conduct basic research and balance and calculate budgets. Working with other 4-H members and clubs taught me collaboration and how to be an effective member of a team. Working with animals also taught me that practice, patience and preparedness can take you far in life, but that it is also important to be willing to be flexible and adapt to situations when things don’t go as planned.”
When asked one of her most memorable 4-H experiences, Cushway recalled one of her first times showing chickens, at 5 or 6 years old as a Cloverbud, a 4-H program for 5- to 7-year-olds. She was very shy and terrified to participate in showmanship. Her parents and sisters had practiced with her to prepare, and she knew exactly what to do, but froze in front of the judge.
“I probably would have quit then and there,” she said. “But, an older girl came up and helped me walk through the showmanship. Her encouragement gave me the confidence to finish the show, and her willingness to help a little kid she didn’t even know has stuck with me, and I think this really embodies what it means to be a 4-H’er.”
Cushway highly recommends 4-H to everyone, she says. “The life lessons I learned and the friendships and skills I developed during my years in 4-H are invaluable to me and have helped me in almost every aspect of my life. The memories I have of 4-H will always be dear to me, and the experiences, connections and opportunities that I had are something that I hope all children could have access to during their formative years and as they are growing to become a part of our local and global communities.”
To learn more about becoming involved with Michigan 4-H as a youth member or adult volunteer, visit the Michigan 4-H website.
Millenbah recommended as CANR interim dean
Kelly F. Millenbah, Ph.D., has been recommended as interim dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), effective July 1, 2021, pending MSU Board of Trustees approval. Millenbah currently serves as CANR senior associate dean, a position she will retain during her assignment as interim dean. She will replace Ronald L. Hendrick, Ph.D., who was named provost and vice president of academic affairs at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, a post he begins serving July 1.
Tyler appointed MSU Extension interim director
On May 1, Quentin R. Tyler, Ph.D., CANR associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, became interim director of MSU Extension. Tyler replaces Patrick Cudney who served as acting director after Jeff Dwyer, Ph.D., stepped down as director of MSU Extension for a sabbatical. Both the MSU Extension director and CANR dean represent permanent trustee positions on the Michigan 4-H Foundation board of trustees. As such, Tyler, and soon Millenbah, will hold these trustee positions on the board.
Johnson named associate director of MSU Extension’s children and youth initiatives
Brian Johnson, Ph.D., J.D., was named associate director of the MSU Extension Children and Youth Institute (CYI) effective Feb. 1. Johnson works alongside Erica Tobe, CYI director, and Jacob DeDecker, who also serves as CYI associate director and Michigan 4-H state leader. Johnson provides leadership in reaching underserved populations and expanding programs. He was chosen for the position after a search that highlighted his leadership in diversity, equity and inclusion practices and approaches.
MSU Extension development staff transitions
On Feb. 1, Amanda Masters, assistant director of development for 4-H, transitioned to the role of associate director of development for the MSU College of Education. In addition, Bridget Paff, MSU Extension development director, retired Dec. 5. MSU Extension is in discussions with college leadership and University Advancement to determine next steps for these MSU Extension development positions. In the interim, Tami Baumann, CANR senior director of development, serves as the point person for MSU Extension and 4-H philanthropy.
The Hal and Jean Glassen Foundation made a $100,000 gift to establish a new 4-H endowed fund with the Michigan 4-H Foundation to support the
Michigan 4-H Shooting Sports Program.
The Hal and Jean Glassen 4-H Shooting Sports Endowment Fund will provide funds for training and equipping 4-H shooting sports volunteer instructors and youth statewide. An endowment is a fund that is held permanently. The corpus of the fund is invested and held intact, and the earnings from the fund are used to support 4-H programs.
“Endowments are the gifts that keep on giving,” said Tom Huggler, president of the Glassen Foundation. “We have been supporting the 4-H Shooting Sports Instructor Training Workshop annually for about 20 years. We established the endowment so it can be funded in perpetuity.”
The Glassen Foundation’s focus is on environmental and outdoor education, shooting sports programs and enhancing wildlife, and animal welfare research.
“The foundation formed when Hal and Jean died in the 1990s,” Huggler said. “They had no children, but wanted to do good work.”
Hal and Jean Glassen were avid hunters, outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife conservationists. The Glassen Foundation was formed to continue their lifelong ambitions and goals. Hal, a University of Wisconsin graduate, was a partner in the Lansing law firm of Glassen, Rhead, McLean, Campbell and Schumacher and practiced law for 62 years prior to his death in 1992. Jean was the first woman to graduate from the University of Wisconsin. With a degree in bacteriology, she pursued a career as a biologist with the Michigan Department of Public Health.
“The Michigan 4-H Shooting Sports program is going to be a key component and contributor to the growth of shooting sports, but also to the reach for excellence in the competitive aspects of shooting,” he said.
The Glassen Foundation has been a Michigan 4-H donor and partner for the past 20 years. They have annually supported the 4-H Shooting Sports Volunteer and Instructor Training Workshop at Kettunen Center. In 2017, they provided a gift to expand resources for the shooting sports program with the purchase of a trailer to store and transport training equipment. They have also given to Project KATCH and Kettunen Center’s outdoor education program previously.
“The new endowed fund will provide continuous support of our shooting sports volunteer training workshops, ensuring this project’s
growth and sustainability for years to come,” said Laura Quist, MSU Extension program coordinator for 4-H Shooting Sports.
Quist explained that hunting and shooting is a popular family activity throughout Michigan. Like any content area, the project is the “hook” that can attract a new audience to the 4-H program. While engaged in hands-on learning experiences, youth practice safe handling of equipment, gain natural resourcesrelated knowledge and skills, and engage in ethical behavior, sportsmanship and stewardship activities. In the process, they learn critical life skills, such as leadership, self-esteem, self-discipline, goal setting, communication and record-keeping.
“We apply the same learn-by-doing approach to shooting sports that you’ll see in any other project area,” Quist said. “Shooting sports volunteers are a highly trained, dedicated group of individuals, who receive more hours of coaching than any other volunteer group across our organization.”
4-H shooting sports volunteers participate in a 15-hour workshop to become certified instructors to offer live-fire activities with 4-H members. Instruction covers skill content, safety, risk management and youth development topics. These workshops are in turn provided by a subset of these volunteers, who are experienced content experts, certified to co-lead these workshops by National 4-H Shooting Sports.
“This gift will allow Michigan 4-H to annually send new trainers to these National 4-H trainer events, to help ensure our program, workshops and curriculum are consistent with standards set for 4-H programs nationwide,” Quist said.
“Already in 2020, Michigan 4-H Shooting Sports has hosted four regional training workshops, offering instruction in archery, shotgun and hunting and wildlife disciplines. Partially funded by the Glassen Foundation’s past gifts, these workshops are bringing new volunteers and members into our fold,” she added.
Kalkaska County 4-H was able to use these workshops to attract new volunteers and families. After certifying two new archery instructors
in January, their inspired volunteers turned around and recruited an additional two more volunteers. Together, this team offered a new
archery program that recruited 32 youth into a new archery club. Of those youth, 75% of participants are brand new families to 4-H. Due
to their large response, they have incorporated science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities into their club meetings, so
youth participate in hands-on science activities while they await their turn with the bows. Other counties have similar stories to share.
Thanks to the Glassen Endowment, Michigan 4-H plans to send a volunteer team to the National 4-H Shooting Sports Trainer workshop
in Virginia, scheduled for October 2020.
For nearly 60 years, Michigan 4-H’ers and volunteers have explored their inner creativity and learned new talents at 4-H’s skill-building workshops at Kettunen Center.
The Michigan 4-H Creative Arts Celebration Workshop (which is a combination of the former 4-H Visual Arts and Crafts Workshop and the 4-H Clothing and Textiles Workshop), took place at Kettunen Center in Tustin, Michigan, Oct. 19-20, 2019 for its 29th year.
Even though the name is creative arts, 4-H Youth Development educator Janis Brinn says “This workshop is so much more than doing arts and crafts; it is gaining life skills.”
Many sessions were offered at the workshop including 4-H performing arts, 4-H visual arts, and sewing and textiles. Participants learned new things, made new friends and put all their creativity to work and had a fabulous time. The workshop goal was for all the participants to gain valuable resources and skills and share them with their home counties.
Over 100 participants attended the workshop, including youth ages 12 to 19, volunteers and a guest 4-H staff member from Taiwan.
The collected evaluations showed that the workshop was a success. A few positive comments included:
“I look forward to this every year. I gain so much knowledge and new craft ideas to take to my club.”
“I loved all my sessions, instructors were amazing, and I learned so much. I can’t wait to share with my county.”
“Learned a variety of crafts that can be taught to different age groups.”
Each year a silent auction and fabric sale is held at the workshop to raise funds for following year’s workshop and the 4-H State Awards.
The 4-H China Art artwork, featured in the MSU Extension article, “Michigan 4-H receives special gift of artwork from China,” that was proudly displayed at the 2017 workshop was brought back for all to see.
The Michigan 4-H Creative Arts Celebration Workshop was successful in growing creativity, life skills, friendships, fun and more.
MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development help prepare youth as positive and engaged leaders and global citizens by providing educational experiences and resources for youth interested in developing knowledge and skills in these areas.
Three outstanding 4-H volunteers will receive 2019-20 Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) 4-H Excellence in Agriculture Awards.
Beth Clark, of Shiawassee County; Vera Kempf, of Newaygo County and Andrew Walker, of Ogemaw County will receive $1,000 grants, funded by the Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) 4-H Excellence in Agriculture Endowment, to help support a 4-H agricultural program of their choosing, for volunteer training, supplies or curricula to enhance 4-H programming locally and statewide.
Honorees have been leaders in youth development and education achievements of Michigan 4-H through agricultural project areas including beef cattle; dairy cattle; goats; horses; horticulture, crops and soils; poultry; rabbits; sheep; swine; and veterinary science programs. Honorees will be recognized by both Michigan 4-H and by Michigan Farm Bureau. Honorees will also receive a personalized recognition memento.
The MFB 4-H Excellence in Agriculture Award is supported by an endowment with the Michigan 4-H Foundation, established by Michigan Farm Bureau in 2006. County Farm Bureaus and individuals were asked to build the endowment and Michigan Farm Bureau matched gifts received from county Farm Bureaus up to $50,000, resulting in a $100,000 endowment. The awards have been given since 2008. To learn more about the award, past award winners or to nominate an individual for the 2020-21 award, visit https://mi4hfdtn.org/4-h-emerald-awards/michigan-farm-bureau-4-h-excellence-in-agriculture-award.
Beth Clark, Shiawassee County (photo not available)
Only a leader for a short time, Beth Clark has already made an impact. Driving 4-H’ers to opportunities when their parents are unable and creating educational worksheets to teach members about swine, sheep and beef cattle are just two examples of her willingness to go above and beyond. She has created a program in which she encourages youth to engage with individuals and businesses to explain the importance of their swine projects to Shiawassee County and to gain necessary communication skills. She has assisted many of her club members in winning various awards such as Youth Sportsperson of the Year, the Mark of Excellence Competition and the Sweepstakes Competition.
Vera Kempf, Newaygo County
Kempf was a 4-H volunteer from 1950 until her death in 2018. For nearly seven decades, she worked with the youth in her area, providing them with many new opportunities. She created new experiences for youth to learn about animals by inviting veterinarians to teach them about a variety of species such as cattle, llamas, draft horses, saddle horses, sheep, goats, reindeer, ducks and pet fish. She started a program to raise and enter beef calves at the fair that awards a heifer to the winner to foster a youth’s love for the program. She encouraged involvement in many other programs such as Key Club Awards, trips to Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, and 4-H international exchange programs. She also taught youth to compete at national level competitions for various species.
Andrew Walker, Ogemaw County
A former youth participant, Andrew Walker has been a 4-H volunteer since 2009. He has been active in the swine project area, working to increase the knowledge of 60 to 75 4-H’ers every year, the largest 4-H club in Ogemaw County. He also serves on both the large and small animal livestock advisory committees and during fair week, he is the sheep and goat barn superintendent. In 2016, he had been instrumental in the funding of the MSU Extension Ogemaw County programs, when many budget cuts occurred on the state level. He helped organize various campaigns to provide more opportunities for Ogemaw County youth such as organizing holiday parades, scripting and recruiting for radio advertisements, and designing promotional materials. He encourages youth to go outside their comfort zone by applying for state awards and attending 4-H Exploration Days.
Across the state, county and globe, the novel coronavirus, the virus that causes the infectious disease COVID-19, has upended everyday life in nearly every way. In Michigan, families and communities struggle to adapt to closed schools and businesses while working to preserve their own health, well-being and sense of normalcy. For many Michigan 4-H’ers, lending a helping hand is part of that normal, and many have sprung into action to help their communities during this unprecedented time.
Across the state, 4-H’ers have many ways to serve their communities while practicing social distancing. Among them are:
• Kalkaska County 4-H member Amy Saxton issued a 4-H Dare to Serve Challenge for other 4-H’ers to join in her Cards for a Cause efforts, encouraging youth to send cards to individuals living in adult foster care homes not able to receive visitors at this time.
• Similarly, 4-H’ers in Lapeer and Schoolcraft counties are writing letters and cards of kindness to residents of local
senior centers and nursing homes.
• Alger County 4-H’ers volunteered to shop for seniors who didn’t feel safe traveling to the store to purchase their groceries and other supplies.
• 4-H’ers in Delta, Eaton, Lake, Kalamazoo and Menominee counties have been sewing masks at home to donate to medical facilities in need.
• The Sebations, a 4-H family in St. Clair County, re-purposed a fair billboard thanking our essential workers.
“I continue to be impressed by the overwhelming generosity and creativity of our 4-H members, volunteers and staff across the state to continue the 4-H mission,” said Jacob DeDecker, Michigan 4-H state leader. “Our 4-H community remains committed to helping one another, while still practicing social distancing as directed by local, state and federal agencies.”
Youth aren’t the only ones stepping up in this time of need. Many 4-H program coordinators have come up with creative ways to continue 4-H programming and to promote 4-H.
• Charlevoix and Luce counties created 4-H project bags and activity handouts to include in sack lunches distributed by schools.
• Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Schoolcraft counties sent 4-H activity kits to Cloverbud members (youth aged 5 to 7) with age-appropriate activities such as Science on a Stick, a basil seed planting kit, Be a Nature Detective, Fun Fit Hike, instructions on making an origami clover and some clover coloring pages.
• Alger, Antrim, Crawford, Eaton, Kalkaska, Marquette and Schoolcraft County program coordinators have moved short-term special interest (SPIN) clubs online to engage youth virtually in a variety of topics.
With a sudden halt to many crowd-favorite, statewide face-toface programs, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension staff members quickly converted and developed online content to serve the 4-H community. In addition, many new and exciting programs have been created to connect youth and families virtually with 4-H.
“In tough times, such as the uncertainty surrounding the current novel coronavirus pandemic, we recognize that accessing the vast knowledge and resources of MSU is more important than ever,” DeDecker said.
Online sessions offered have included a variety of topics including Family Yoga, Basics of Credit for Youth, Writing Wednesdays and an Animal Science Lunch and Learn Lecture series. Several counties have also developed county-wide online scavenger hunts. In addition, a Lenawee County 4-H volunteer and teacher is recording chicks hatching and sharing videos online to teach embryology.
MSU Extension has assembled a collection of digital offerings and educational materials in a new Remote Learning and Resources space. Part of this resource pool is a compilation of helpful educational resources for parents and caregivers. To learn
more, visit https://www.canr.msu.edu/rlr
Alger County 4-H member Kennedy DeFrancesco, of Munising, was elected to the Michigan 4-H Foundation board of trustees at its January board meeting.
Michigan 4-H Foundation trustees are volunteers who serve as community advocates for 4-H and lead and manage the operation of the Michigan 4-H Foundation. DeFrancesco was elected to one of the three positions on the board reserved for trustees between the ages of 16 and 22. These trustees, all 4-H members, provide a youth voice to the board and help it to keep to the 4-H mission.
DeFrancesco has been a member of Alger County’s Munising 4-H Club since 2010. She initially became involved in the 4 H projects of crafts, sewing, scrapbooking and then community service. Through her experiences with 4-H she has grown comfortable in using her voice and providing insights and thoughts about many issues that are critical to 4-H and her own life.
She also worked to develop her leadership skills, through events such as 4-H Capitol Experience, the Michigan 4 H State Youth Leadership Council, the Michigan 4-H Youth Leadership and Global Citizen Spectacular, 4-H Citizenship Washington Focus and National 4-H Congress. She received the 4-H Teen of the Year Award and served as the U.P. 4-H travel coordinator as she and her peers from northern Michigan traveled to Atlanta, Georgia. Her 4-H experience has led her to study political science at Ferris State University where she is a member of the Speech and Debate Team and Model UN. She has a strong interest and focus on women’s advocacy.