Michigan 4-H State Award Spotlight: Amanda Towne

Amanda Towne has been recognized as an outstanding 4-H member in the Michigan 4-H State Awards Program.

Amanda Towne is 17 years-old and in her eleventh year in the Michigan 4-H program. She has been a member of the Van Buren Voyagers Club for nine years, where she is a teen leader and club vice president. Amanda is also involved in Young Explorers.  She has shown dogs, cats, draft horses, chickens and goats and over the years, has expanded her 4-H interests to include environmental science. Amanda believes one of her biggest accomplishments is being a member of the first Envirothon team in Van Buren County in ten years. The team placed first in regionals and proceeded to the state level where they placed second and third in two categories. In 2023, Amanda won the senior Michigan 4-H State Award for Environmental Science.

A Michigan 4-H State Award is the highest honor bestowed on a Michigan 4-H member and provides an opportunity to receive recognition for their engagement in rich learning experiences that result in outstanding knowledge and life-skill development. State award applications are divided into four categories: Mark of Excellence essay contest (11-12 years old), junior state award (13-15 years old), senior state award (16-19 years old) and group awards (13-19 years old).

“4-H makes me a more rounded person as I learn how to help others in need,” said Amanda. “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.”

In 2023, Michigan State University Extension recognized outstanding 4-H members in the Michigan 4-H State Awards Program following the opening session of 4-H Exploration Days on June 21. Learn more about winner, Amanda Towne.

How did you become involved in 4-H?

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.

What other projects have you participated in outside your award area?

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.

What are some skills you’ve learned in 4-H?

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 in the wilderness. Also, because of the activities I do in 4-H, I have developed into a better communicator. Communication is related to so many other important life skills, such as decision making and being able to cooperate with others.

How has 4-H helped you grow as a leader?

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. I have always been a shy person, 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.

What are some ways you give back to your community through 4-H?

A 4-H community service experience that means a lot to me is an outdoor adventure day for kids with special needs. The name of the event is Outdoor Adventures for Kids with Special Needs (OAKS) and it is hosted by the Van Buren Voyagers 4-H Club. The purpose of the event is to help special needs children experience outdoor activities, learn more about the environment, and inspire 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 caregivers became more comfortable with getting 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. To get approval, I attended a Casco Township Board meeting and explained our plan. The board approved 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.

What unique opportunities/experiences have you had through 4-H?

For the past two years, I have attended 4-H Capitol Experience to learn more about our local, state and tribal governments in Michigan. Both times that I have attended, I was a part of the environmental science issue group.

I also attended 4-H Citizenship Washington Focus, where we learned about the government and how laws are made at the federal level. Participants from around the country were able to share their ideas and experiences that have led us here.

How has your 4-H involvement influenced your future plans?

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.

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