Michigan 4-H State Award Spotlight: Sophia Nielsen

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

Image of 4-H award winner, Sophia Nielsen.

Sophia Nielsen is 14 years old and in her tenth year in the Michigan 4-H program. She is currently involved in the Sandhill 4-H Club and serves as the vice president. Sophia has shown dairy cattle for five years, lambs for three years, and dairy feeders for one year. Her greatest 4-H accomplishment is winning first place Overall Junior Individual at the Michigan 4-H Dairy Judging contest. In 2022, Sophia won the junior Michigan 4-H State Award for Dairy 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 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).

“I have inspired some of my friends to learn more about animals and have enjoyed sharing my passion with them,” said Sophia. “I am also asked by my teachers to explain to the class what I do in 4-H, and they look to me for information on agriculture.”

In 2022, Michigan State University Extension recognized outstanding 4-H members in the Michigan 4-H State Awards Program during the opening session of 4-H Exploration Days on June 22. Learn more about winner, Sophia Nielsen.

How did you become involved in 4-H?

I grew up on a hobby farm with two parents in agriculture. We had a few dairy calves and I was blessed to be able to learn about them. I gained a passion for dairy cattle and wanted to have a future with them. My older sister started showing dairy cattle when I was two years old and later I realized that was something I wanted to do also.

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

At eight years old, I began showing lambs and continued for the next three years. I realized my passion was in cattle, so at the age of 12 I started showing dairy heifers. I have also participated in still life projects such as photography and cooking, beginning at age five.

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

Through my experience in 4-H, I have learned how to manage my time, keep track of money, practice budgeting, figure out proper nutrition for my animal, lead a group in completing projects, and raise and care for an animal.

Through my 4-H dairy heifer project, I have learned problem-solving, social skills, teamwork and stress management.

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

Holding an office as vice president in my club has made a big impact on my confidence. Now I am comfortable leading a group and am not afraid of public speaking.

The leadership skills I have gained in the Sandhill 4-H Club have helped me immensely in school. I am more confident leading groups in class and can better organize them. I often volunteer to lead my group, and through 4-H, I have also learned the importance of listening to others.

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

One of my best community service experiences was cleaning up the fairgrounds. I cleaned up leaves, picked up trash, and trimmed trees. This experience taught me the importance of service to others even if it didn’t directly benefit me.

Another great experience I’ve had is working at the 4-H Food Booth. At the booth, I served customers their food, managed the cash register and took orders. This allowed me to serve others and to gain helpful skills that I can use in future food related jobs, such as customer service and cleanliness. The 4-H Food Booth serves the community with food, but the money raised is also used to help the community.

What unique opportunities have you had through 4-H?

I attended the Michigan State Dairy Expo, which was my first dairy show. By working with my sister, I learned how to clip and fit dairy heifers to prepare them for show. In showmanship, I placed first in my class and was Intermediate Champion Showman.

I also participated in the Michigan 4-H Dairy Days educational contests, specifically the judging and management contests. These allowed me to grow my personal knowledge of the dairy industry and dairy cattle. Giving reasons during the judging contest allowed me to speak with confidence, and better justify my decisions.

Serving as a club officer in the Sandhill 4-H Club has been one of my most significant leadership opportunities. I have been a club officer for three years and I have held the roles of junior historian, junior vice president, junior president, and presently vice president. Previously, I did not have many opportunities to lead a group. 4-H gave me a place to learn how to be a leader.

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

I look forward to leading my club in higher officer and teen leader positions so that I can have a larger role in mentoring younger members and initiating projects. I aim to participate in more county, state and national activities in the future.

After high school, I plan to attend college to earn a degree in either dairy science or agriculture communications. My goal is to focus on studying genetics or advocating with consumers for the dairy industry. I also aim to raise dairy cattle and continue showing them.

Did you find this article useful?