Michigan 4-H State Awards: Writing your 4-H story

State Awards recognize 4-H members for engaging in rich learning experiences resulting in outstanding knowledge and life skill development. Learn how to write your 4-H story for your application.

A 4-H story is an opportunity for a 4-H member to reflect upon their 4-H experiences and communicate how and why 4-H has affected them. 4-H members applying for Michigan 4-H State Awards will submit a copy of their 4-H story. Members may find throughout their 4-H career that there are a number of award and scholarship applications that will request them to submit their 4-H story. A member’s 4-H story will be their own distinctive composition, as each member may have differing 4-H experiences from other members, perceive their experiences from their unique perspective, and glean diverse knowledge and skills from their experiences.

A member’s 4-H story should:

  • Provide the reader an opportunity to learn about the 4-H member and their experiences from the member’s own perspective.
  • Be written in first person, using pronouns such as “I,” “we,” “my” and “me.”
  • Be personable.
  • Paint a vivid picture for the reader, highlighting the aspects of the member’s 4-H experiences they feel are most meaningful or important.
  • Make the reader feel like they are getting to know the 4-H member and their projects personally.
  • Convey what makes their 4-H experience unique from any other member’s experience.
  • Be one continuous narrative. Although the directions may identify parts or topics to address within the 4-H story, the member should not use subheadings to identify the specific parts within the script.

4-H members should be cautious when sharing personal information so as not to impose any undue risk upon their personal safety. It is a best practice to have a trusted adult such a parent or 4-H leader review the 4-H story before it is published to ensure the information shared will not cause risk to the member. The MSU Extension article “Personal safety is a 4-H life skill” provides additional tips to ensure members practice safety.

The 4-H story section of the Michigan 4-H State Awards application asks applicants to “describe how 4-H has helped you personally, your family or your career choice.” This section of the State Awards application may contain a maximum of 1,500 words. State Award applicants will prepare their 4-H story to accompany their award application, submitted together within a single Microsoft Word document.

The Overview of Mark of Excellence and the State 4-H Awards Program contains detailed instructions for preparing the 4-H story for a 4-H State Award application:

  • Part 1: Introduce yourself. Include information about your age, interests, family, where you live, where you go to school, and when and why you became involved in 4-H.
  • Part 2: Tell about the project area in which you are applying, how 4-H helped you learn things about this area you didn’t know before, how your project grew in size and scope, and some of your successes and failures in the project area.
  • Part 3: Highlight your other 4-H projects and activities, including major learning experiences, special interests and unusual situations you have encountered.
  • Part 4: Explain how 4-H has helped you become a better leader and citizen, how 4-H has increased your interest and participation in community affairs, and what you have learned from your team or group involvement and efforts.
  • Part 5: Describe how 4-H participation has impacted the way you feel about yourself, influenced your school and career goals, and your use of leisure time. Tell about your future plans and the career you want to pursue.

These directions should be used as a catalyst by the 4-H member to shape their 4-H story. The member is not bound solely to the topics outlined in the directions and is encouraged to express themselves creatively through their 4-H story. Ultimately, the member has final control of what they publish.

Although a 4-H member may be requested to submit their 4-H story as part of different application processes, the 4-H story should always be tailored to meet the specified requirements of the particular request or audience who will be reading it. The 4-H story should be updated annually, even if the member is putting forward a similar application to a previous submission; the member’s education and opinions is perpetually evolving as they have new experiences, grow and develop.

Find out more about the Michigan 4-H States Awards at the Michigan 4 H Awards and Recognition Program webpage. All State Awards applications must be submitted by Feb. 1 to State4HAwards@anr.msu.edu.

Look for additional MSU Extension articles that provide tips for completing a Michigan 4-H State Awards application, including:

Did you find this article useful?