Two Michigan 4-H’ers win Invisalign ChangeMakers awards for outstanding community contributions

Huron County 4-H’er Addy Stuever Battel and Eaton County 4-H’er Jael Tombaugh rewarded for their selfless efforts.

Headshots of the two Invisalign ChangeMakers winners: Addy Battel (left) and Jael Tombaugh (right).
Michigan 4-H's Invisalign ChangeMakers winners: Addy Battel (left) and Jael Tombaugh (right).

To celebrate and highlight teens making an impact in the community, Invisalign partnered with National 4-H Council earlier this year to offer 30 $5,000 cash awards to exceptional 4-H members nationwide. Hundreds of applicants submitted amazing public service contributions and projects and this summer, two outstanding Michigan 4-H’ers were rewarded for their efforts with the one-time $5,000 cash prize.

“We’re so proud of these youth, both for their awards and for everything have done throughout their 4-H careers,” said Jake DeDecker, state leader for Michigan 4-H, a program of Michigan State University Extension. “They’re great examples of how 4-H’ers are changing their clubs, communities, country and world.”

Addy Stuever Battel

Addy Stuever Battel could hardly wait to become a Huron County 4-H member at age five. While her uncle’s dairy farm may have been the impetus to join 4-H, Battel says she’s tried about every 4-H educational project once, and raised goats, poultry, lamb, feeder steers, dairy, and pigs. Add public speaking and leadership activities and by age 12, Battel was ready to tackle a major community concern: the only grocery store for 20 miles closed its doors.

Addy Battel with a group of 4-H'ers.

No grocery store in her Cass City community of 2,000 meant an inconvenience for some and purchasing food from the local dollar store for others with limited or no transportation. For Battel, this was unacceptable.

“We had seen a lack of protein when volunteering at a food pantry. Families were given a can of tuna, a jar of peanut butter, and a can of beans and that was supposed to be all their protein for three days,” says Battel. “It wasn’t the homegrown meat, fresh milk, and eggs that I got to eat.”

In 2014, Battel enlisted the help of 4-H friends and leaders, parents, and MSU Extension professionals to form Meating the Need for Our Village. To date, the organization has provided more than 11,000 pounds of meat, 3,908 gallons of milk, 680 pounds of cheese, 620 pounds of butter, 350 pounds of produce, and 329 dozen eggs to supplement the food items in local food pantries. The project has also involved more than 500 youth in raising animals and sourcing donations.

Addy in front of a barn

Battel notes if there’s anything she and her friends know how to do, it’s how to raise meat. They raised chickens and pigs in their barns at home and at school, sought donations from the Dairy Farmers of America, Michigan Milk Producers Association, and community members, and applied for grants from the American Egg Board and Sodexo.

As Battel finished up her senior year of high school and prepared for college, she asked MSU Extension educators for help to create a succession plan for Meating the Need for Our Village and food security issues. The result was the Cass City Hunger Summit with an impressive list of accomplishments including:

  • A youth-led garden action group created four raised garden beds to supply fresh produce for the local food pantry
  • A community action group investigated bringing a grocery store to Cass City
  • Battel and her team fulfilled IRS 501c3 requirements for Meating the Need for Our Village along with the creation of its mission, vision, by-laws, leadership, and board of directors

“The 4-H program is mind-blowingly wonderful,” says Battel. “It doesn’t matter who you are, what you are interested in - no matter what you want to do, there is a place for you in 4-H. Find something and try it out.”

Battel plans to continue supporting youth empowerment through agriculture while pursuing a degree in environmental studies and sustainability at MSU and says the $5,000 Invisalign ChangeMakers award will be applied to her tuition.

“At 12 years old, society tells you there’s a lot you can’t do,” says Battel. “They ask children what they want to do when they grow up instead of what they’re excited to do now.” Battel is grateful that 4-H made it a priority to help youth tackle the dreams they have today.

For Battel, her skills and knowledge gained through the many 4-H friends, adult volunteers, and MSU Extension professionals she met along her journey to adulthood has not only helped to form and shape her life, but also made a significant impact on her community. In 2020, Ben’s Supercenter, a family-owned grocery store, opened in Cass City and the community no longer needs to travel 20 miles to purchase food.

Jael Tombaugh

Invisalign ChangeMakers $5,000 award winner Jael Tombaugh joined her local Eaton County 4-H at age 10 with a borrowed chicken since she didn’t have an animal of her own. Her first project was a petting zoo, and then she started showing horses and sheep.

Jael Tombaugh

“I was a very shy person and I struggled with anxiety,” says Tombaugh. “I really didn’t like to talk to people and would sit in the back and watch and listen.”

But when Tombaugh discovered 4-H leadership and community service projects, she blossomed.

“I can now command a room and speak in front of others without completely freaking out,” says Tombaugh who is now 18.

When Tombaugh witnessed another 4-H member not feeling included because of how they identified, Tombaugh knew she had to do something to help this 4-H member and every 4-H member feel welcome and included. It was the spark of an idea that became the Michigan 4-H LGBTQIA+ Alliance.

“Creating this kind of group was important to make Michigan 4-H a more welcoming, inclusive, equitable place and break down the perceived barriers of ‘who’ belongs in the Michigan 4-H program,” says Tombaugh.

The Michigan 4-H LGBTQIA+ Alliance is a youth-led initiative open to all Michigan youth and 4-H membership is not a requirement. Its main goal is to educate a team of teen leaders in equity and diversity leadership before opening the Alliance to full membership. It is also a safe place for Michigan 4-H youth focused on advocacy, education, and social connections at the local, regional and state levels.

“We currently have 16 teen leaders including myself and Maezie Nettleton, my 4-H partner on the project,” says Tombaugh. “Our whole intent is to have a group of teen leaders – something we can hand off to others so the Alliance can continue, grow, and develop for years to come.”

Jael Tombaugh standing in the water

In addition to teen leaders, adult volunteers from organizations throughout Michigan have also partnered with the Alliance as advisors. So far, the Alliance has held four meetings with the teen group to create plans for opening the Alliance to group membership, increasing social media connections, and training teens in equity and diversity leadership skills.

This fall, Tombaugh will study biology with a focus on pre-veterinary medicine at Albion College. She’ll use a portion of the $5,000 award toward supporting the Alliance and also for her education.

“I want to use the award to show others you can make a difference – everyone has that ability,” says Tombaugh. “The 4-H program is a place for everyone and there is something for everyone in 4-H. It’s not all about animals and you’ll discover the best version of yourself.”

To learn more about joining Michigan 4-H, visit 4h.msue.msu.edu.

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