By Michele F. Mihaljevich
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – As an Indiana 4-H Ambassador, it’s Reagan Koester’s role to promote the organization and explain the types of opportunities offered by the 4-H program.
It’s a role she happily accepts and one she hopes to use to encourage young people to join 4-H.
“I really hope they learn about 4-H and that it isn’t just about agriculture,” she explained. “I hope to get them to connect with 4-H – that’s the goal. You learn skills that will last you a lifetime.
“I think about if I wasn’t in 4-H, where would I be today. I’ve learned so many skills, and there’s the self development I’ve had because of this program. There are so many opportunities people don’t know about. I’ve been able to share the wealth of resources available for youth development.”
The Ambassadors program is in its second year. It was created to empower teen 4-H leaders with the knowledge, skills and aspirations necessary to be effective advocates for Indiana 4-H Youth Development, according to Purdue University Extension. The Ambassadors are expected to participate in such things as promoting 4-H to potential members, parents and the general public, and representing 4-H in a public relations role with community partners and sponsors. The program has nine Ambassadors this year.
“There are opportunities to sharpen a lot of different skills,” Koester noted. “There are diverse opportunities, such as trips, or entomology (study of insects) judging. These are random things, but they’re so beneficial for a variety of skills. It’s really fun to share all that information with those who have no idea what it is. If we can get as many kids involved with 4-H as possible, that’s a good thing.”
Last year, Koester was one of 16 recipients of YES Grants from the Indiana 4-H Foundation. The grants provide 4-H members with a financial boost to launch community service projects in their counties, according to the foundation. Koester received $1,000 for Glam and Grit for Foster Teens, a partnership with the Standup Foundation to provide makeup bags for foster teens.
“For me, my priority (as an Ambassador) is 4-H and the opportunities inside of 4-H,” she stated. “The Yes Grant program was my favorite thing in 4-H other than being an ambassador.”
Koester, a 12th grader at North Posey High School, is a member of the Vanderburgh County 4-H program. She grew up on a robotic dairy and grain farm. Both her parents were 10-year 4-H members.
“I have a long 4-H background,” she said. “I started showing cows in mini 4-H. I fell in love with it at an early age.”
She found out about the Ambassador program from a 4-H educator in Vanderburgh County. One of the Ambassadors during the first year of the program was also from the county. She began her Ambassador role at the 2022 Indiana State Fair and will continue until next year’s fair.
“We participated in the grand opening of the fair,” Koester said. “We shared with the public how awesome 4-H is. I also gave a tour to Dr. Mung Chiang, the president-elect of Purdue. I explained to him what 4-H is. I gave him a tour of the fair and of the 4-H building, which shows STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) opportunities in 4-H.”
Chiang will become Purdue’s president Jan. 1, 2023.
While at the fair, Koester visited with a family that seemed interested in, but unfamiliar with, 4-H. “I could tell they didn’t know what 4-H is. Seeing that, making a difference, getting more people involved in 4-H, is what I’d like to do.”
During National 4-H Week (Oct. 2-8), Koester will go to a school to discuss 4-H with 3rd-8th graders. “I’ll talk to them about all the opportunities they don’t know about. Just getting to talk to people about 4-H and the opportunities has been my favorite part (of the Ambassador program).”
Koester plans to attend Purdue after graduating from high school. She wants to study agricultural business with a focus on finance and pre-law. She plans to attend law school and eventually work in corporate law, estate planning or elderly law.