MONTCALM TOWNSHIP — For many local 4-H’ers, it is often dreamed to one day be selected as the Earl Peterson 4-H’er of the Year, the highest honor achievable.
On Saturday evening, that dream was realized by Heather Russell, 19, of Stanton, and the Mixed Bag of Nuts 4-H group, who out of a field of six other 4-H’ers who contended for the top honor was selected as this year’s 4-H’er of the Year.
“It’s amazing,” Russell said. “This is such a great achievement to have.”
Russell is a graduate of Central Montcalm High School and just completed her first year at Montcalm Community College.
Russell stepped forward and was presented with her sash and trophy by last year’s award-winner, Mikalah Gribbell.
“It has been one year since I had the honor of receiving the Earl Peterson 4-H’er of the Year award, and one year later, it is my privilege to pass on this honor to someone new,” Gribbell said.
To qualify for 4-H’er of the Year, a club member must fill out an application and prepare a portfolio for an interview with the judges. The judges then look at past participation awards, service and participation and ability to promote 4-H to their club, country and state.
“This is my seventh year in 4-H,” Russell said. “I’ve shown cavies, rabbits, pigs, goats, lamas and dairy.”
4-H Youth Coordinator for Ionia and Montcalm counties Rebecca McCaferty said this year’s field of six candidates made it difficult for judges to decide who was most qualified to be selected as this year’s 4-H’er of the Year.
“We had six candidates for this year’s 4-H’er of the Year, and it was incredibly difficult to pick,” she said. “Being the Earl Peterson 4-H’er of the Year is the top honor that a Montcalm County 4-H’er can achieve. Each person nominated for this award must have three years of 4-H membership, exhibited growth, leadership and citizenship skills, and have good character,” she said.
McCaferty said each nominee then completes an application portfolio that includes information about their career, a personal story, and photos. Then, each applicant is interviewed individually by a selection committee.
“This is a truly outstanding group of talented and dedicated 4-H members,” she said.
Second runner-up for the award was Lakin Spittka of Greenville Outlaws, 16, who has been in 4-H for nine years. She is home-schooled and just completed her junior year.
First runner-up was Kennedy Cogswell of Mixed Bag of Nuts, 15, who has been in 4-H for 6 years. She just completed sophomore year at Lakeview High School.