They have amazing stories to share, from their personal experience in 4-H to how they give back to the program. This month, we share stories from the Ohio 4-H Foundation staff: Crystal Ott, Ohio 4-H Foundation Manager and Emily Niemann, Program Assistant.
Growing Up with 4-H: Crystal Ott
To Make the Best Better is a motto I took to heart at age nine. I am a third generation 4-H’er, so it has deep roots for me and my family. I was an extremely shy youth and was incredibly nervous about joining 4-H, but had no idea the profound impact it would have on my life.
In my early years, I took more traditional projects such as cooking, sewing, photography and gardening, not realizing I was developing life-skills that benefit me to this day. Club demonstrations, service projects and project interviews all contributed to the foundation of my work ethic. Each year I worked to make the best better in every aspect of these projects – and it was fun!
As I became a teen, I still completed projects, but also became deeply invested in all the leadership opportunities offered by 4-H. I was a camp counselor, attended Citizenship Washington Focus, and served as a junior fair board member and advisor. I realized I was no longer afraid to speak in front of groups and even did some radio spots for the Licking County Extension office!
All these experiences led to my career in 4-H, where I’ve worked for almost ten years. I received a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University in Family and Consumer Sciences and then a master’s at The Ohio State University in Extension Education, with a specialization in leadership. As the Ohio 4-H Foundation manager, it is exciting to support the continued growth of Ohio 4-H and share the stories that show the impact of 4-H. I am so fortunate to give back to the program that means so much to me and want other youth to have the same opportunities I had to make the best better.
The Impact of 4-H: Emily Niemann
Some of my earliest memories are of conversations with my mom about her 4-H experiences and what we would name the 4-H club she planned to start when it came time for me to join. We finally decided on Buckeye Barn Busters and in my ten years as a member I completed a wide-range of projects and participated in numerous local and state opportunities.
As an eight-year-old, I never imagined what I might gain from 4-H. I learned so much from projects that ranged from food and nutrition to beef cattle, STEM to sewing, and leadership to crop production. In addition, I served as a club officer, Tech Wizards mentor, junior fair board member, fair queen, camp counselor and Ohio 4-H Teen Ambassador. I also attended Ohio 4-H State Leadership Camp and Citizenship Washington Focus. Through all of those experiences, I made friends from around the state while developing skills in public speaking, mentoring, record keeping, and knowledge of parliamentary procedure. And the most important 4-H lessons I learned were to take advantage of every opportunity and the importance of completing projects.
As I got older, I decided to explore the possibility of 4-H and Extension as a career. This lead me to study community leadership and extension education at The Ohio State University. Now, as a member of the Ohio 4-H Foundation staff, I work with individuals who also have an affinity for 4-H, who recognize the importance of positive youth development, and who work to ensure 4-H is able to grow. Their stories and those of youth inspire me and truly show me that Ohio 4-H is making the best better.