Every year, the National 4-H Hall of Fame honors 4-H volunteers, extension professionals, donors, and others who have made a significant impact on the 4-H program through the contribution of time, energy, or financial resources. In October, the Hall of Fame ceremony was held in Washington, D.C., and Ohio 4-H was well-represented, with Haven Hileman serving as the mistress of ceremonies and Melina Matics as the featured performer. Both were selected by the Hall of Fame committee following a rigorous application process and said they were honored to be recognized for their talents.
Hileman, an alumna of Scioto County 4-H and a sophomore at The Ohio State University, has been speaking publicly for as long as she can remember. “I used to do announcements at my county fair, and in high school I joined National Beta Club, an organization that promotes academic achievement, character, service, and leadership among students. I was originally interested in the agriscience opportunities Beta offered, but the faculty advisor also signed me up to compete in the public speaking contest after hearing me speak at the fair.” This proved to be a great decision, as Hileman went on to place as the national champion in speech during her junior year of high school.
After learning about the opportunity to emcee the National 4-H Hall of Fame ceremony through Ohio 4-H’s Teen Leadership Council (TLC), Hileman immediately applied. After being selected as the Ohio representative, Hileman was tasked with writing two scripts for the application: one about how she got her start in 4-H and the other about the impact 4-H has had on her life. She recorded herself reading these scripts and sent her application to the selection committee.
“I found out I was selected two weeks before the ceremony and I was more excited than anything,” said Hileman, “Public speaking doesn’t really scare me, but I immediately began reading the script to practice pronunciation for the laureates’ names and hometowns.”
Prior to this, she had spoken at a variety of local and state events, but this was her first time speaking at a national event. “I had never done anything of this caliber before. The contests I competed in throughout high school were only ever about three minutes long, but the script for the Hall of Fame ceremony was over 20 pages long, and I was speaking for more than two hours. This was an amazing opportunity and I’m so grateful to have been selected,” said Hileman.
Matics, a Washington County 4-H member and freshman at Washington State Community College, was chosen to be the featured performer for the ceremony, where she played her flute. She grew up in a musical family and has been playing the flute for more than six years. “My mom is a music teacher, so she helped me learn how to play at first, but as I became more advanced I began taking private lessons with my 4-H advisor,” said Matics.
This was her second year applying to be the featured performer, and she said she could not have been more excited to be chosen for this year’s ceremony. “I recorded two pieces that were sent to the selection committee and completed an application with information on my musical background.”
She was at Camp Ohio when she found out she had been selected to perform. “It was the night before campers were set to arrive and I was preparing to serve as an Ohio 4-H State Leadership Camp counselor when there was an announcement over the camp speaker,” said Matics. “It was a recording of a person from the selection committee saying I’d been chosen. I couldn’t believe it! It was such a surreal feeling and an amazing moment to share with friends.”
For Matics, the crowd at the Hall of Fame ceremony didn’t bother her, but the meaning behind the event did make her a bit nervous. “I play flute at my church, so I was prepared to have a large group of people listen to me, but knowing I was there to perform at such a special ceremony did leave me a bit tense,” she said.
Ultimately, the ceremony went off without a hitch and Matics acknowledged it was an incredibly special event. “I played for the laureates and other guests, was able to listen to some amazing speakers, and had some wonderful conversations with the inductees at the reception after the ceremony. I was really honored that so many of them approached me to compliment my playing, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”