Hartford County 4-H

June Zoppa Wins the Northeast 4-H Lifetime Volunteer Award

June ZoppaUConn 4-H has selected June Zoppa, a 46-year volunteer of the UConn 4-H Program as the Connecticut nominee for the National 4-H Lifetime Volunteer Award. She won the Northeast 4-H Lifetime Volunteer Award and now moves on to compete nationally.

June Zoppa is an integral part of the 4-H community in Hartford County Connecticut. She is the only volunteer who serves or has served simultaneously on the Hartford County 4-H Advisory Board, Hartford County 4-H Fair Association, and the Hartford County 4-H Camp, Inc, Board of Trustees, while serving as a 4-H club leader. As new volunteers join the committees and boards, June has grown from their new ideas and ways of executing programming or operations. New and experienced volunteers speak about June’s ability to sensitively work through challenges and create innovative solutions that propel Hartford County 4-H towards reaching its goals and achieving its mission.

She is selfless in the time she gives to many aspects of the 4-H Program affecting thousands of youth on an annual basis. She is a go-to volunteer and her contributions to the Hartford County 4-H Program will continue to positively impact generations of UConn 4-H’ers for years to come.

June has served as a 4-H Fair Association Advisor since 2002. In this role, she mentors and empowers officers as they plan and implement the Hartford County 4-H Fair. June regularly serves as an Advisor for Fair Ad Hoc and subcommittees. As a member of the 4-H Advisory Board, June organized and procured items for the annual silent auction. June also served as the committee’s treasurer for 21 years and currently and serves as Committee Chair.

Her pragmatic approach allows the 4-Hers to take charge of the tasks at hand but is hands on in many of the Fair’s aspects up to and including spending the entire week prior to the fair ensuring its success.

The 4-H Camp Board of Trustees has benefitted from her expertise with stocking and promoting the camp store and annual Camp T-shirt design. June has sat on many Camp committees such as Staff Procurement, Maintenance and Special Events volunteering wherever she’s needed to make sure the 4-H campers have a safe and happy summer. In the over 30 years of her Camp Board involvement, June has attended almost every spring and fall work weekend ensuring that the over 1200+ campers and 200 teen counselors have a positive 4-H camp experience.

June’s 4-H Club “4-H Clovers” is in East Hartford. Zoppa Studios expanded their facilities building a ‘4-H Room’ where they host weekly club meetings and county committee meetings (Fair, Camp, and Advisory), as well as providing storage space while absorbing all expenses (utilities, storage, etc.). June follows UConn 4-H protocols to minimize risk and ensure the safety of all 4-H members.

June dedication extends to the local community. For example, her club assembles, bakes and delivers pies to local shelters for the Thanksgiving holiday. Numerous volunteers, who June recruited, have served for decades and continue their commitment to community service and employ the leadership skills they honed with June in their professional role.

June bleeds 4-H green and consistently demonstrates a professional attitude. June is a tireless advocate for all 4-Hers. She leads by example and never boasts or takes credit for her many accomplishments. She has a focus on doing what is right for youth, even if it requires more effort or energy. She is a well-respected volunteer throughout the county and state.

Hartford County 4-H Extension Educator, Jen Cushman notes “June’s life-long dedication to the UConn 4-H Program at a highly engaged level is highly commendable and has made a lasting impact on the lives of thousands of 4-H members.” Fellow Hartford County 4-H Volunteer, Aimee Gilbert recognizes “June’s gentle spirit and strong dedication to the program help her connect with the youth members providing a positive experience. The youth members enjoy working with and learning from June as an advisor/mentor/leader.”

As the UConn 4-H nominee, June won the Northeast Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer Award and will now be competing nationally.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over six million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship, and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more about becoming a volunteer or enrolling your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

Rachael Manzer Wins the Northeast Region 4-H Volunteer of the Year Award

Rachael ManzerRachael Manzer, a five-year volunteer with UConn’s Granby 4-H Club of Granby, a UConn 4-H Alum, and former NASA astronaut teacher, won the Northeast Region 4-H Volunteer of the Year after being selected by UConn. Hartford County 4-H Extension Educator, Jen Cushman notes, “Rachael’s dedication to making a positive difference in the lives of 4-H youth has greatly expanded the STEM opportunities for 4-H Members and promoted UConn 4-H to new audiences.” Rachael Manzer exemplifies science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in 4-H. She understands the importance and need for STEM and Agricultural Literacy, and she has increased opportunities for STEM learning by establishing the only 4-H VEX Robotics Program in New England. Rachael’s efforts have not only expanded 4-H programming throughout New England (CT and MA) members participate, but also increased the visibility of UConn 4-H on the national level as the team participated at the World Competition and the NASA Cubes in Space Competition.

This robotics program has its own “Cinderella” story – big dreams and the amazing efforts of many to make it a success. In 2015, she started 4-H Robotics with participants who had no idea how to build and program robots. After only one year, the VEX Robotics Project group expanded to include a competition team and a high school VEX Robotics Project group. The team qualified for the World VEX competitions three times! All of the teams have qualified this year for the Southern New England Championship and are hoping to yet again earn a spot at the World Championship.

Mrs. Manzer creates opportunities for 4-H’ers to go beyond the robotic competitions to share what 4-H STEM is all about. This program has done workshops for preservice teachers, led build your own robots at local libraries, and done demonstrations for the general public at the 5th largest fair in the United States.

Her enthusiasm for STEM is infectious and every 4-H’er feels important. Rachael dedicates a large amount of time to 4-H throughout the year teaching 4-H’ers how to think, not what to think, and that you learn by failure. She focuses on workforce readiness skills in communication, listening, time management, critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork. Rachael regularly works with the youth on public speaking, marketing, and financial operations in order to prepare the members for the various roles they encounter as a team member. They work closely with the youth in planning and implementing the building of the robot, public speaking presentations, fundraising and various community service demonstrations with the robot. The 4-H youth in her project group shared, “Mrs. Manzer is extremely dedicated to the robotics team and its members. She is constantly cheering for us, both inside of the robotics environment and out. Her encouragement has impacted us greatly.” She is growing future leaders in 4-H, STEM, and Agriculture.

Rachael Manzer’s innovation shined as she was able to keep the 4-H robotics program going during COVID-19 following safety protocols. For many of the 4-H’ers, 4-H Robotics was the only interaction with others they had outside the home.

Rachael also led an additional project group for youth who were interested in developing a science experiment to send into space. Three projects were submitted by Granby 4-H and all were selected to fly into space, in June 2018. These projects provided youth with the opportunity to work as a team, design experiments, apply scientific knowledge, and deliver a public presentation at NASA. Rachael’s impact on programming and youth is literally out of this world!

Rachael Manzer, a 4-H alumna of the Litchfield County 4-H Club, grew up showing beef cattle. 4-H gave so much to her, her goal was to give back to the organization. As Mrs. Manzer stated, “4-H helped me develop a set of skills like; teamwork, problem solving, public speaking, dependability, leadership which I use every day in my career.” Rachael Manzer is a nationally awarded educator. Currently she is the STEM Coach for Winchester Public Schools. Mrs. Manzer has experience as an educator working in both suburban and urban schools in Connecticut. She also worked in the education department at NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia. In that role, she worked with scientists, astronauts and engineers delivering the latest breakthroughs in STEM to teachers and students across the United States.

Rachael competed against nominees from the other northeast states for the Northeast Volunteer of the Year Award. She is moving forward for consideration as the National Volunteer of the Year Award.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over six million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, civic engagement, and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more about becoming a volunteer or enrolling your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

Carol LeBlanc: 50-Years of Service to the UConn 4-H Program

4-H cloverA volunteer is defined as someone that donates their time to participate in a cause or program. UConn 4-H is the Extension youth development program and has thousands of volunteers across Connecticut that help us provide programming to over 18,000 youth, annually. Since 1970, Carol LeBlanc has been a UConn 4-H Volunteer with the Snoopy’s Pal 4-H Dog Club, located in Suffield.

The Hartford County 4-H program recognized Carol for her 50 years of service on Saturday, November 7th, with a socially distanced presentation in front of the 4-H Club followed by a county-wide virtual recognition ceremony on Sunday, November 8th.

She is deeply committed to implementing the motto of 4-H which is to “Make the Best Better”.  Carol continues to adapt her club programming to accommodate all youth, to provide new opportunities for youth to learn and develop their dog skills and self-confidence, as well as to ensure that youth are maximizing and enjoying their 4-H experiences.

“Carol is dedicated to the providing opportunities for 4-H youth to expand their knowledge of dog training and management” says Jennifer Cushman, UConn Extension 4-H Educator in Hartford County. “Carol’s leadership extends beyond the county level to various New England 4-H Programs. She has also served as an adult Advisor to the county 4-H Fair Officers who plan and implement the annual 4-H Fair and as a member of the Hartford County 4-H Advisory Committee.”

“Carol, on behalf of the numerous 4-H youth who have been able to learn from you, their parents and your fellow volunteers, congratulations on your 50 years of service, and thank you,” Cushman says.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over six million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship, and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more about becoming a volunteer or enrolling your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

Jack and Mavis Collins: 90-Years of Combined Service to the UConn 4-H Program

Jack and Mavis CollinsA volunteer is defined as someone that donates their time to participate in a cause or program. UConn 4-H is the Extension youth development program and has thousands of volunteers across Connecticut that help us provide programming to over 18,000 youth, annually. Jack and Mavis Collins of Enfield have been volunteering with the UConn 4-H program for a combined 90-years.

The Hartford County 4-H program recognized Jack for his 55 years of service and Mavis for 35 years of service on Sunday, November 8th with a socially distanced presentation at the Collins’ Powder Hill Dairy Farm followed by a county-wide virtual ceremony.

Jack was a member of the Merry Moo-ers 4-H club as a youth and started volunteering while he was an animal science student in the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. Mavis grew up on a dairy farm in England and came to the United States with the International 4-H Youth Exchange (IFYE) Program. Both volunteered while their four children were 4-H members and have continued serving the program.

The true impact of the 90-years of volunteerism that Jack and Mavis have given to 4-H is in the youth that have benefitted from their dedicated service. All are welcomed into the Collins family and 4-H is part of their lives. They have served as teachers, role models, and mentors. Jack and Mavis share their love of animals and help youth grow into the best versions of themselves.

“The volunteer resumes of Jack and Mavis Collins go far beyond their service as club leaders to the Merry Moo-ers 4-H Club and the Powder Hill 4-H Equestrian Club,” says Jennifer Cushman, the UConn Extension 4-H Educator in Hartford County. “They have volunteered with the Fair Association, at the 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm, 4-H Camp, and the International 4-H Youth Exchange (IFYE). Their contributions to the dairy cattle program area have made the best better for thousands of 4-H youth dairy project members.”

“You’ve been an inspiration to both 4-Hers and leaders alike, and an inspiration to generations of 4-Hers,” says Jennifer Syme, a 4-H alumna, parent, and volunteer. “We’re so grateful for you and your service.”

“Jack and Mavis, on behalf of the past and present Hartford County 4-H member, their parents, your fellow volunteers across the county, the state, and across New England, congratulations on reaching this milestone in your 4-H volunteer careers, and thank you,” Cushman says.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over six million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship, and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more about becoming a volunteer or enrolling your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

Meet Megan Davenport: Hartford County 4-H Intern

Meg DavenportHi everyone! My name is Megan Davenport and I am Hartford County’s 4-H Intern this summer! I am currently a junior at UConn in Storrs, CT and am double majoring in Animal Science (ANSC) and Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) and minoring in Agriculture Outreach and Learning. At UConn, I am heavily involved in the Dairy Club and the Block and Bridle Livestock Club and enjoy introducing UConn students and community members to the agricultural operations on campus. Before UConn, I was a proud 4-H member for 8 years where I showed dairy cattle for my project and I also served as a State FFA Officer among other leadership roles through my extensive involvement with FFA. Through all of my time in FFA, 4-H and my extensive experience in the dairy industry, I realized my true calling lies in the education and communication of agricultural operations and programs. I am excited to educate youth about agriscience and to inspire them to pursue their passions and make a positive impact in their community.
Due to COVID-19 and the virtual transition of 4-H programs, I will be finding creative ways to connect, engage with and educate 4-H members about the world of 4-H and agriculture online. This summer I will be focusing on social media engagement with 4-H youth and community members as well as creating educational videos for UConn 4-H members to utilize on topics such as but not limited to… animal restraint, dairy fitting and topline clipping, dairy judging, milking procedures, giving oral reasons, leadership skills, resume building and professional networking. Tune in on our various social media accounts (@uconnhartfordcounty4h) for our “Fun Fact Fridays” and “Mindful Mondays” and be sure to check out these educational videos on the UConn Extension YouTube channel!

4-H Volunteer Attends White House STEM Summit

Rachael Manzer

RACHAEL MANZER JOINED LANDMARK GATHERING OF STATE & FEDERAL STEM EDUCATION LEADERS AT THE WHITE HOUSE

WHITE HOUSE SUMMIT WILL HELP INFORM NEXT 5-YEAR STEM EDUCATION STRATEGY

Rachael Manzer, STEM Coach at Winchester Public Schools and a UConn 4-H Leader was recently invited to attend the first-of-its-kind State-Federal Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education Summit hosted by The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on June 25-26, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

Jen Cushman, Hartford County 4-H Extension Educator says “We are fortunate to have a UConn 4-H Volunteer in attendance to share the STEM experiences UConn 4-H Youth are engaging in.”

According to the OSTP, the State-Federal STEM Education Summit convened a diverse group of State STEM leaders, including officials from governors’ offices, K-20 educators, workforce and industry representatives, State policy experts, and non-government organization executives. These attendees participated in the development of a new Federal 5-Year STEM Education Strategic Plan in compliance with America COMPETES Act of 2010.

“This event is the first time an administration has asked for this level of State input when developing a Federal STEM education strategy,” said Jeff Weld, senior policy advisor and assistant director for STEM education at OSTP. “Top-down approaches to STEM education can often yield wonderful ideas, but it’s at the State and community level where the momentum happens. State leaders know best what kinds of programs will work in their communities, and where they need the power of the Federal government to help drive success in this field. STEM education is critical to preparing our students for the jobs of the future. We must do everything we can to ensure that Federal, State, local, and tribal governments, communities, educators, and private industry partners are united for the long-term success of our Nation.”

Alongside OSTP in planning and carrying out this Summit are the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Smithsonian Institution. STEM leaders from all 50 states, as well as U.S. territories and tribes, will attend the Summit to illuminate and advance State-Federal STEM alignment.

In 1976, Congress established OSTP to provide the President and others within the Executive Office of the President with advice on the scientific, engineering, and technological aspects of the economy, national security, homeland security, health, foreign relations, the environment, and the technological recovery and use of resources, among other topics. OSTP also leads interagency science and technology policy coordination efforts, assists the Office of Management and Budget with an annual review and analysis of Federal research and development in budgets, and serves as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the President with respect to major policies, plans, and programs of the Federal Government.

Rachael Manzer is a 4-H Leader in Connecticut. She leads three different projects groups: VEX Middle School Robotic Competition Team, who won the Connecticut State Robotic Championship and competed in the World Championship; a VEX Robotic Project Group, who designs and builds robots to compete at the Hartford County 4-H Fair; and a 4-H Cubes in Space Group who had three experiments fly in space on a NASA Sounding Rocket on June 21, 2018.  Rachael Manzer is passionate about 4-H and STEM Education.

Cloe Labranche: 4-H Alumni Spotlight

Meet 4-H Alumni and UConn undergraduate Cloe Labranche. We met with her and chatted about her 4-H experience, and what she is up to at UConn.

Cloe Labranche (left) and Laura Irwin at the 2017 Little International Livestock Show at UConn.
Cloe Labranche (left) and Laura Irwin at the 2017 Little International Livestock Show at UConn.

How did you become involved with 4-H? Can you tell us about your 4-H experience?

I came from a non-ag family and found out about 4-H when I was eight years old from a neighbor. I was very interested in larger animals, and I was lucky to find a dairy club close to my hometown of Ellington. I joined the Merry Moo-er’s of Enfield a year later, and was involved with them until I aged out of 4-H.

Did you visit UConn for a 4-H event prior to attending UConn?

My 4-H club was full of wonderful leaders who pushed me to take advantage of as many 4-H experiences as possible, including the ones at UConn. I showed at the UConn poultry show and Dairy Day, along with various workshops that were held throughout the years. I spent a lot of time at UConn before I came here as a student.

Why did you apply to UConn? What are you majoring in, and when is your expected graduation?

I am a sophomore majoring in Animal Science and will be graduating in May 2020. I applied to UConn because I knew that the connections I made here in my 4-H years would open up many opportunities for career options. I also knew that the Ag program here is unlike any other.

Did 4-H influence your choice of university or major?

4-H played a major part in my decision; however; I think I would have ended up here regardless. I knew I wanted to work with animals before I knew about 4-H, and I also come from a family of UConn alumni.

What was the most challenging part of 4-H?

The most challenging part of 4-H was doing things out of my comfort level. I had many mentors who pushed me to do things that I might not have pushed myself to do in my youth. I was lucky to have people to encourage me to join the CT Quiz Bowl team, show at the Big E, attend the Citizenship Washington Focus trip, run for club and county officer positions, and many more. After 4-H, I have learned to push myself to do things that I might not have done otherwise. Doing so helps anyone make the most out of 4-H, college, and life.

What was the most rewarding part of 4-H?

The opportunities. Every single aspect of 4-H that I took advantage of made me a stronger person with skills I will use forever. It opened up a world of career options that made me excited for my future in animal science, and I hope to become a passionate worker when I begin my career, whatever that may be.

What is your favorite 4-H memory?

I attended the National 4-H Dairy Expo Trip in Madison, Wisconsin when I was 16. After a long day of educational workshops and hands-on activities, the whole group of 4-Hers from all over the country gathered in the dining hall of our housing area and had a square dance. I can’t think of a time I had more fun.

Is your course work at UConn building off of your 4-H experience?

Yes. This is something I notice especially now as a sophomore, where my classes are becoming less generic. I have had a slight advantage in almost all of my classes I have taken this semester because of the knowledge I have gained throughout my 4-H years.

After you earn your degree, what are your plans for the future? 

I would love to work with animal genetics, or possibly biosecurity and research with animal products. If you ask me again in a month, that answer might be different, because I have many interests within animal science careers. All I know is that I would love to do anything where I can help create more sustainable agriculture in the world.

Can you tell us about some of your other interests?

I have a passion for music and have been playing piano and guitar for 12 years.

Anything else you think we should know?

I would not be the person I am today without 4-H.

Laura Irwin: 4-H Alumni Spotlight

Laura Irwin showing a Hereford beef animal at a fair
Laura Irwin

It was never a question of if Laura Irwin of Hartland would join 4-H, but rather, when she would become a 4-H member. “My mom always wanted to be a 4-H member, and never had the opportunity,” Laura recalls. “So, she made sure her children did. I joined when I was 7-years old, and I’m still a volunteer and junior advisor for the Hartford County 4-H Fair Board.

Laura was a member of the Granby 4-H Club, and quickly seized every opportunity offered. She started riding horses when she was 8 years old, and then developed a 4-H goat project when she was 12. At age 16, she began a beef cattle project, and then swine came after that. Laura’s beef and swine projects were through the Gilbert family of North Granby, longtime 4-H volunteers. She also volunteered with the Hemlock Knoll 4-H Club.

Laura always tries to maintain a positive attitude, and you quickly realize this while talking to her. She handled the increasing responsibility and challenges of multiple 4-H projects with the same poise, determination, and professionalism that she demonstrates on a daily basis.

As a 4-H member, Laura came to UConn for Goat Day, and also visited the Greater Hartford campus for fashion review and other 4-H events. When considering colleges, Laura applied to UConn, Delaware Valley, and Colorado State, but never planned to go anywhere besides UConn. “I completed my first two years at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield,” she says. “It offers a competitive financial aid package and I was able to participate in the gap program, and then transfer to UConn with all of my general education courses completed.”

Laura is a junior majoring in Pathobiology, graduating in 2019. She wants to double major in Animal Science and become a large animal veterinarian. “If I don’t become a veterinarian, I will complete a graduate program at UConn, focusing on research and becoming a pathobiologist, I’m already exploring work-study options in this field.”

Her experience in 4-H has enhanced her course work here at UConn. Material being covered in Introduction to Animal Science, Genetics, Pathobiology, and Physics courses is all an extension of the knowledge she gained through her 4-H career.

This fall, Laura competed in the Little International Livestock Show at UConn that is organized by the Block and Bridle Club in the Department of Animal Science. She showed a sheep, and won premier showmanship. “I credit 4-H for the win in Premier Showmanship at the Little International,” Laura says. “I never would have had the knowledge and skills without 4-H.”

Earning the respect of her riding instructor and having her 4-H project work come full circle were the most rewarding parts of 4-H for Laura. She began taking lessons with Lisa Dinsmore when she was 8-years old, and now Lisa looks at Laura as a knowledgeable horse person, and an equal.

Laura worked with her Hereford beef cow and calf every morning during her last year in 4-H and was Reserve Grand Champion Showman of Goshen Fair in 2015. Laura was able to see her calf grow up, have her own calf, and Reserve Grand Champion in the Cow-Calf class at the highly competitive Big E. The calf represents the third generation of Laura’s 4-H project work with that beef cow family.

In 2015, the Hartford County 4-H Fair advisors selected Laura as the Louis Kristopik Award winner at the 4-H Fair. The award recognizes a youth member who takes initiative, demonstrates leadership, and the ability to work as a member of the team. “It meant a lot that they picked me out of all the 4-H youth members because everyone is equally deserving,” Laura says. “If you receive the award you know you’ve done an excellent job.”

Laura began playing the piano when she was 6-years old, and knows many pieces by memory. “Music was my passion before 4-H,” she says. “I have a deeper understanding of poetry and lyrics of music. It’s still one of the pathways I use to connect with my brother.”

“I enjoy working with youth, especially those with special needs,” Laura mentions. “I want to stay involved with 4-H and help other youth gain the confidence to speak up for themselves. If you don’t have your own voice, what do you have?”

By Stacey Stearns

Jessica LaRosa: 4-H Alumni Spotlight

Jessica LaRosa holding one of her Herefords at the 4-H fairThe UConn 4-H program fostered a passion for animals in Jessica LaRosa of East Windsor. While in 4-H, Jessica discovered she loved teaching the public and others about agriculture. “My passion for both animals and teaching other about agriculture is what led me to find my major at UConn,” Jessica says.

Jessica joined the Merry Mooers 4-H Dairy Club in Hartford County when she was 10 years old. During her 4-H career she was also active with Hemlock Knoll 4-H, First Town Veterinary Science, and Granby 4-H. Her projects included poultry, dairy goats, rabbits, swine, beef, and veterinary science. She gained leadership experience as a club officer, and serving on the officer team of the Hartford County 4-H Fair Association. Jessica represented UConn 4-H at National 4-H Dairy Conference, the National 4-H Conference, and Citizenship Washington Focus.

“I applied to UConn because the campus felt like home to me due to the number of 4-H events that I attended on the Storrs campus,” Jessica says. “4-H influenced my choice in university and major.” UConn 4-H hosts numerous events throughout the year on the Storrs and the Greater Hartford campuses. Jessica was one of many 4-H members to attend 4-H Dairy and Beef Day, Goat Day, and the New England 4-H Poultry Show on the UConn Storrs campus.

Jessica is currently a sophomore in the Ratcliffe Hicks two-year program, graduating in May of 2018, and transferring to the bachelor’s degree program with a major in Agriculture and Natural Resources. Her expected graduation date is May 2020. She plans to apply to the Teacher Certification Program for College Graduates in the Neag School of Education at UConn and earn her master’s degree in Agriculture Education in May 2021. Jessica plans on becoming a high school agriculture teacher, and staying involved with 4-H by serving as a volunteer.

“The most rewarding part about 4-H for me was being able to get hands-on agriculture experience starting at a young age, and being able to network with both other 4-Hers, along with professionals in various industries of agriculture,” Jessica reflects thoughtfully. “I know those friendships will last a lifetime, and the professionals I have met will be helpful resources to me in the future.”

Jessica cites her 4-H experience as forming a baseline for what she is learning in her courses at UConn. Her background knowledge in animal science has made it easier to learn the detailed information in the courses she is taking.

“4-H has left a lasting impact on my life, and has shaped me into the person that I am today,” Jessica concludes. “For example, I had the opportunity to visit Washington D.C. for the National 4-H Conference, and presented on backyard farming with my roundtable group to the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA).”

Article by: Stacey Stearns