‘The biggest skill that I have gained through 4-H has been leadership’: A Q&A with 10-year member Justin Johnson

How many years have you been in 4-H?

Ten years in regular plus three years of mini.

What projects do you take?

I currently take Bicycle, Forestry, Woodworking, Swine, Geology, Junior Leaders, Soil & Water Science and Poultry (turkeys); having taken the first four all 10 years. I have also taken Electric, Arts & Crafts, Microwave, Shooting Sports and BBQ/Grilling.

What is your favorite project, and why?

Woodworking has always been my favorite project because it has taught me so many new skills and given me a hobby to enjoy for the rest of my life. It is also one project that I could always get creative with and build whatever I needed or wanted.

What have you gained as a person by being in 4-H?

The biggest skill that I have gained through 4-H has been leadership. Being president of four different clubs, youth representative to 4-H Inc., and Pork Ambassador has its responsibilities. Along with leadership, I have improved my skills of responsibility, record-keeping, time management and collaboration. These will all be very beneficial to me in college and in my future career.

What is your favorite part of the fair?

Ice cream! Although I suppose that one is a little overused. I really enjoy spending time with friends and family and getting the feeling of involvement in the community. I also enjoy getting to see all the hard work, not just on projects, but also on preparing for fair, come together.

What is your advice for first-year 4-H’ers?

Try new things and always stay involved. For your first couple of years try a few different projects until you find the ones that fit you best. Those don’t necessarily have to be projects that you’re successful at. The whole point of 4-H is to learn, not to compete, so if you enjoy something, and are learning from it, you have already won.

How many hours total do you think you’ve put into 4-H — including meetings, working on projects, working with animals, etc.?

Too many to count! I have no idea but I do have at least two meetings a month all year-round and those just multiply the closer we get to fair. All of my projects take a lot of time to work on them, especially woodworking. An estimate? A good 6-8 months, or 4,320-5,760 hours, worth, and I really don’t feel that that is an over-exaggeration.

What accomplishments have you earned through the 4-H program?

I have received 28 champion placings so far. I have gone to state with my “On The Hill” projects 23 times, with all receiving blue ribbons and six receiving special merit.

These are my 4-H awards and honors:

• National Bicycle Champion — 2017

• State Accomplishment Scholarship — 2017

• Hester Adams Award Winner — 2017

• Hester Adams Award Ambassador — 2016

• B.V. Widney Award Winner — 2015

• Key Club Member Award — 2017

• Top Junior Leader Award — 2016

• 2017 Pork Ambassador

(Editor’s note: This does not include any potential 2018 awards or scholarships Johnson may receive this year)

What are your career goals? Were they shaped at all through your work in the 4-H program?

In the fall, I will begin attending Purdue University to study Agricultural Systems Management, which is in the department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. I personally feel that 4-H had a significant hand in my decision with its Agriculture and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) influence. Many people don’t realize just how involved 4-H is with STEM but there are many ways you can learn in those subjects. I grew up with a rural background, which was the original reason for me joining 4-H, and that has been a factor in my decision to work in the ag industry. While not a major factor, 4-H has also helped to introduce me to Purdue through Purdue Extension, especially when I interned in the office last fall.

Is there anything else you think would be good for people to know about yourself or your thoughts on the 4-H program?

Throughout high school I was involved in five different extracurriculars. I have been involved in 4-H considerably longer than either of the rest and will always recognize its involvement in shaping who I am. I want people to understand what an incredible 4-H program we have here in Whitley County and that other counties just simply do not match ours. I would love to see more people get involved and understand that 4-H is not just an agricultural organization. While that may be its roots, there are far more projects reaching into many different subjects. Every child in the community should consider joining. Sure, you can learn about the skills and subject areas, but the life skills gained over your 10 years will last much longer and mean much more.

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