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National 4-H Council honors Nate Seese with Youth in Action Award

Imagine a 15-year old youth who gets called out to New York City to receive a national award for doing what came pretty naturally to him. Then imagine being that youth on the stage with other honorees, including a famous country singer (Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland) and the executive vice president of a major international corporation (Jim Borel of DuPont). I would have a hard time imagining what it would be like to be that youth, but I got to see Kent County 4‑H member Nate Seese have that experience on Tuesday night when he received the 2012 4‑H Youth in Action Award at the third annual 4-H Legacy Awards Gala hosted by National 4-H Council.

 I’ve told Nate’s story on several occasions in Spotlight, so today I’d like to spread the spotlight a bit further to tell you a bit about Nate’s family, parents Christine and Kevin Seese and grandparents Jeanne and Louis Kiesling.

 Youth like Nate don’t just happen, and no one should think that 4-H is what made him special. Obviously it begins at home, and I was honored to meet Nate’s parents and grandparents at the National 4-H Gala. His mother, Christine, was born and raised on a farm in New Jersey. His father, Kevin, has worked in agribusiness on an international stage for much of his career. They actually chose to move to Michigan and to realign their careers so that their children, Nate and Nate’s older sister Hannah, could have a childhood more connected to community, church and the land than they had previously, a childhood much like their parents experienced. It was heartwarming to see that commitment rewarded with their son’s recognition in New York. And then to meet the grandparents who drove up from New Jersey to see their grandson honored was a special treat. Grandfather Louis was a 4-H’er 56 years ago. Jeanne has a wealth of stories about raising kids on the farm. Christine and her siblings grew up working on the farm, and she had some colorful stories to share about planting strawberry seedlings and treating city folk to a rural experience when they visited the family farm.

 Kevin grew up as a youth active in 4-H. He and Christine specifically sought out 4-H as a program that they thought would help them to raise their children with the values and skills they acquired from their own experiences. And Glenda Kilpatrick, Michigan State University Extension children and youth educator, who has worked with Nate and his club and their leaders, was able to witness the impact of Nate’s choices and actions on others who hear his story.

 Nate’s a special young man. And I recognize that Michigan 4-H has thousands of young people equally committed to contribute to their communities. Nate has received a great deal of well-deserved attention for his work and each of the other youth in 4-H deserve that recognition as well. I like telling his story because it captures people’s attention so well. I think the only dry eyes in the room when Nate accepted his award were his own. There’s nothing too haughty about this young man. He represents many more youth and I hope to shine the spotlight on others as well. Michigan has a promising future with youth like Nate Seese and the thousands of others we serve through Michigan 4-H.

 You can read more about the award Nate received at this summary of the National 4-H Gala.

Nate tells his own story here and on the following video:



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Thanks and giving

On the eve of our annual feast, I am reminded of the close connection between this holiday and 4-H. One of the capstone events available through 4-H is the National 4-H Congress, and it begins on the Friday after Thanksgiving and ends on the following Tuesday. National 4-H Congress used to be held in Chicago, and although I wasn’t in Michigan at that time, I can imagine that quite a few Michigan 4-H youth participated in that event. Today’s National 4-H Congress has changed considerably. It has moved south, presented in Atlanta, Georgia, each year instead of Chicago. And the event has taken a turn towards service, recognizing youth for their service in 4-H, and then reinforcing that with speakers and events that give great examples of others who have served their clubs, their communities, their country or their world. Eighteen 4-H youth from Lapeer, Shiawassee, Ingham, Monroe, Hillsdale, Branch, Menominee, Marquette and St. Joseph counties will represent Michigan, this year. They will be joined by Pat Waugh, Michigan State University Extension 4-H youth educator from Lapeer County, and Frank Cox, 4-H youth educator from Muskegon County, as leaders and chaperones.  Chelsea Carl, 4-H youth from Branch County, was selected from a national application pool to serve on the 2012 National 4-H Congress Youth Leadership Team. I serve on the Board of Directors for National 4-H Congress and will join the group in Atlanta early next week in time for the board meeting, which follows the closing of the event. Monday is the highlight of the event from my perspective. That is the day when all of the youth, gathered from across the nation, go into the schools and neighborhoods of Atlanta to carry out service projects. Youth also raise funds to help pay for the construction of a new home through Habitat for Humanity. So as many of us are tempted to sleep in on Friday morning (or go shopping), keep in mind those youth from Michigan and elsewhere who will be heading out for Atlanta.

 The connection between 4-H and Thanksgiving reminded me of a story I posted just a few weeks ago about a youth from Kent County, Nate Seese, whose service is the subject of a video contributed as part of the 4-H Revolution of Responsibility campaign. Nate tells the story of deciding to donate the meat from livestock he raised as part of his 4-H project to a local food bank to help ensure that families facing budget challenges would still have access to protein in their diets. Nate’s desire and commitment to give is inspiring for all of us. And as is so often the case, his generosity draws out generosity from others – the bidders at the 4-H auction agree to make the livestock available for the food bank, a local meat locker agreed to donate their butchering and preparation services, and the food bank volunteers help to distribute the meat. National 4-H Council hosted Cooperative Extension directors and administrators from across the country at a luncheon in San Francisco recently, a part of the program at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) Convention. During the luncheon, Andy Ferrin, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at National 4-H Council, showed Nate’s video to the entire group gathered for lunch. I was humbled to see Nate’s story told again – humbled by his generosity and inspired by his leadership. Ultimately, the Thanksgiving holiday is a holiday that reminds us that we depend on others around us in so many ways. Those who grow crops and livestock, those who get food to the store or market where we buy it, those who help us understand how to prepare food safely, and on and on. The best way to express thanks is to give. And Nate reminded me of that with his story. Enjoy this unique and special holiday as many 4-H youth will in Atlanta this weekend – by giving to others.


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Kent County 4-H’er joins the Revolution of Responsibility

In a recent Spotlight article, I talked about the 4-H Revolution of Responsibility, National 4‑H Council’s movement for positive change, challenging kids to make a difference and take responsibility for community problems and issues.

 Nate Seese, a 4-H’er from Byron Center in Kent County, is taking on responsibility in a big way right in his own community. Nate raises and shows sheep and hogs as a 4-H project. Usually, a 4-H’er involved in this type of project would auction off the animals at fair and then keep the profits. But Nate saw a need to help hungry people in his community and stepped up to do something about it. He put together a buying group consisting of local business owners and community members to buy the animals at auction. The group lets Nate keep the animals so he can donate the meat to the Buist Community Assistance Center, a local food pantry. After taking the animals to Byron Center Meats (the company donates its time and services to process the meat), Nate was able to donate 500 pounds of lamb and pork to the center this year.

 Nate says, “4-H has taught me that we can’t just sit back and wait for somebody to take the lead. We have to take the lead if we want to make a change.”

 Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development is also taking the lead in the revolution, developing responsible leaders for the future.

 Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications staff members Kraig Ehm, Steve Evans and Michelle Lavra created a video featuring Nate’s story. View the video:

 The video was shared at the 2011 NAE4-HA (National Association of Extension 4-H Agents) Conference held Oct. 24–28 in Nebraska. The video will be posted on the National 4-H Revolution of Responsibility site.

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