CLEMSON — Four young people won the highest award given to 4-H members in South Carolina at the state 4-H Congress held at Clemson University.

The 4-H Presidential Tray awards recognize the top four senior 4-H members (ages 15-19) who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in 4-H leadership, citizenship and project work. Each received a Clemson University 4-H Presidential Tray and a $1,500 college scholarship.

The winners are:

  • Amber Ettinger, Laurens County
  • Jonathan Graham, Charleston County
  • Stephen Steward, York County
  • Seth Steedly, Charleston County

Amber Ettinger – Laurens County (18, Kinards)
Amber Ettinger has been involved  in 4-H for 12 years and has been showing jersey dairy cows most of her life as well as helping care for more than 300 registered cows on her family’s 350-acre farm. She has been on the State 4-H Teen Council for four years. She has attended National 4-H Dairy Conference in Madison, Wis., National 4-H Congress in Atlanta and National 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C. She also represented South Carolina 4-H on the national level by being selected as a member of the 2009 National 4-H Conference Planning Committee, the second person from South Carolina to achieve this honor.    

One of Amber’s community service projects is the Laurens County Relay for Life. She has cut 16 inches of her hair for Locks of Love. She came up with a theme of “wiping out cancer one dishcloth at a time” in which she and her mother knit and sell dishcloths for the American Cancer Society. She was awarded Outstanding Beta Club Member at her high school, is a member of the Hartness-Thornwell Honors Choir and is the top reader at her school.  

She credits 4-H with the life skills she has learned that have molded her into the mature young lady she is today. She also says she will never forget mom’s advice: have a good attitude, put on a smile, and have a good time.  

Jonathan Graham – Charleston County (17, Summerville)
One of the first 4-H programs Jonathan Graham joined was the Wildlife Habitat Evaluation Program. This was an obvious choice since both his parents are veterinarians and he has had many unusual houseguests over the years.  

4-H also has given him the opportunity to explore his other passion, creative and performing arts. He serves as his club’s photographer, enjoys performing illusions, music, computer technology and network security. He helps younger club members complete projects because he feels he can be a positive influence in their lives. He creates pottery, sculpture and paintings that he has entered in the Coastal Carolina State Fair and won numerous ribbons. He is lead guitarist in his church’s praise band and plays the acoustic guitar in a Celtic ensemble. He uses his talents performing for residents at a local assisted-living facility. He won many blue ribbons for writing and playing his music at the 4-H County Demonstration Day and in regional 4-H competitions. He has attended 4-H Teen Weekend, National 4-H Congress and 4-H Ambassador Training.  

“I have found each year that my 4-H experiences only get better,” said Graham. “I’ve been able to explore areas that interest me, been challenged to do things I would not have thought of on my own, been shown how to reach out to others in various ways and been able to meet people from all over the world.”

Stephen Steward – York County (17, Rock Hill)
In his first year in 4-H, Stephen Steward remembers he ate cookies made with crickets. During his 11 years as a member of 4-H, he has participated in the Leopold Education Project, the 4-H Wildlife Identification Contest, Food and Cover Establishment (FACE) and the Wildlife Habitat Evaluation Program (WHEP) Contest.

The program that had the greatest impact for him was the 4-H Summer Camp at Tree Tops. While there he learned essential environmental and survival skills, but more importantly the fundamental abilities to be a successful leader. Because of this, Steward started a 4-H Wildlife Club where he teaches younger members the major classifications of animals, mammals, reptiles and birds. He credits his 4-H agent, Margie Sippel, for her dedication, service and commitment to 4-H and for always being there to give him the extra push when needed. 4-H introduced him to his future career in Environmental Studies and Chemistry.

“I have learned many invaluable skills and concepts and developed the traits of an effective leader,” Steward said. “Above all of this, the greatest principle I have learned is the value of serving others.”  

Seth Steedly – Charleston County (18, Moncks Corner)

Seth Steedly has been in 4-H for eight years. He joined at the encouragement of his parents who were 4-H’ers growing up and knew all the advantages that 4-H could offer. His main project area is wildlife and natural resources.  

He has attended the National Wildlife Habitat Evaluation Program Invitational in Utah, National 4-H Congress in Atlanta and National 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C. He credits 4-H with teaching him the life skill of speaking in front of others, a skill that he will use his whole life. By becoming a State 4-H ambassador his interest in taking on leadership responsibilities in his club, school and church have significantly increased. He also says 4-H has taught him about the importance of citizenship and community service.  

“Being a 4-H’er has prepared me to become a better leader and speaker,” Steedly said. “It is preparing me to look at my community and the people there so that I will know how to serve them better and not just think about myself all the time. Being a 4-H’er is helping me learn life skills that will be useful in the future as I mature and go out into the world to lead and serve others.”

END

With more than 6.8 million youth involved in 4-H nationwide, it is one of the country's most diverse organizations. Originally focused on agricultural projects, 4-H has expanded to support the needs and interests of young people into the 21st century. The 4-H program crosses all economic, racial and social barriers. Local 4-H agents are youth development professionals who provide leadership in each county as a part of the nationwide extension system, which is a partnership among the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state land-grant universities, local county governments and the private sector. To learn more about joining 4-H or becoming a volunteer, contact your local Clemson extension office or visit the state 4-H web site at www.clemson.edu/4h/.