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Rising Senior Receives Prestigious 4-H Award
Kierra Owens
(by Don Meador, The Citizen-Times, June 25, 2020, used with permission) 
 
   For almost a decade, Kierra Star Owens has immersed herself in the local 4-H program through the Allen County Co-Operative Extensive Service. Owens engaged in project after project to enhance her growth while developing life-changing and life-sustaining skills. As a result of years and years of hard work and commitment, Owens recently received the highest recognition that the state 4-H program bestows upon members.

   “Allen County 4-H is super-excited and absolutely thrilled that Kierra has received the Kentucky 4-H Emerald 4-H Award,” explained Anna Meador, Allen County Extension Agent. “There are only four Emerald Awards given to 4-Hers each year in the state of Kentucky. It’s a very prestigious award. Allen County has only had one other Emerald Award to date, Kristine Gillenwater in 2015. It’s rare and we are super thrilled.”

   Meador adds that Owens has invested much time, dedication, and commitment in all of her 4-H projects over the years. 

   “Kierra is such a hard working girl,” Meador added. “She is very passionate about the projects she get engaged in. Her favorite is the horse project with her horse that she has worked to train herself. The livestock and horse programs are so unique because the kids develop such a deep relationship and bond with their animals which teaches them so many life skills---from responsibility to dedication and hard work, to communication, to business skills, and financial education and so many more other things. Kierra excels in the horse program and has done quite well at each state levels and even in in regional levels in the last couple of years. At the county level, Kierra is really involved in the Allen County Horsing’ A-Round Club and project days where she shows a lot of leadership and wiliness to help out the younger kids. She also has in the past couple of years really focused on oil painting, drawing, and county ham projects. We are waiting to hear back on whether Kierra will be accepted to the 4-H performing arts troupe because performing arts is also incredibility importance to her. We are super excited to support her in that endeavor as well.” 

   Owens has been in the local 4-H program from the time she was young, engaging in multiple activities, while focusing on horses---a love of her life. 

   “I’ve been involved in 4-H since I was a clover bud, so the last eight years” Owens explained. “I started out doing workshops like basket making and painting and stuff but what I was really interested in was the horse program. Until I was nine, I couldn’t do the horse program because of the rules. But, I started when I was nine riding at Maple Dell Ranch until 2018 and I’m appreciatively of everything Martha Day did for me. Then, I went to Madison Woods’ farm and they helped me get my own horse. DiNozzo is the name of my horse, He is a seven-year old thoroughbred.”

   Owens notes that her involvement with 4-H has taught her many things. 

   “4-H has shown me that it doesn’t matter where you come from or who you are or how young you are, you can still do what you want,” Owens explained. “4-H has given me and other youth opportunities to stay well rounded and grounded. It gives us the skills to really achieve our dreams.” 

   The youngster explains that 4-H teaches kids both practical life skills as well as people and interaction shills---shills that may not seem obvious but are needed each and every day and will be valuable in future activities. 

   “For example, in the horse program, we do things like Hippology (the study of the horse) and Horse Judging,” Owens explained. “Hippology is mainly an educational knowledge test. Horse Judging is where you place the horse class in order and give reasons. You have 15 minutes to come up with the reasons why you placed the class the order that you did. That helps you learn ways to defend yourself (your position) in a very polite way. It allows you to be able to talk to strangers. You have to explain why you have placed a class the way you placed it. 4-H has also helped me with communication and speeches. I written speeches and done demonstrations since fourth grade. It has also taught me money-management. 4-H has taught me teamwork and also leadership. When I first started 4-H I had low self-esteem and I was a very shy kid. 4-H has helped me work in that and build my self-confidence”

   The local 4-H program involve many kids across a wide-range of sectors in the community. 

“The kids in our 4-H program are spread across different schools and ages,” Owens said. “Some are from the public schools, others are home schooled and from Christian schools.”

   As far as future plans, Owens is looking forward to college in a year with plans to attend college in the heart of horse-country in Kentucky.  Even though her career ambition is not directly related to horses of 4-H, her gal is keep a horse near and 4-H in her mind. 

   “I do plan on going to the University of Kentucky and major in psychology and going into criminal law.” Owens noted. “I will always have horses in my life. They are a therapist for me. If I have had a bad day, I can go and see my horse and everything is made better. I also plan on being a 4-H donor some day and a volunteer.”

   She would also like to see as many youngsters as possible become involved in 4-H.  

   “You don’t have a lot of money to participate in 4-H---there’s a misconception by many adults and kids have that you do,” Owens pointed out. “4-H has fundraisers to help kids with expenses such as 4-H camp. Everything you do in 4-H teaches you something very valuable that you can keep with you throughout your life. I believe if ever young child can do 4-H it will benefit them and they should do it.”

   Owens also admits that her 4-H experience has also brought about a life-related traumatic experience, one that her friends helped her make it through and thus encourage her to stay in 4-H.  

   “Just like any other program there are going to be bumps in the road,’ Owens said. “I was severely bullied since 2018 and if it wasn’t for the Woods family, I would have never stayed in. You got to realize that regardless of what happens you have to stay with it and find the light at the end of the tunnel. If not, you are letting your aggressors win.”

   The result of Owens’ wiliness to stay with 4-H and push onward led to a moment not to be forgotten. On June 9, Owens, alongside her mom, watched the 2020 Kentucky 4-H Foundation visual awards program streamed on-line this year due to the pandemic. Tears would flow as Owens herald her named called as an Emerald Award winner. 

   “This means the whole world to me,” Owens said while fighting her tears during the visual award feed moments after the announcement. “I had the best experience all the eight years I have been in 4-H. I couldn’t be happier to use this as a platform to help other kids like me.”

   Her advisor stressed the magnitude of Owens’ achievement. 

   “The Emerald Award is the capstone crowning achievement for a 4Hers,” Meador said. “I know what it’s like and she should be very excited. The award goes to the best of the best. Over her eight years in 4-H, Kierra has shown great leadership and dedication. We are so proud of her.”

   Kierra is the daughter of Rodney and Nancy Owens. She will be a senior this fall at the Allen County-Scottsville High School. To see the visual awards program and Owens’ reaction, visit https://kentucky4hfoundation.org/2020-achievement-awards/

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