Eulanda Sanders, Iowa State’s Donna R. Danielson Professor in Textiles and Clothing, credits the 4-H Youth Program with launching her career in the fashion industry. Photo by Kent Davis.

4-H alums credit youth program with launching human sciences careers

As Iowa teens this week participate in the Iowa 4-H Youth Conference at Iowa State University, they’ll pledge their heads to clearer thinking, their hearts to greater loyalty, their hands to larger service, and their health to better living, not only for themselves, but also their communities and beyond.

For a number of 4-H alumni, that commitment to head, heart, hands, and health led them to pursue a career in human sciences.

“4-H really set a foundation for my life,” said Eulanda Sanders, Iowa State’s Donna R. Danielson Professor in Textiles and Clothing and the College of Human Sciences’ equity adviser. “It’s a fabulous organization. Often, when I have 4-H’ers in class, it’s evident. They possess attention for detail, good communication skills, inquisitiveness, and a willingness to take risks.”

Helping those around us

Kinesiology majors Molly Goltz and Emma Knoop will both begin their senior year this fall, crediting 4-H with fostering leadership skills that will last a lifetime.

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Molly Goltz

Goltz decided to pursue a career in the health field because she enjoys speaking with others — a quality that was planted in her by the 4-H program.

“I am consistently offering assistance to those around me,” she said. “4-H embedded positive qualities into my daily life, so trying to better my community and myself have become automatic actions.”

Knoop also sees a connection between her 4-H membership and career goals.

“I usually did around 30 indoor projects every year, so I had lots of opportunities for interviews with the judges,” Knoop said. “Moving this over into the work setting, talking with someone and pursuing a passion builds a long-lasting, positive, and memorable relationship with work, patients, teachers, and friends.”

Goltz found her passion in kinesiology and health’s pre-medicine option.

“The Department of Kinesiology at Iowa State is founded on the belief that simple lifestyle changes can help individuals live healthier, happier lives,” she said. “My goal is to attend medical school to receive my doctorate in human medicine. Learning the skills that 4-H teaches you is important, but what you do with the skills is what makes a difference in the world.”

Knoop couldn’t agree more.

“Iowa State’s kinesiology and health program has reminded me of how I was in 4-H,” Knoop said. “The program and its people have demonstrated just how passionate they are to help, direct, and create a long-lasting relationship.”

A jump start to a career in fashion

Hannah Swanson, a recent Iowa State graduate in apparel, merchandising, and design, set her sights on the fashion industry and served as the marketing coordinator for Awardrobe, a 4-H clothing event.

During Awardrobe, 4-H’ers learn about current fashion trends; higher education opportunities in clothing, fashion, and textiles; careers in the field of fashion and design; and life-skill development before modeling their garments in a public runway show.

Swanson participated in the event during high school, ranking in the top 3 percent among her peers, which earned her two $500 scholarships to Iowa State, once in 2011 and again in 2012.

“One of my friends was actually the intern in charge of organizing the Awardrobe event in 2013, so she reached out to me and asked if I wanted to be a modeling coordinator,” Swanson said. “I agreed because this event was so impactful on my life and my college choices that I wanted to help out in any way I could, so others could have the same experience.”

Swanson credits the Awardrobe scholarship for giving her a jump start into the apparel, merchandising, and design program.

“After receiving the scholarship, I realized that I actually enjoyed fashion and that I was good at it,” Swanson said. “(Academic adviser) Ann Thye told me that the most successful students took advantage of opportunities like studying abroad and participating in the Fashion Show, so that’s what I did.”

4-H conference sets course for Cyclone adventure

Haley Wellman, a former Heddleson intern who graduated this year in family and consumer sciences education and studies with a minor in gerontology, was quick to pursue the opportunities that Iowa State offered her.

Had it not been for the Iowa 4-H Youth Conference, Wellman may never have heard of those opportunities.

“My experience at the 4-H conference helped make my decision to attend Iowa State University because, most importantly, the people at the 4-H conference were so kind and helpful,” she said. “As a young 18-year-old, it was huge to have a sense of comfort knowing that a large university like Iowa State University was still so welcoming.”

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Haley Wellman

While Wellman knew she wanted to work with older adults and appreciated that Iowa State was a welcoming and friendly place, she needed to make sure that she would be part of an educational program that would prepare her well for her career aspirations.

“My personal experiences with my great-grandmother helped shape my decision to go forward with pursuing a career in family and consumer sciences and gerontology,” she said. “Iowa State’s College of Human Sciences had a variety of majors that would prepare me in how to help older adults in several ways.”

Wellman said that with the holistic view offered in the Iowa State program, she was able to take classes related to human development, finances, business, nutrition, and public policy — areas that have served her well in her current position as community outreach coordinator for The Shores at Pleasant Hill.

“The holistic view allowed me to learn a variety of subjects, which provided me an opportunity to learn multiple areas with which I may interact during my career,” she said. “My experiences at the Alzheimer’s Association - Greater Iowa Chapter and Human Sciences Extension and Outreach Heddleson Internship allowed me to learn more about the services available to older adults and how much further we need to push to get the right services for the right people.”

Amazing experiences

Through 4-H, Megan Huftalin helped plan events, club trips, dances, and more. She learned to communicate with many people and make strong connections — very important qualities in the events industry.

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Megan Huftalin

“I changed my major last semester to event management and I love it,” said Huftalin, who is also pursuing a minor in entrepreneurship. “I think 4-H had an influence on my choice. I hope to own my own wedding planning business and will put all of these skills and experiences to work to create a successful business.”

Huftalin’s experiences include serving as the events intern for the 25th year of Science Bound, a program that provides STEM training to youth of color, as well as events intern for the Ames Chamber of Commerce — opportunities that, with the support of her professors, have given her a chance to take skills developed in 4-H to the next level.

“My advisers are amazing,” she said. “They are so supportive and helpful — I would not be so organized and confident about my major without them.”

An entrepreneurial spirit

For Sanders, too, the freedom that 4-H provided allowed her to think outside the box and make her own way in the world.

“4-H truly shaped me and provided me with personal and professional opportunities,” Sanders said. “As a designer, my upper-level clothing projects allowed the freedom to start designing the garments I sought to create, rather than using a commercial pattern. 4-H helps to foster the entrepreneurial spirit by allowing participants the freedom to create their own path. That freedom to explore resonated with me.”

Now, as an Iowa State professor, Sanders brings that sense of freedom into the classroom.

“With our program, students have a lot of freedom to explore,” Sanders said. “Students have opportunities to participate in undergraduate research projects, independent studies, and elective credits that allow them to explore a niche market. We foster and support the idea of entrepreneurship, creating products or services that can support people in a way that allows students to support themselves.”