June [Thomson] Switzer became involved with the 4-H program at the age of 12. Growing up on a farm outside of Rockwood, she was actively involved in agriculture and life skills clubs, while completing over 45 projects. Among her many long lasting memories, she still remembers fondly her first meeting learning to make tea biscuits in a small farm kitchen, sewing and wearing her first 4-H dress, showing her calf and winning red, winning the Silver Dollar Competition (precursor to the Gencor Challenge and today’s version), the many bus trips, meeting other clubs and much more. Her (late) husband Craig and children, Kris and Brooke are all graduates of the 4-H program as well.
After graduation from the 4-H program, Switzer remained involved as an active volunteer. She continues today as a volunteer with Mimosa Life Skills and Poultry Clubs including the Mimosa 4-H Art Club. As a volunteer she has many memories as well such as watching a shy 10-year-old blossom over five years into a confident leader.
“Then the ultimate volunteer delight; to have a member graduate from 4-H and continue as an independent leader,” she adds.
Switzer says 4-H has allowed her to grow right along with the members.
“I gained so much confidence and so many life skills as a member it seems only right to give back to the next generations,” she says. “When I see the members’ enthusiasm for things that I too enjoy, it is a real energizing uplift. I go home with a smile from every meeting.”
One of those things that Switzer has always enjoyed has been art and painting and creating artwork which reflects farm life. This year, she put those talents towards creating the artwork used for the 4-H Ontario Outstanding New Leader Award.
“I have loved art since elementary school when we had it last period on Friday afternoons,” she says.
Though she enjoyed it, it was often hard to find the time between raising children, leading 4-H, attending church and agricultural society work, as well as farming and working as a full-time teacher. Switzer taught for 34 years at Erin District High School and Erin Public School. But upon retirement, she decided it was time to “play” again.
“I am delighted and honoured to think that new volunteers to 4-H will be looking at my work and just as in the painting, thinking about which projects they’ll plan for their new year.”
The painting for the 4-H Ontario Outstanding New Leader Award is titled Waiting For Spring and is described below.
The summer and fall months are filled with 4-H achievements, local fairs, as well as award ceremonies. During the winter months, volunteers are able to reflect on the past year and preparing for the highly anticipated year ahead. The “Volunteer Lives Here” signifies that a 4-H volunteer’s duty is never complete. Our volunteers work tirelessly year round and make the 4-H program happen.
The 4-H Ontario Outstanding New Leader Award is Sponsored by Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Ltd.
A co-operative owned by over 1,300 farmers, representing approximately 35% of Ontario’s dairy farmers, Gay Lea has been providing a wide range of dairy products to consumers for over 55 years.
About the 4-H Ontario Outstanding New Leader Award
These awards recognize volunteers who are new to 4-H, but doing great things for youth members in their clubs. This award celebrates those volunteers who have been leaders with 4-H Ontario for less than three years.
Nominations are currently being accepted for the 2017 awards until May 15, 2017. Find out more about this award and make your nominations here.