The White House recognized 12 members and leaders of FFA and 4-H as Champions of Change Tuesday, highlighting individuals that have brought positive change to their communities.
The individuals honored carry on the tradition of service to communities and country that 4-H and FFA represent. These individuals have devoted their time and effort to their communities across the country and will have the opportunity to share their stories with Administration officials and 4-H and FFA members around the globe.
"The members of 4-H and FFA are shining examples of the positive change young Americans are bringing across the country, said Jon Carson, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Engagement. "We are not only celebrating the work of students having an impact on their communities, but we're also honoring the mentors and teachers who are fostering these leadership skills in the youth of today."
The Champions of Change program was created to honor ordinary Americans doing great work in their communities. Each week, a different sector is highlighted and groups of Champions, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs to community leaders, are recognized for the work they are doing to serve and strengthen their communities.
Ridge Howell, Checotah, Oklahoma
Ridge Howell is a high school senior in his hometown of Checotah, Okla., and a leader and advocate for youth community involvement. Ridge works hard to encourage other young people in Checotah to help their neighbors, and has helped advance a variety of local projects such as the Checotah Community Garden and a senior citizens lawn mowing program. Ridge's number one goal is to instill leadership, work ethic, and the importance of serving others into every student.
Jessica McAtamney, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Jessica Naugle Mcatamney is an agricultural educator at W.B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences in Philadelphia, Pa. Jessica serves as FFA advisor to one the nation's largest FFA chapters, assisting Saul's fourteen agricultural educators to bring FFA alive to the urban Philadelphia chapter. As the Land Judging Career Development Event Coach and Agriscience Fair coordinator, Jessica facilitates the Chapter's participation in local leadership events, competitions, and conferences. This is just one more chapter in Jessica's story of public service, as she is a returned Peace Corps volunteer and a former participant in the Fulbright Japan-U.S. Teacher Exchange Program for Education for Sustainable Development.
Jacob Dickey, Champaign, Illinois
Jacob E. Dickey is currently a sophomore studying Agricultural Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As an active member of the FFA, Jacob has a combined seven years of FFA leadership experience in a variety of officer positions at the local and state levels. Jacob has led a volunteer initiative that involved more than 10 regional schools, focused on the last line of the FFA motto: "Living to Serve". He brought together a number of prominent businesses and civic organizations, including the Special Olympics and the United Nations World Food Programme, to develop a yearlong campaign that encouraged young students and future leaders to 'live to serve'. The campaign reached nearly one-thousand agricultural education students and FFA members. Jacob is currently continuing to bring together businesses and organizations in the agricultural community to promote leadership, service and agricultural education across Illinois. After graduation from the University of Illinois, Jacob plans to become a high school agricultural instructor and agricultural advocate.
Neeta Patel, Princeton, New Jersey
Neeta Patel is a first-year student at Princeton University. Throughout her high school career, she was very involved in the Camden County 4-H Program. She went on to serve as an AmeriCorps member in the Camden County 4-H Program in 2010 and 2011. After graduating from high school in 2011, she was inspired to take a gap year in Ghana, West Africa as part of Princeton University's Bridge Year Program. While there, she taught math and computer classes for four months to the 65 youth in a rural village. By the end of her gap year, she had raised more than $2000 to build a computer lab with several computers for the students to use.
Kea Norrell Boyd, Lansing, Michigan
Kea Norrell Boyd is an Educator for the Wayne County 4-H Mentoring Program, a part of the Children & Youth Institute at Michigan State University Extension. Kea has devoted her career to advocating for disadvantaged youth in Detroit and has spent the last six and a half years expanding the 4-H Mentoring Program to provide at-risk youth with positive adult role models. Kea is a Co-Coach for the MSUE statewide Mentoring Team and served as a co-author for the Ready to Go: A Mentor Training Toolkit curriculum project.
Bill Jimmerson, Bozeman, Montana
Bill Jimmerson is a retired educator who served for 32 years as an Agricultural Education teacher and FFA Advisor in Montana. During his seven years as Montana State FFA Advisor, he created the Montana FFA American Indian program to provide Native American students with opportunities to become involved in FFA and to share their culture with others in the organization. He is passionate about providing leadership opportunities to the next generation of citizens.
Kaydn Ence, Saint George, Utah
Kaydn Ence is a high school junior from Saint George, Utah. He is an involved and motivated 4-H teen leader, driven to create positive change in his community. When a company decided not to expand its operations in his hometown, Kaydn learned the decision was largely due to the lack of technological training in the community. Kaydn went to work establishing 4-H robotics clubs across his county and worked with his local 4-H office, school system, and university to promote the programs. In 2012, he raised more than $2,000 through grants, fundraising, and local sponsorships in order to buy LEGO NXT robotics kits. In addition, Kaydn built the necessary regulation robotics tables using woodworking skills he learned in 4-H. Just a year after founding the program, Kaydn has organized nine robotics clubs to better prepare youth for future careers in computer programming, engineering, and technology.
Jordan Paine, Oxford, Nebraska
Jordan Paine is the President of the Southern Valley FFA Chapter and the Oxford Jr. Feeders 4-H Club in Oxford, Nebraska. She also serves on Nebraska's Youth Curriculum Committee that helps to produce 4-H Curriculum, and is on her county's 4-H Council. Paine has grown up in agriculture and has been key in implementing many agricultural education programs in her county. Her work includes starting a school farm, an FFA goatherd, a youth bucket-calf program, reviewing and writing curriculum, and is currently working on building a greenhouse at her school. Paine has also represented Nebraska FFA at the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute.
Chamonix Mejia, Laredo, Texas
Chamonix Mejia has been an active 4-H member for the past 11 years. Through her club, Mesquite Rangers, she has encouraged 4-H'ers to value the many opportunities that 4-H has to offer and to strive "To Make the Best Better." She has worked hard to improve her community through various community service projects and by encouraging the youth of her community to set high expectations for themselves.
Samuel Roberson, Prairie View, Texas
Dr. Samuel G. Roberson Sr. is currently a Program Specialist, 4-H & Youth Development Prairie View A&M University Cooperative Extension Program in Texas. Dr. Roberson has actively volunteered in his community for nearly 28 years. Roberson's community work includes youth coaching, school volunteer, cultural arts board member, Juneteenth and Kwanzaa community celebration chair, NAACP member, bone marrow donor recruitment, and eight years of service as Community Services Commissioner. In Dr. Roberson's role as a specialist, he provides supportive research, programming and evaluation services to help Cooperative Extension 4-H programs succeed at impacting Texas youth with a primary emphasis on youth from limited resources backgrounds and minorities.
Andrea Kneer-Rice, Frederick County, Maryland
Andrea Kneer-Rice grew up in Frederick County, Md. She was a devoted 4-H and FFA member who traveled across the country with the Maryland state 4-H horse teams. She recently began working for University of Maryland Extension as a 4-H educator with a focus in STEM education. In the short time that she has been with UME she has gained funding for 4-H clubs, helped implement the Baltimore City Youth Expo, and built partnerships with other key community groups such as the University of Maryland Biopark and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore.
Pete Dreisbach, Hardinsburg, Kentucky
Dr. Pete Drisbach serves as Director of the Kentucky FFA Leadership Training Center. For 25 years, Dr. Pete has worked tirelessly to improve its programming and facilities while welcoming young people to the center. Each year 1,500 students attend the camp to engage in team building activities and to learn lessons they take back to their own communities.