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Uhls honored with ‘Friends’ award

Uhls honored with ‘Friends’ award Uhls honored with ‘Friends’ award

A Corydon couple was recently honored with the Friends of Purdue Extension Award for their lifetime of service to 4-H and Extension programs.

The award is normally presented in person on the Purdue University campus each year, but, due to COVID, Todd and Lisa Uhl learned of their honor during a virtual presentation.

“It was an honor to be recognized by an organization that we’ve cared so deeply about during the past 40 years,” said Todd. “Lisa and I have most enjoyed our time with 4-H members and their families.

“Extension is an impressive organization and provides so many wonderful learning opportunities for our community, especially for youth, with workshops at the county level to three-day experiences on Purdue’s campus with experts in various fields,” he said. “4-H is just a small slice of what Extension does. The service that it provides to our community is more valuable than most people realize. I’m proud to be involved with Purdue Extension and mostly as a 4-H leader.”

The Uhls were nominated by Harrison County Extension Educators Miranda Edge and Rebecca Wilkins.

“I’ve devoted my life to serving the youth in our community … but I’m most known for my work with 4-H,” said Lisa.

4-H gave Lisa many opportunities to learn and to develop as a person.

“It had a huge impact on my life,” she said. “As a pre-teen with scoliosis, I had to wear a full body back brace from age 11 to 17. That left me out of sports and many activities, but 4-H was someplace I could excel, develop and grow in skills that were of interest to me.”

In addition to teaching her about a variety of topics through projects, Lisa said 4-H helped honed her leadership skills.

“It’s what gave me the skills and the confidence to be on boards and committees, often taking on the role of secretary, V.P. or president,” she said. “It helped hone my public speaking skills through participating in 4-H demonstration contests at the local, area and state levels.

“Academically, I did very well, but, in the 4-H program, I really enjoyed learning and excelling in new areas,” Lisa said. “I realized that I had gained several skills and confidence, and that it got me through a rough patch as a teen. I wanted to ensure that quality 4-H programming would be available not only to my own children, but also to the children in our community.

“I wanted to be a part of providing a safe space for youth to gain confidence and leadership experience, while having fun and learning about a plethora of subjects that 4-H projects offer,” Lisa continued. “4-H is so much more than completing a project to take to the fair. At our club meetings, we teach and utilize parliamentary procedure; this alone is a key that opens doors for youth to participate in organizations as they become adults.”

The Uhls have seen first hand the positive effects of adults taking the time to mentor, lead and nurture youth through a quality 4-H program.

“We could tell you story after story about 4-H members who were once too shy to make eye contact, yet, through 4-H, their confidence grew,” Lisa said.

4-H also emphasizes community service, team building and the importance of evaluating self and peers, as well as how to give constructive criticism.

For the Uhls, the real award is seeing the youth gain these skills and become leaders within a club to help younger members.

“The opportunity to nurture youth, to help them develop a positive self-esteem, a sense of belonging and self worth, develop leadership skills, develop life skills, develop a sense of service to others and to give back to their community is the intrinsic reward,” said Lisa. “Youth with a positive self-esteem are more likely to thrive, more likely to overcome difficult circumstances, more likely to stand up to a bully and more likely to be confident in their choices.

“The task and privilege of mentoring youth is to realize that all of our youth will one day be our future, either the part of society that will give back to their community, develop new techniques or procedures that will improve our lives, or else they won’t be,” she said. “I see 4-H as one of the best models for implementing this bundle of skills into the everyday life of youth. I want each child in our community to have that opportunity, that sense of security and safety that allows them to form friendships and tap into what makes them whole, allowing them to achieve so that they can realize their full potential, to create, to invent and give back to others so that it can become a perpetuating cycle of improving the next generation.”

She said 4-H is not finishing a project for the fair. 4-H is finishing a youth in a way that prepares them for life.

“I would encourage every parent to consider the 4-H program for their children,” said Lisa. “4-H is not cows, corn and sewing. 4-H has evolved with our changing society and offers computers, robotics, aerospace and an abundance of other projects that 25 years ago we wouldn’t have even considered offering to youth.”

The Uhls also encourage adults to volunteer with the 4-H program, the homemakers group or the agricultural side of Extension.

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Morrill Act for the sole purpose of having institutions of higher learning that would then “extend” that knowledge, thus the name Extension office, to the county level.

“You will be amazed at the quantity and quality of programs that our county Extension office provides,” Lisa said.