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New York Mills youth wins 4-H leadership scholarship

Heather leading an afterschool program
for K-3rd grade youth
Heather Weller is a recent graduate of New York Mills High School and the 2017 recipient of the David and Valerie Pace Leadership Scholarship from the Minnesota 4-H Foundation.

From East Otter Tail County, Heather has been an active 4-H member on the local, state, and national level. In her thirteen years in the program, she raised and showed rabbits, developed over 40 general exhibits for display and judging at her local fair, and engaged in countless leadership opportunities.

Heather’s first leadership role in 4-H was teaching an after-school program for Cloverbuds, a program for youth in K-3rd grade. This is where she first learned the importance of working together as a team. Since that important first step into leading, Heather has continued to build her public speaking and communication skills over time. As an older 4-H’er, Heather served as president of the East Otter Tail 4-H Federation and a Minnesota 4-H State Ambassador, developing leadership training for younger youth and advocating for 4-H across the state. “4-H offered me my first exposure to the ideas of citizenship, leadership, service learning and appreciating and understanding diversity.”

Heather with fellow youth leaders
at the 2016 National 4-H Conference
In 2015, Heather was one of four Minnesota delegates to attend the National 4-H Conference in Washington D.C. There, she worked on a committee focused on education and made a presentation to the National Department of Education on improving college prep resources and standardized testing. The input that Heather’s committee gave reached the then Secretary of Education – Arne Duncan. The next year she was one of six youth who planned that same conference.

In 2017, she participated in the 4-H Presidential Washington Focus, a week-long program that builds understanding of citizenship and the executive branch of government. “These experiences enhanced my perception of the world and greatly influenced my career path and interests,” said Heather. “If I hadn’t had the opportunity to discover my passions through 4-H, it is difficult to imagine how different my life and goals would be today.”

Heather applies the passion and knowledge she’s developed in 4-H through specific and intentional community service. She is the founder of a non-profit organization called, Thank a Veteran, which brings public awareness to all that veterans do and coordinates gratitude activities for veterans, soldiers, and their families.

Heather presenting her Thank a Veteran project
at the Minnesota State Fair
Through Heather’s leadership, Thank a Veteran has sent over 55,000 thank you notes and care packages for veterans across the country. Heather also maintains a Facebook page for the organization and started additional projects such as “Holiday Mail for Heroes” and “Project New Hope.” She also gained new public speaking experiences while doing interviews from the Library of Congress.

Heather is also active in many other organizations such as Minnesota Alliance with Youth, Minnesota Youth Council, and National Honor Society, serving various leadership roles.

Heather will attend the University of Chicago, pursuing a double major in Public Policy and International Relations. She hopes to continue serving the public interest as a non-profit leader or as a staff member at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, DC.

Her passion comes from living by Gandhi’s saying, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” This saying has encouraged Heather to make a difference in the world around her and she intends to carry that passion with her as she moves forward into her college career.

Congratulations to Heather for winning the David and Valerie Pace 4-H Leadership Scholarship from the Minnesota 4-H Foundation. You are a Minnesota 4-H true leader!

By Megan Slater
Minnesota 4-H Foundation

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