“I was one of those kids that was born into the 4-H program. I’m a 3rd generation 4-Her… and my Mom was an agent before I was born, so she put us into the program as soon as she could.”
Texas 4-H alumni Kathleen Knesek began her 4-H career as a shy five-year-old in the Clover Kid program, patiently waiting on her big brother’s sidelines until it was time for her to shine.
“When I was in elementary school, I was super shy,” Knesek said. “My mom made me start doing educational presentations when I was 8 and I was not ready for that and that scared me, but it helped me in the long run with being more confident in my abilities and in myself.”
By the end of her career, she’d taken on various different projects that included Recreation, Health Education, Leadership, Civic Education, Global Studies, Community Service, Clothing and Textiles, Foods and Nutrition, and Record Books. With her large involvement, Knesek was able to find things she was truly passionate about, ultimately leading to her future career.
Knesek, currently a student at the University of Delaware, is majoring in Art Conservation with a minor in Fashion History and Culture and plans to obtain a master’s degree in Textile Conservation. She hopes to fulfill her dream of many years and work on the first lady exhibit in a Smithsonian museum after traveling to various museums gaining art knowledge.
“I did state record books, and won that twice, so I got to go to the leadership conference in Washington D.C., and those were some of my most favorite memories, getting to go there,” Knesek said. “That really helped me, pushed me, and inspired me to pursue art conservation after getting to spend time in the Smithsonians.”
Knesek didn’t stop her involvement with 4-H after graduating high school, but continues it today by working at the Texas 4-H Center as a camp counselor. A main duty of hers this summer is “putting in 110% every time,” much like she did in her own 4-H endeavors.
“I learned to work for a goal, and to see that goal either succeed to an accomplishment, or watch it fail epically, and then work to build yourself back up in the moments when you know you never accomplished what you really thought you could.”
For Knesek, 4-H was a connection-building-community with both immediate and extended family, along with friends from across the state. Because of her close relationships, Knesek said 4-H is best described as “a family oriented program.”
“I think the biggest thing I gained from 4-H is the connections that I have made with people not only from my district but from the state as well,” Knesek said. “Being able to create those friendships when you’re 8 or 9 years old and then be 19 years old and still talk to those people is just amazing.”
One project that is close to Knesek’s heart was her Health Education project that she chose to complete after her grandpa had a stroke. At the time, she knew very little about strokes and began to research and quickly realized many others were in the same boat. She began sharing her findings through 4-H into her community. Knesek recalls that one of her biggest successes was placing at state with her Health Education educational presentation and record book.
“[While walking the stage for her educational presentation award] I could see people in the crowd that had stroke awareness ribbons on and it was the first time I had seen all of the education and research I did impact somebody else. It is still something I do today and see it impact people in my community,” Knesek said. “I even created an Instagram account to share my stroke awareness education…it’s @strokeaware.”
Knesek has been able to use her 4-H experience to not only make friends at her new home in Delaware, but also to continue unleashing her competitive side. Recently, she was one of 6 competitors, and the only freshman on the team, from the University of Delware to sweep a global leadership competition. Knesek is proving that 4-H doesn’t stop at the 18th year, but rather develops skills to last a lifetime.
“It was rewarding to see how I was able to apply my 4-H skills to the new curriculum and share what I’d learned through 4-H and through other things in my life with this group of people who I’d never met in person,” Knesek said.
To tie it together with a red ribbon, 4-H has greatly impacted Knesek’s life and she would leave younger 4-H’ers with this advice,” Don’t be afraid to try something new, embrace what comes at you, and lastly, don’t be afraid to be yourself.”