Virginia 4-H honored four of its most outstanding members at the virtual Evening With 4-H conference in early 2021. The 4‑H Youth in Action Program recognizes four confident young leaders with diverse backgrounds and unique perspectives in 4-H core pillar areas: agriculture, civic engagement, healthy living, and STEM.

“Each of the Youth in Action award winners represent what 4-H brings out in Virginia’s youth, helping them become the best versions of themselves as they become leaders and role models in their communities,” said Jeremy Johnson, Virginia state 4-H leader.

Each of the four winners received a $500 mini-grant to develop a significant community project, recognition at a formal award ceremony, a full scholarship to attend the Virginia State 4-H Congress in Blacksburg; an opportunity to be featured as the Virginia 4-H youth spokesperson for their pillar; and support and mentorship to apply for the 2022 National 4-H Youth Leadership Awards

This year, Perisa Ashar received the award for STEM; Andrew “Charlie” Sloop received the award for civic engagement; Becca Berglie received the award for agriculture; and Samantha Whysong received the award for healthy living. Additionally, Ashar was selected the Overall Youth in Action Award winner and will receive additional opportunities to be a spokesperson for Virginia 4-H.

Ashar, a resident of Henrico County, has shown leadership in the STEM pillar. Since joining the Henrico 4-H chapter as a youth leader in fall 2019, she began volunteering with the monthly STEM club. After assisting the 4-H agents, she led several workshops of her own. One of her classes included teaching students programming a Sprite — a simple character that is coded to go through a maze on the Scratch Platform. In another class, Perisa helped students create a diagram of the circulatory system and various organs, such as using pink balloons to symbolize lungs.

During COVID-19, Ashar wanted to continue volunteering with 4-H while pursuing her passion for STEM education. Through her international nonprofit organization, STEMinate, where she is the executive director, she collaborated with 4-H to offer a 10-week virtual program called “Train Your Brain” in hopes of reaching a new audience she had not yet reached. With an audience of elementary and middle school students, Ashar and three other STEMinate advisory board members successfully taught engaging lessons each week.

Sloop, the recipient of the Youth in Action for civic engagement and a nine-year 4-Her from Bland County, said his passion for communications and public speaking drove him to educate as many people as possible about the importance of understanding others' perspectives and backgrounds during community outreach events.

Sloop has defined his public speaking series as "Great to Communicate" through on-going numerous 4-H projects. These include public speaking contests, 4-H Day at the Capitol, social media, giving updates to the Bland County School Board, 4-H Camp, Southern Region Teen Leadership Conference, Bland County Fair/Festival of Leaves, and any event where there is a crowd of people.

He has also spoken up for mental health, LGBTQ+, race inclusion, and equality for all. Sloop created a Safe Space highlight on his Instagram page to let hundreds of people know that he is willing to take time and help them in any given situation. Many teenagers, students, leaders, and friends look up to Sloop, and he will continue to use his personality to bring positivity to people's lives.

Berglie, the recipient of the Youth in Action agriculture award and resident of Fairfax County, used her passion for 4-H and agriculture to learn how food is produced. Through 4-H, Berglie was equipped with the skills to implement agricultural education in her urban and suburban community.

As a volunteer and now staff member at Frying Pan Farm Park, a working model 1930s-50s farm in Fairfax County, she uses such skills as leadership and public speaking that she learned from 4-H. She uses these at the club and county level to provide agricultural education to her community and agricultural awareness in an urban area. Whether it's a simple conversation, answering a question, sharing a fun fact, presenting, or leading a cow milking demonstration at farm events, Berglie provides agricultural education to the park visitors.

Whysong, the recipient of the Youth in Action healthy living award and resident of Prince William County, embraced everything 4-H had to offer. She leaped into club leadership and mentorship, but she continues to challenge herself in such roles as camp counselor, county fundraising chair, junior co-president of the county 4-H Leader Association, a statewide 4-H Horse Ambassador, and a Virginia 4-H all-star in 2020.

Whysong stepped up again during the virtual era. She recognized during the pandemic the importance of keeping her club members connected and organized Zoom meetings. She led club members in celebrating special moments that occurred over the past several months, such as graduations and birthdays, so that all members remained upbeat and mentally healthy. Whysong set up “locker room zooms” as a safe space for club members to talk about their feelings and struggles throughout the challenging year.

Through recent civic engagement opportunities, Whysong became aware of the purposes and service of those in a legislative office. Recognizing that these roles can serve as an opportunity to create change, she was driven to help others in need. Whysong has now molded an interactive plan to serve a community of young people by providing a special mental health awareness campaign and program focused on bullying.

Much as they have for more than 100 years, Virginia 4-H youth are still showing livestock, but they are also building rockets and designing robots, writing computer code, exploring ways to protect the environment, living healthy lives, and are involved in their communities. The core mission has never changed: empower youth by giving them the tools they need to chart their own path and the space to thrive.