STILLWATER, Okla. — When Zach Wagner was younger, he heard the quote, “The only thing limiting yourself is yourself.” It didn’t mean much to him until he started down his 4-H path. What a journey that has been, culminating in receiving the highest award a club member can achieve on the state level.
The Cotton County 4-H’er was inducted into the Oklahoma 4-H Hall of Fame at the Honors Night Assembly during the 101st State 4-H Roundup at Oklahoma State University. In addition, he received the Ira Hollar Advanced Leadership Scholarship. This $1,200 scholarship is sponsored by the Ira Hollar Endowment. He also received the $1,200 Rule of Law Graduating Senior Scholarship sponsored by the Rule of Law Endowment.
A self-described shy, keep-to-himself kind of kid, Wagner said his life began to change when he joined 4-H.
“I attended meetings and entered a few items into the county fair, but I wasn’t really involved in any 4-H competitions or fun activities,” he said. “When my best friend invited me to go to summer camp with him, that’s when things really changed. This opened my eyes to 4-H and made me realize that I had only opened one door to an entire world of new activities.”
He said he kept trying new things, all while keeping that quote in the back of his mind. While attending the Youth in Action Conference, he discovered he had a certain skill he could use – leadership.
“I learned I could use the abilities I was blessed with to teach people, to lead them, to care for them,” he said. “I became more and more involved and kept stretching my horizons and found a drive to keep doing activities. 4-H changed my life.”
As a high school freshman, Wagner said he needed to put together a state record book. Relying on his memory, he sat down to recall each of his projects. It was during this process he realized he didn’t have a lot of leadership activities. He soon became an official Cotton County Teen Leader, and he continued to polish his leadership skills.
The Teen Leaders did a variety of activities, including making valentines for veterans. The group crafted dog toys from old t-shirts that were donated to a local animal shelter. They also worked on the gardens at the school and courthouse as part of a beautification project. Wagner has evolved from teaching a workshop at camp to developing his own woodworking day camp.
“It’s really exciting to see what starts out as just plain boards become cornhole games, chairs, shelves and dinner trays,” he said.
Throughout these activities, Wagner honed his leadership skills and others began taking notice. He was asked to start a new club in Cotton County, and with help from his family, he established a 4-H LEGO robotics club. As a junior 4-H robotics team coach, he mentors younger 4-H’ers on everything from building their robots to measuring distance and calculating that into their program. He is also a member of the senior 4-H LEGO robotics team, which placed second in their first-ever competition.
During COVID, Wagner knew he still wanted to work on his leadership skills and continue to help club members learn about STEM, so he developed videos on a variety of topics, including candle making, borax crystals, water filtration systems, elephant toothpaste and eight ways to say no. His candle making video was picked up by the National 4-H Stay at Home Program.
Wagner has been a great asset to his local 4-H club by being a good role model, said Kimbreley Davis, Cotton County OSU Extension 4-H educator.
“Zach works really well with the younger kids and has a lot of fun with them. He did a great job mentoring third graders and helping them learn how to build and program LEGO robotics for the STEM club he started and preparing them for competition,” Davis said. “His willingness to help and make our community a better place to live is probably one of the many reasons Zach received this honor. I’m so proud of him and his 4-H career.”
Wagner says the skills he’s learned in 4-H will stay with him throughout his life.
“I began as any normal 4-H’er would when I first began my journey,” he said. “Today, I’m a leader because I learned the only thing holding me back was myself. 4-H has changed my life for the better, and I can’t wait for what this next year will bring.”
A 2022 graduate of the Oklahoma School of Science and Math, Wagner plans to attend college at the University of Oklahoma and major in biology with an emphasis on medial research. He is the son of Kelsey and Leticia Wagner.
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