STILLWATER, Okla. — Lincoln County 4-H’er Lilyana Sestak was taking part in 4-H events long before she was old enough to be an official member, but that’s what happens when your dad is the local Oklahoma State University Extension 4-H educator.
Once she officially became a Cloverbud, she knew her possibilities were limitless but within reach – and she hasn’t slowed down since then. One of those many possibilities became a reality when she was inducted into the Oklahoma 4-H Hall of Fame during the 100th State 4-H Roundup that took place July 28-30 on the OSU campus in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
“When I got the call that I’d won, it was just surreal,” said Sestak, who is a member of the Prague 4-H Club. “I broke out in tears. I just feel so honored to be recognized like this.”
Born into a farming and ranching family, Sestak assumed she would participate in 4-H livestock projects, which she has, but her true passion is in the foods project. As much as she enjoyed helping with the family’s cattle, she was most at home in the kitchen with her grandmother, perfecting all kinds of recipes, including those that helped her learn more about her Czech heritage. Her skills in the kitchen were instrumental in being named a food science state record book winner.
Community service is a big part of the Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development program, and is at the core of one of Sestak’s projects. Through her work with an organization called Stamp Out Starvation, which delivers prepackaged meals throughout the world, Lilyana researched to see if Oklahoma offered a similar program. Finding nothing, she developed her own project called Food for Family to target the hungry in her state. She has applied for and received grants and continues working toward seeing this dream become a reality.
When asked what she enjoys most about being involved in 4-H, Sestak is quick to answer.
“4-H teaches us not just life skills, but social and business skills, too. I’ve learned to be professional and business like,” she said. “These are things that will help me in the future. I also enjoy all of the relationships I’ve developed in 4-H. This is one of the few organizations that helps us branch out of our community, county and state because of all the opportunities we have across the country. I’ve made so many friends from all over the United States because of conferences I’ve attended through 4-H.”
As her father and her county 4-H educator, Ross Sestak said he couldn’t be more proud of her accomplishments.
“She has continually strived to be a mentor to younger members and peers in the 4-H program. She’s a true testament that with leadership and success, there must be true sacrifice,” Ross Sestak said. “Lilyana has overcome many obstacles, persevered through the challenges, and made not only the people around her better, but ascended with them as well. She’s a pure example of how a small-town girl can make a tremendous impact on those around her.”
Jessica Riggin, another 4-H educator in the Lincoln County OSU Extension office, is proud of the young woman Sestak has grown into.
“I’ve watched Lily grow from a beginning Cloverbud to a remarkable 4-H member and young lady. She can do anything she sets her mind to do, and as her educator, I could not be more proud,” Riggin said.
Her years in 4-H have honed her leadership skills, which she has used in a variety of leadership roles on the local, county, district and state levels, including Northeast District representative and vice president of the State 4-H leadership council. Some of her other 4-H honors include being named a Noble Cause winner, Prague 4-H Outstanding Junior Member, Lincoln County Hall of Fame inductee and county speech contest winner. She also served as a delegate to Citizenship Washington Focus, a leadership development opportunity in Washington, D.C.
Although the 4-H program is known for its four H’s – head, heart, hands and health – Sestak said there’s a fifth H for her – home.
“This program has been with me since birth. It’s a home not only for me but for thousands of others. My dad has served as a father figure not only to his own family, but for many kids involved in 4-H,” she said. “We care about you before you enroll in 4-H, and we care about you long after. We’re Oklahoma’s family and this is something I’m very passionate about.”
Sestak is a shining example of the 4-H motto “To Make the Best Better.” She is the daughter of Ross Sestak and Krista Ray. A 2021 graduate of Prague High School, she will attend OSU this fall to study biochemistry and molecular biology. She hopes to later attend the OSU Center for Health Sciences and earn a doctorate in osteopathic medicine and become a hand and foot surgeon.
Oklahoma Ag Credit sponsors a $5,000 scholarship for Oklahoma 4-H Hall of Fame inductees. In addition to the Hall of Fame honors, Sestak also was awarded the $1,200 Advanced Achievement project scholarship sponsored by the Vernon and Ronda McKown Endowment; the $1,200 Larry D. Anderson Memorial Scholarship sponsored by the Larry D. Anderson Memorial; the $1,200 Hessell Memorial Scholarship in Public Speaking sponsored by the David Hessell Family; and the $2,000 Retta Miller Scholarship sponsored by the Retta Miller Endowment.
Oklahoma State University
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