Although she is too old to compete in horsemanship for the first time in 10 years, Megan Gallup of Columbia is still an active player at the annual Missouri State Fair in Sedalia. The 18-year-old Hickman High School graduate is one of this year’s 42 recipients of a Missouri 4-H Foundation scholarship. The scholarships, either $500 or $1,000, must be applied toward higher education, and many are reserved for MU students.
The 4-H Foundation, a youth development organization, has 7.1 million participants between the ages of 8 and 18 nationwide. In 2004, more than 100,000 Missouri students participated in 4-H activities, including 1,400 Boone County residents. According to Jo Turner, director of 4-H Youth Development Programs in Missouri, Boone County has one of the three largest programs in the state.
And although a high percentage of 4-H’ers have agricultural exhibits at the fair, only a small number of Missouri’s members come from agricultural backgrounds.
“That’s usually a misnomer that 4-H members are from the farm,” said Don Henderson, executive director of the 4-H Foundation.
At this year’s fair, the 4-H building is showcasing 4,000 exhibits that won at the county level and will host 5,000 demonstrations. Exhibits include baked goods, sewing and art projects.
The Missouri 4-H Foundation awards a total of $38,000 in scholarships annually based on citizenship and community service, career goals, previous participation in 4-H and financial need. These awards are separate from the money awarded to winners of the fair’s 4-H livestock showing competitions. According to Alison Copeland, a state 4-H youth development specialist, the scholarship committee receives more than 100 applications each year. Mary Jo Williams, also a state 4-H youth development specialist, said some families depend on scholarship money to facilitate the costs of college education.
“We do have those that really look toward the scholarships,” she said. “Every little bit counts.”
Chip Kemp, Youth Leadership Program director, agreed.
“The folks involved in this do it because it’s in them,” he said. “They do it because they love it. But most of your agricultural community could really use an extra boost from time to time.”
The state branch of the 4-H Foundation, headquartered at MU, is responsible for raising scholarship money and other funds for 4-H programs administered at the state level. The majority of donors are corporations or past 4-H participants. Orscheln Farm and Home stores funds 14 $1,000 scholarships annually, making it the largest private scholarship donor.
“Anywhere where we think there’s an opportunity, we try to identify program interest,” Henderson said. “Most donors are people who have been touched by the 4-H programs in the past, and they believe strongly in the program.”
Gallup said the monetary awards she has received are a bonus, not the compelling factor that drives her work with the organization.
“4-H gives you the leadership qualities, the responsibilities and all the new friends,” she said. “You get all that stuff, and then it’s like they’re giving you the money to be a leader.”
In addition to the Orscheln scholarship she won, Gallup received a $200 scholarship from the Boone County Extension Center, $500 for participating in her current elected position as state representative on Missouri’s 4-H Executive Committee and $100 for attending conferences.
Like many of her fellow 4-H graduates, Gallup will be helping out at the fair every day until its end. She sleeps above the 4-H building and volunteers in various capacities, including as an event judge.
Gallup will be a freshman at MU this fall, majoring in agricultural education.