We ended the last 4-H year this week with the project competition of 250 of the top 4-H'ers in the state, including four from Newton County.
While each of the 4-H'ers was nervously focused on the announcement of winners at State 4-H Congress, I have to admit, I wasn't nervous at all.
By Wednesday night as we gathered in the Crystal Pistol at Six Flags, to me the ribbons meant little when I already knew that each of our 4-H'ers had done their personal best.
The butterflies in my stomach hit their peak earlier in the morning when each presented a demonstration and marched off to portfolio interviews.
At 8:30 a.m., the first 4-H'er was Ken Galloway in the computers project.
Ken graduated from Eastside and will attend Georgia Perimeter. He has been a 4-H'er since the fifth grade.
Five years ago, Ken's project was a basic overview of Microsoft Office with nearly every word of the speech on his slides.
He changed his project to geographic information systems, and today he can tell you how our GIS department is preserving water quality for future generations.
Ken earned third place out of the top five competitors in the state.
By 10 a.m., I was in the food safety and preservation project with Cati Aevaliotis, a rising senior at Alcovy High School.
The competition was incredible, but so was Cati with her demonstration on dehydration methods for apples.
Cati has also been a 4-H'er since the fifth grade, and five years ago, she competed in a food preparation project where she presented no speech.
Since then, Cati has built her public speaking skills until I felt like I was watching a live cooking show as she confidently cored, peeled and sliced while telling tips and tricks to fill time.
Cati finished fourth in the state, but it was knowing that the project I witnessed Wednesday was her best ever that left me proudly blinking back tears.
Power and Energy came next, with rising home-school sophomore Will Holder competing.
His project on nuclear radiation always leaves me wishing I'd had science professors who could explain things as well.
With the advice of Senior Research Scientist April Carman of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Will made his
demonstration even better in his second year of 4-H and handily scored first in the state on demonstration.
He placed second overall with his portfolio score.
Half of each youth's score is project, while the other half reflects a year's work in their project, leadership and community service through the 4-H portfolio.
As soon as Will finished, I dashed across the hall to the general recreation project.
Flannery Peay is a rising sophomore and home-school student who joined 4-H four years ago.
While she has performed on stage for years, her first public speaking opportunity came just two years ago with project achievement.
Her incredible level of research shows as she explains the ins and outs of the Pointe shoe, and it helped her win a sweepstakes invitation to State 4-H Congress as the second place winner in a large project at district.
Her goal was to increase her delivery score with eye contact and a confident delivery, and for a fourth time that day I was fighting tears as she nailed the project with a smile on her face.
The demonstration placed second out of six projects, for an overall finish of fourth place in the state in general recreation.
Even knowing they each did their personal best, I know falling short of first can be a letdown.
But as Will said as he returned to his seat, "Yes, I can come back next year!"
Thursday night, we wrapped up the 4-H year with the annual banquet, which I like to call the prom of 4-H.
In a room of a thousand well-dressed 4-H'ers and supporters, four young people from Newton County stole the spotlight in my eyes in their bow ties and long gowns.
They were already making plans for next years' District Project Achievement, but this week I know they made the best better.
Terri Kimble is the Newton County 4-H Agent through UGA Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at (770) 784-2010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.