An Instant Spark
4-H inspires Dakota Gillig, a 14-year-old from Marshall County, to CREATE.
4-H has sparked an interest in Dakota Gillig’s life to use his welding skills to create. He has developed his own small welding business to provide metal creations to his community.
Dakota’s interest in welding started by watching his Dad, Jarrod, work on projects in his shop. He continually asking how he could help, so his Dad eventually taught him the first steps of welding at the age of ten. Dakota was instantly hooked.
That year, while living in Nebraska, he entered his first pieces in the welding project, which consisted of five straight bead welds and a decorative spoonflower. He received a red on this project and did not let the challenge of learning something new stop him from perfecting this art.
Dakota went from entering five beads to being able to complete projects that require extensive plans, techniques and time. This past year he received champion overall in the self-determined project with a decorative tractor and plow that he created. Each piece of this tractor was made out of scrap pieces that he had found and welded together. This piece serves as a flower pot and mailbox and welcomes each visitor at the beginning of their driveway.
“Now, I can say that I can weld better than my Grandpa and my Dad, and that is what they both say,” Dakota said.
Many of the skills that he has learned through this project are transferable to his everyday life. He says the most important skill that he has learned is how to extensively plan and execute a project and then be able to adjust when things do not go the right way.
Dakota finds these skills to be a foundation to other 4-H projects he is involved in. By being able to weld, he was able to create a stand to clip his goats on and a barn for his sister to keep her horses in.
“The most meaningful aspect of the project is being able to see your complete project and all the effort you put into it pay off,” Dakota said.
Welding is not just something that Dakota does for himself, he uses his skills to give back to his community as well. This year, he created metal spheres that served as centerpieces for a local FFA alumni event. He also donated his time by creating awards for a 5K race that took place in his community.
“I feel like I have inspired my community by people coming out and asking me if I would build something for them,” Dakota said. “I’m glad to see that they think of me.”
What started out being a hobby has now opened doors to a small business and career potential for Dakota. He recognizes that welders are a needed profession within the industry.
“I don’t really have to worry about getting a job, that much, because I have already created one,” Dakota said.
FROM MENTEE TO MENTOR: A KANSAS 4-H ALUMNA FEATURE
Dr. Kerri Day-Keller is a great example of a 4-H alumna who attributes much of her professional success to the life skills she gained as a 4-H member. Dr. Keller is the Executive Director of the Kansas State University Career Center. In this position, she provides leadership and management for Career Center employees as they facilitate career readiness for the entire K-State Community.
Dr. Keller was a 9-year 4-H member of the Neosho Valley 4-H Club in Morris County and a Key Award recipient. As a 4-H member, she enjoyed many projects including sewing and foods. One of her favorite projects was working with livestock. She fondly remembers the year she earned Grand Champion with her steer at the county fair. Dr. Keller used her cattle show earnings to help pay her way through college.
“The time and effort of getting up and doing chores in the morning, and taking care of my animals truly paid off,” said Keller.
One of the most valuable life skills she learned through 4-H was record keeping, which she believes strengthened her writing skills throughout her life. Dr. Keller still has her record books and holds them dearly as a reminder of all of her accomplishments in 4-H, the animals she showed, and the outfits she made.
She also valued learning Robert’s Rules of Order.
“Robert’s Rules of Order was never something I really thought about as a 4-H member, but as an adult, I use it frequently as a member of several nonprofit boards,” she said.
Dr. Keller has shown great leadership as a 4-H alumna and continues to use her 4-H skills to impact and mentor others.
“There were a lot of adult leaders, that really made a positive impression,” she said. “4-H really instilled in me a drive to achieve my goals. It helped me want to improve and be better in my pursuits.”
Now Kerri has a career helping others grow to achieve their dreams. The 4-H impact in her life has come full circle, from mentee to mentor.
WHAT DO 4-H MEMBERS GROW UP TO BE?
Entrepreneurs and Lawyers
Hear how 4-H led to success in a former member's career.
Q: How has 4-H impacted your professional career?
A: 4-H has had a positive impact on my career in many ways. To pick a few: I'm a more effective leader thanks to my experience at the club level as well as various county and state opportunities. I'm a better speaker after years of 4-H training. And I'm more equipped to handle professional demands having learned the benefits of planning and organization from aspects of every 4-H project.
Q: What life skills did you learn from 4-H that you use to this day?
A: As an entrepreneur and practicing lawyer, I use all kinds of skills that I developed in the 4-H program, such as public speaking, budgeting, project planning and organization, and even parliamentary procedure. More important, though, are the principles that underlie the entire 4-H program, such as good character, teamwork, and service to others.
Q: What club and county did you belong to?
A: I was a member of the Southwest 4-H Club in Pratt County.
Q: What was your favorite 4-H Project?
A: My favorite 4-H project was market beef. That will come as a surprise to my parents, who probably remember only my annual complaints about the work of caring for two steers and preparing for the county fair. But every year, those complaints disappeared into a feeling of real accomplishment at having nurtured and trained two 1,200-pound animals. The project teaches so many valuable life lessons and skills; it's a study in hard work and perseverance, the importance of presentation, and the value of help from family and friends. (A check in the mail with the proceeds of the livestock sale doesn't hurt, either...)
Q: What was the most impactful learning experience you had during your years as a 4-H member?
A: The most significant experience for me was not one moment in time, but instead was seeing the example set by adults who had participated in 4-H as children and gone on to serve as leaders, volunteers, and generous donors. My 4-H experience was made possible by a dedicated group of generous people who took a personal interest in my growth and development. Just like me, all 4-H'ers benefit from healthy, supportive relationships with adults who invest in them and are committed to their well-being. It's an incredible lesson in the power of community.
Q: If you could speak to a current 4-H member, what would you say to them?
A: Life will take unexpected twists and turns. Your career path likely will be very different from the one you envision. But the skills and lessons you're learning in 4-H are important and will stick with you no matter where you go. Pick projects you enjoy, form meaningful friendships, and most importantly, have fun!
Q: As an alumnus of Kansas 4-H, how do you stay involved and support Kansas 4-H? Would you recommend that other alumni should also stay involved and support Kansas 4-H? Why?
A: My wife, Erin, and I live in Chicago, Illinois with our son, Jack. Although we are not able to assist with Kansas 4-H programs in person, we support the 4-H Foundation through philanthropic gifts. We also recently had the opportunity to have lunch at Rock Springs 4-H Ranch, and the meatloaf is just as good as I remembered.