Published on 08/03/22

Georgia 4-H celebrates excellence at 79th annual 4-H State Congress in Atlanta

By Josie Smith
The Georgia 4-H State Congress event was held at Crowne Plaza at Ravinia in Atlanta, where the room is decorated with green lights, curtains, and 4-H flags surrounding tables of people.
The 79th annual 4-H State Congress, held July 19-22 at Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia, included the state-level Project Achievement and Leadership in Action contests and recognized youth development professionals, supporters and public officials for their contributions to the success of 4-H in Georgia. 

Last month, top 4-H’ers from around the state gathered in Atlanta to celebrate the 79th annual 4-H State Congress, an event packed with competition and recognition.

State Congress, which took place from July 19-22, includes the state-level Project Achievement and Leadership in Action contests and acknowledges youth development professionals, supporters and public officials for their contributions to the success of 4-H in Georgia. 

Students who place first at state-level competitions in Georgia 4-H earn the title of “Master 4-H’er.” During State Congress, 204 delegates competed in 50 Project Achievement areas and seven delegates competed in the Leadership in Action contest; one individual from each project area and two Leadership in Action competitors received Master 4-H’er status.

Project Achievement

More than 48,000 youth participated in Project Achievement this year through 4-H programs at the county level. This essential Georgia 4-H program element empowers young people with leadership, creativity, public speaking and record-keeping skills that will last a lifetime. At the high school level, students choose a project of interest from a list of areas that include agriculture, human development, performing arts, communication, engineering and workforce. They subsequently research the topic, create a detailed presentation, and participate in related community service and civic engagement activities. The State Congress competition also includes individual interviews with qualified professionals who engage with 4-H’ers about their project work.

To view a complete list of Project Achievement participants, visit

Leadership in Action

Venya Gunjal of Cobb County was inducted 2022-23 Georgia 4-H state president during Georgia 4-H State Congress.

The Leadership in Action competition calls for 4-H’ers to identify a community need and work to meet that need by planning and implementing original projects and initiatives. Competitors then prepare an application packet and participate in interviews at the district level. Seven finalists were chosen to be recognized and compete at State Congress. The 2022 Leadership in Action winners are Chanthony Andrews Jr. from Glynn County and Evelyn Day from Houston County.

Andrews hosted a "Sock-tober" drive to collect socks and other necessities for hundreds of people experiencing homelessness in Glynn County. Day partnered with FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security to educate pet owners nationwide about best practices for their pets during national disasters. Other finalists were Jaylee Kilgo from Bartow County, Lilly Ann Smith from Oconee County, Lilly Kate Farrar from Habersham County, Lydia Belfower from Bleckley County, and Rachel Wood from Morgan County.

Georgia 4-H awards

Georgia 4-H recognizes stakeholders who provide guidance and support to Georgia 4-H throughout the year at State Congress.

Courtney Brown, Extension specialist for 4-H healthy living programs, received the 2022 Ryles Rising Star Award. This award recognizes an outstanding 4-H staff member in the first five years of their employment for their contributions to the success of 4-H. Brown coordinates all the healthy living initiatives within Georgia 4-H and has improved effectiveness and efficiency in all the programs she oversees, including Cotton Boll and Consumer Judging and a myriad of food projects. She is dedicated to improving the lives of Georgia's youth and their families.

The Georgia Association of Educational Leaders (GAEL) received the 2022 Friend of 4-H Award. This award is presented annually to organizations or individuals that demonstrate outstanding support of Georgia 4-H with exemplary contributions towards the mission and vision of the program by the Georgia Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals (GAE4HYDP). GAEL supports Georgia 4-H through long-standing partnerships with educators that allow for in-school 4-H programming to continue as the cornerstone of the organization. Collaboration between GAEL and 4-H makes positive youth development possible for hundreds of thousands of Georgia 4-H’ers.

National 4-H Council Director Roger C. “Bo” Ryles presents Extension Specialist Courtney Brown with the Ryles Rising Star Award in front of the center lectern decorated with 4-H flags and flowers.
National 4-H Council Director Roger C. “Bo” Ryles presents UGA Extension Specialist Courtney Brown with the Ryles Rising Star Award.

Sheila Marchant, Jeff Davis County Extension coordinator (CEC) and 4-H agent, received the 2022 William H. Booth Award. This award is presented by Georgia EMC and recognizes 4-H agents who have outstanding career achievements and who have a strong commitment to community support. Marchant is dedicated to creating a safe and caring environment for youth to achieve their goals in Jeff Davis County. The other district finalists were Brittani K. Lee, Cobb County interim CEC and 4-H agent; Wanda McLocklin, Barrow County CEC and 4-H agent; and Crystal Perry, Sumter County 4-H agent. Each of these individuals provide admirable support and leadership to their county programs.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp received the 2022 Georgia 4-H Green Jacket Award. This prestigious award is presented to individuals who have shown outstanding, significant and ongoing statewide support to the program. The Kemps have been proponents of Georgia 4-H for decades, through legislative funding and hands-on programs such as the First Flock, tours, pet adoption days and activities for youth at the Governor’s Mansion. Governor Kemp served as the keynote speaker for the 2022 Georgia 4-H Day at the Capitol.

Leaders in the camping program and 4-H center leadership also received recognition during State Congress. Additionally, the 2022-23 Georgia 4-H Board of Directors were inducted into their positions of leadership. The 2021-22 Board of Directors were honored for their year of service. Georgia 4-H also recognized special event winners from the 2021-22 program year.

State Congress is made possible by generous contributions from organizations that support positive youth development in Georgia. Major sponsors include Georgia EMC, Harley Langdale Jr. Foundation, Inc., Premium Peanut, Georgia Power, Georgia 4-H Foundation, and Georgia Master 4-H Club

Georgia 4-H empowers youth to become true leaders by developing necessary life skills, positive relationships, and community awareness. As the largest youth leadership organization in the state, 4-H reaches more than 225,000 people annually through University of Georgia Cooperative Extension offices and 4-H facilities.

For more information about Georgia 4-H, contact your local UGA Extension office or visit

Josie Smith is the public relations coordinator for Georgia 4-H.