Pictured at the Delaware 4-H Diamond Clover Award ceremony are (from left) Marian Harvey, representing the Delaware 4-H Foundation; Michelle S. Rodgers, associate dean in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of Cooperative Extension and outreach; award recipient Sarah Bell; and Mark Manno, Delaware 4-H program leader.

Diamond Clover Award

Seaford's Sarah Bell wins inaugural 4-H Diamond Clover Award

TEXT SIZE

10:11 a.m., Feb. 7, 2014--Delaware 4-H has announced that Sarah Bell of Seaford is the first recipient of the Delaware 4-H Diamond Clover Award, the highest honor a 4-H member can earn.

The 4-H Diamond Clover Award is Delaware 4-H’s formal acknowledgment of Bell’s achievement in making a significant difference in the community and state through her “Read to Success Delaware!” project, designed to combat illiteracy.

Honors Stories

Eminent engineer

The American Institute of Chemical Engineers has announced that it will honor UD Dean of Engineering Babatunde A. Ogunnaike with a 2014 MAC Eminent Chemical Engineers Award.

AAUW fellowship

Stephanie L. Kerschbaum, UD assistant professor of English, has been named a recipient of a 2014-15 American Association of University Women Postdoctoral Research Leave Fellowship.

Delaware 4-H has long acknowledged excellence with blue ribbons, trophies and project pins, and has awarded many scholarships to its 4-H members. However, as the largest youth program in the nation, 4-H did not have a signature capstone award to honor members who demonstrated extraordinary, sustained and focused service learning in their community.

Bell, it turns out, was Delaware 4-H’s diamond in the rough.

Before a crowd of adult 4-H volunteer leaders, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension and 4-H staff, family and friends, Bell, a member of the Stateline 4-H Club, was officially presented with the inaugural award on Feb. 1. 

“The Boy Scout Eagle is the gold standard of youth awards and it was used as the model for the Diamond Clover,” said Dan Tabler, a retired 4-H agent with a long career in Delaware, Maryland and West Virginia. “As with the Eagle, a very small number of members achieve this ultimate level of recognition.”

Tabler authored the concept and first suggested the Diamond Clover Award idea to his colleagues with Maryland 4-H, where it has become the premiere 4-H award.

To attain the Diamond Clover Award, a 4-H member must progress through several stages. Upon completion, each stage is marked with a gemstone award designation – amethyst, aquamarine, ruby, sapphire, emerald and diamond. “The sixth level requires the 4-H member to propose a major community service project that must be approved by a local Diamond Clover Committee and the state 4-H project leader,” said Tabler.

Tabler explained the process is completely voluntary, “but it is something that 4-H members choose to strive for.” At present, the Diamond Clover Award has been adopted in Maryland, Delaware and Nebraska, Tabler said. The Delaware 4-H Foundation sponsored the award for the First State.

At the ceremony, Delaware 4-H program leader Mark Manno described the award process as intense, noting that the final level will likely take more than one year to complete. “It is not a race, it is a journey,” Manno said.

After Bell’s presentation, Manno held up his index finger and acknowledged the power of one. “That’s one 4-H’er. There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of youth who are capable of making a difference like Sarah has made,” he said.

Manno told the audience that approximately 80 Delaware 4-H youth are presently working on one of the six levels toward a Diamond Clover Award.

Bell’s project

Bell selected childhood illiteracy as her sustained service-learning project after hearing a presentation from Read Aloud Delaware given at Sussex Tech High School, where she is a member of the Class of 2014. She titled her project “Read to Succeed Delaware!” and through exhaustive research discovered that one in five Delawareans are functionally illiterate.

Bell learned that illiteracy rates could be positively impacted if children are reached at a young age. Her examination of the issue also revealed that families with low income had few or no children’s books in the home, a significant contributor to illiteracy.

Bell conceived a plan to establish a means by which families could obtain free children’s books. She partnered with the Delaware State Service Centers, operated by Delaware’s Division of Health and Human Services. 

The centers help families in need with a variety of services. “I thought the idea was perfect. I contacted all the service center administrators in the state and all of them wanted literacy centers,” Bell said. “Their passion for helping people was evident.”

All 15 centers agreed to provide space and a table for reading and obtaining literacy resources. Bell then approached Read Aloud Delaware and pitched the idea to permanently sponsor the literacy centers. They were willing to help, Bell explained, on the condition that she first establish an initial supply of books to serve all 15 centers, as well as create or obtain literacy resources and displays for families visiting the centers.

Bell recruited a team of 12 young people and adults, and began the process of fundraising and establishing book drives throughout her community. Bell also took advantage of valuable contacts within her communities at Delaware 4-H, Delaware Girl Scouts and Gethsemane United Methodist Church. Bell credits them for giving her moral support, agreeing to serve as a book donation site, or donating books or the money to purchase them.

Bell put the donations to efficient use and became a book bargain hunter, finding suitable children’s books for as low as ten cents apiece at yard sales and thrift stores. Her church community led in donations for the approximately 3,000 books needed to get the literacy centers in operation. Read Aloud Delaware now oversees responsibility.

The 15 centers, along with new parents at the Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, now have access to bilingual materials that stress the importance of literacy and point to where literary resources are available.

In pursuit of the 4-H Diamond Clover Award, Bell soon realized her ultimate goal was less about the award, than it was about making a lasting difference. “It taught me that I can be capable of leading adults as well as youth, and that I can achieve things that I previously thought were beyond my abilities,” she said.

In addition to 4-H, Bell has received numerous recognitions in the Girl Scouts, is a 2014 recipient of the Jefferson Award for Public Service, and is active in her school and church organizations. 

Bell plans to one day become an elementary school teacher, saying, “I look forward to helping my students achieve high literacy levels so they can become successful learners, which will help them become successful adults.”

Click here to view Bell’s presentation at the award ceremony.

Article by Michele Walfred

Photo by William Campbell for Delaware 4-H

icon-fb icon-tw icon-yt icon-fs
ADVERTISEMENT

News Media Contact

University of Delaware
Office of Communications & Marketing
302-831-NEWS
ud-ocm@udel.edu

UDaily is produced by the
Office of Communications & Marketing

The Academy Building
105 East Main Street
University of Delaware
Newark, DE 19716 | USA
Phone: (302) 831-2792
email: ud-ocm@udel.edu
www.udel.edu/ocm
University of Delaware • Newark, DE 19716
ud-ocm@udel.edu • (302) 831-2792 • ©2012
University of Delaware • Newark, DE 19716 • USA • Phone: (302) 831-2792 • © 2013
Comments|Contact Us|Legal Notices