2009 4-H Leader of the Year: John Ludwig!

John Ludwig, has been chosen as the 2009 Jefferson County 4-H Leader of the Year. John has been a volunteer 4-H leader for 5 years and heads the 4-H Olympic Peninsula Rocketry Club (OPROC), a free educational program for youth in Jefferson County. John is also completing his third year as President of the Jefferson County 4-H Leaders Council. Because of his genuine enthusiasm for rocketry and for kids, John has inspired more and more youth to join his club. OPROC started its first year with two eager teens, but that number has now grown into a solid group of 12.

John started building model kits when he was 10 or 11 years old. He built plastic car kits, military vehicles, mobiles of U.S. missiles and spacecraft. He was fascinated with science fiction and anything to do with space. He laughed, “My brother’s friends would buy models for him for his birthday and then I would help build them. We also enjoyed blowing them up on the 4th of July!”

John had the benefit of growing up in a family that valued working with their hands. His father, in particular, was exacting when it came to details. John remembered, “My dad created a building out of recycled materials. The concrete foundation had to be carefully shot with a transit to be perfectly aligned and level. From this experience and many more I learned a keen sense of detail and quality.”

Working with his hands on various projects was a constant source of satisfaction for John. He felt strongly that, “ You add your own personality to everything you build. I’m sure that if I looked at what I built then it wouldn’t be up to my standards now, but you have to start somewhere. I know it’s not a Steinway piano, but nothing is perfect - you set a standard and strive to do better next time. It was a stress reliever for me - there was no peer pressure to it - just competing with myself. “

After years away from rocketry while raising his family (along with wife, Bonnie), John watched a television show about model and high-powered rocketry. This rekindled his 30-years previous interest in model rocketry. He had to relearn everything he had forgotten. He started up again and by 2004 had 10 kids from his church learning the basics. By 2005 he became a 4-H rocketry leader.

Asked why he leads his 4-H club even though he has no children in the program, John shared, “The biggest benefit for the kids is the experience of building something with their own hands and getting that satisfaction. Once it’s built, you have to launch it and see it work. I love to see the sparkle in their eyes and the smiles after a successful rocket launch. It’s unbelievable how far you can go with it – the mathematics, scientific concepts, simple aerodynamics, principles of flight and design. Many of the astronauts today started out with model rockets in their youth. I always remind the kids to shoot for the moon, and even if you don’t make it you’ll be with the stars!”

Asked about the positive impact of 4-H, John replied, “A person without a dream ends up working for a person with one. Maybe in some small way I can give them some of the skills they can use in everyday life – time management, responsibility, team work, communication skills, simple electronics, working with paint, glue, wood, etc. They can pass it on to someone else. Pay it forward. Rocketry is the hook – it can create an openness to explore, spark one’s imagination to examine different possibilities in this world. ”

To join OPROC call John Ludwig at 385-0341 after 4 pm. To join 4-H or to become a 4-H leader, call Pamela Roberts, 4-H coordinator, at 379-5610 ext. 207 or go to http://4h.jefferson.wsu.edu.