Judy Rath builds community in rural cattle country

Judy Rath builds community in rural cattle country

In observance of the Week of the Volunteer, Nebraska 4-H is proud to celebrate some of the 2023 Nebraska 4-H Volunteer Award Winners.

Judy Rath is receiving the Outstanding Adult Volunteer Award for Zone 2. Judy volunteers with the Thomas County 4-H program and was nominated by Tayler Rath.

Judy has served as the Thomas County 4-H Achievers Club leader for over ten years. In a rural community, Judy grew a small gathering into a successful club by organizing weekly meetings focused on various projects, such as STEM, animal science, woodworking, and welding. Judy also established a local FIRST LEGO League robotics team, the Central Sandhills MechTechs, that has won two regional tournaments and advanced to the state championships several times.

"What began as a small gathering in rural cattle country flourished into a successful program enabling youth to grow their knowledge, learn new skills they might have otherwise never known (as the nearest equivalent opportunity would have been hours away), and inspire them to reach for the stars," wrote Tayler. "Because of the dedication of Judith and her empowering belief in the youth of the community, dozens of kids aspiring to become our future ranchers, farmers, scientists, engineers, or anything they set their minds to, were able to pursue their dreams."

Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in Omaha, NE, and moved to Thedford, NE, when my sons were ages 2 and 3. I was a Stay at Home Mom/Rancher's Wife. I homeschooled my two sons throughout their school careers. My oldest needed challenging subjects in the school atmosphere, and my youngest had several medical needs. Homeschooling was a blessing to our family. As my sons came of age, they joined the local 4-H club, where they were able to find new friends and socialize with youth their age. After the first few years, we found ourselves without a 4-H Club Leader, so I volunteered.

What do you look forward to when you step into your volunteer role?

When I volunteer, I rely on my knowledge and experiences and how I can share those with others. With 4-H, volunteering gave me the chance to share all that I know and provide the youth in our small community with opportunities outside of the basics of public school. In teaching and sharing various subjects such as robotics, STEM, art, and animal husbandry, just to name a few, I gave our 4-Hers the chance to find their own path. In learning various different subjects and getting a hands-on experience, we provide 4-Hers with the chance to see what they like to do, to see what things touch their heart and soul, what they can do to have that positive effect on others, not only their peers but others that they may come in contact with.

What is your favorite memory as a 4-H volunteer?

My favorite memory as a 4-H volunteer was seeing all of the kids come together as a group, encouraging one another, whether it be at static exhibits for fair, robotics competition, or livestock showmanship, having a positive impact on one another that they will remember for the rest of their lives.

How have you helped youth find their spark through 4-H?

To find your spark, youth must have opportunities in various subjects so that they can find their true path, their purpose, that place where their heart goes to and a smile lights up their face. We have the ability to provide those opportunities with our experience and knowledge.