RUSSELLVILLE, Mo. — MacKenzie Loesch is a dedicated agricultural student, and she has received the appointments to prove it. It may not be too long before she is on the other side of the desk as an agricultural instructor.
The Russellville 18-year-old is on her second term as the Missouri State 4-H Council as the executive secretary, a valued position in the youth organization in which youth participate in hands-on activities that teach them about health, science, agriculture and citizenship.
Loesch also has earned the State FFA Degree, an honor very few Missouri FFA participants are elected to receive. It required at least two years of agricultural high school education, demonstrated leadership abilities, outstanding participation in chapter activities, good grades and at least 25 hours of community service, among other requirements.
Loesch grew up outside Russellville with her parents, Mike and Janice Loesch, on a 178-acre cow and calf farm, where they also raise soybeans and golden harvest corn.
She started in 4-H as a shy 8-year-old who often silently sat in the back of the room. But, other children and instructors didn't let her stay that way for long.
She quickly made new friends at meetings. She also learned to greatly enjoy projects like horse riding, goat showing and the cured country ham contest.
But, the most rewarding aspects of 4-H have been working with younger members and performing community service projects.
"My favorite part is giving back to the community with what the community has done for me," Loesch said. "Everyone has really supported me in getting where I am today. I want to go in and do my best, and say thank you to the community for pushing me to do my best and be able to serve on the Missouri State 4-H Council."
Loesch had so much fun in 4-H that at age 16, she decided to apply for the Missouri State 4-H Council, a process that involved writing a three-minute speech about why she wanted to be on the council. Her passion and dedication shined through in the speech and soon after, she was accepted onto the council.
"I was really excited," Loesch said.
As a council member, Loesch gets to represent her chapter on the state level and to help plan several 4-H events, such as the 4-H Teen Conference, 4-H Congress and various workshops.
"It opened my eyes a whole lot to what Missouri 4-H does," she said.
She also greatly enjoys participating in the Missouri State Fair's 4-H programs.
"We get to work in the 4-H building with the kids and get to go out and talk to people about what 4-H does and how it affects our lives, which is a huge honor," she said.
As this year's executive secretary, Loesch records the trimonthly meetings, keeping the minutes on council discussion and vote counts. She said her role in the council allows for valuable experience in how to operate in a professional environment and helps her prepare for college.
As a second-year council member, she also guides some of the newer participants.
"Since I have a lot of experience, where the other kids don't, we can also give input on their ideas and guide them toward the right path," she said.
In the future, Loesch intends to go into agricultural education. She gained an affinity for teaching, while completing her FFA supervised agricultural experience. She started the project showing horses, then transitioned to showing goats, but was disappointed with the amount of money she was earning.
Her agricultural adviser suggested she try teaching children about agriculture, and Loesch realized she loved being an educator.
"I teach different stuff about agriculture, like why snow is important, why we need to till soil, what animals are important to the industry and stuff like that," she said. "It's an unpaid experience, but it went toward my State Degree."
Her former agriculture teacher agrees she could make a great educator someday.
"MacKenzie Loesch has been a great student and officer for the Russellville FFA," agricultural instructor Nathan Strobel said. "We were excited to hear of her plans to be a part of agricultural education. She will be a wonderful addition to the field."
Loesch intends to attend State Fair Community College to complete her general education requirements using her A+ Scholarship before transferring to Northwest Missouri University, Maryville, to continue a degree in agricultural education.
Loesch said participating in 4-H and FFA will greatly assist her as an agricultural instructor.
"They've taught me teamwork, communicating, sportsmanship and to always be your best, no matter what happens," she said. "It's really helped me blossom, because I was always that shy kid, and when I got into these events, it started to open me up to the different opportunities," she said.