MOKANE, Mo. — After 35 years of helping children learn and grow, 4-H volunteer Teresa Cullwell has been inducted into the Missouri 4-H Hall of Fame.
"You could've bowled me over with a feather," Culwell said Wednesday. "I couldn't believe anybody had been watching. It means a whole lot to me because I have worked so hard to help kids succeed, and to know that somebody has noticed is just a wonderful thing."
Culwell, a Mokane resident, was co-leader for the Guthrie 4-H clubs for many years. She has worked with several other clubs and currently volunteers with the Mighty Mokaners. She also has been a project leader for many 4-H projects and has helped plan 4-H horse shows at the country and regional levels. Her children and grandchildren are 4-H participants.
She said her father, uncle and aunt were all involved in 4-H.
"What else could I do?" Culwell said. "Of course I was going to follow in their footsteps."
She was a member of the Dixie 4-H club for 10 years and can still remember her first meeting.
"It was a campfire meeting," she recalled. "I can still remember looking up at (two of the leaders) I was truly influenced by. I had a blast during my 4-H years."
She said then-youth agent Rodney Garnett, then-extension agent Brad Friesz and then-extension homemaker Shirley Drinkard all helped her grow into the person she is today.
"When I was growing up, I had people around me who believed in me and helped me succeed, and I remember those people vividly," she said. "I have always wanted to do the same for someone else."
In her opinion, Culwell added, public schools are often too limiting. Participation in 4-H helps expand children's horizons and opportunities, she said.
"I'm forever saying I don't like to put lids on kids," Culwell said. "I like to recognize their strengths right along with them."
Culwell was among 50 people from 38 counties inducted Aug. 18 at State Fair Community College in Sedalia. In total, the inductees provided 1,318 years of service to 4-H. More than 250 family members and friends attended the event.
The Missouri 4-H Foundation recognizes individuals who have created a legacy of service to 4-H by honoring them with membership in the Missouri 4-H Hall of Fame.
"These leaders have made exceptional contributions to the lives of Missouri 4-H members, and we are proud to honor their service," advancement coordinator Chris Willow said.
The annual event is sponsored by FCS Financial and the Missouri State Fair in partnership with the Missouri 4-H Foundation.
"Our University of Missouri Extension 4-H youth faculty and staff work in partnership with our volunteers to see they have the support needed to empower youth to succeed as future leaders," said Alison Copeland, interim director of the MU Extension 4-H Center for Youth Development. "Dedicated faculty and staff, committed volunteers and spirited 4-Hers will continue to learn and grow together to help our youth and communities thrive."
As Culwell pointed out, this award is for the little man.
"I've rarely been the head of anything," she said. "I've just walked into the hole and made it happen."