Maddie Ashburn - Giving Back; a Return on Investment

“As a young person, I think it’s important for us to get involved in our communities because the communities have invested a lot in us. I believe we should give back,” says Marion County High School senior Maddie Ashburn. The community means a lot to her and her family. She has grown up on a Marion County Century Farm that her father’s family has farmed for more than 100 years.

Her parents, Neal and Hope Ellis Ashburn, are both very involved in the community and have been since they were 4-H Club members in their youth. Naturally, Maddie, too, joined 4-H in fourth grade and began participating in the many contests and activities that have helped her develop the skills that have served her well in leadership roles at school, in the community and in 4-H.

Activities such as the Horse Judging and Horse Communication team competitions and serving as the Marion County July Beef Month chairman are natural fits for a teen growing up on a farm, caring for horses and Black Angus cattle. These experiences have taught her responsibility, respect and compassion for all living creatures. However, it is the 4-H Nutrition, Health and Fitness project that has taught her the healthy living skills that will enhance her quality of life for years to come.

The project, with its wide variety of activities, has also given her the opportunity to travel to Denver; Orlando, Florida; New Orleans; Atlanta; Washington, D.C.; and beyond for national competitions and conferences. She has also been awarded college scholarships in recognition of excellence in her project work, community service and leadership.

Ashburn has used the skills gained through her 4-H activities to improve the lives of others. As a 4-H Healthy Living ambassador and a member of the Marion County T-4 and Coordinated School Health Leadership teams, she has taught nutrition, fitness and healthy living classes at local summer day camps, school and community functions and 4-H Club meetings. She has carried the message of the harmful effects of tobacco use and the dangers of vaping to her peers and to local business and health professionals. She has met with state, regional and community leaders to ask for their support in promoting initiatives that encourage healthy lifestyles.

“I think my most rewarding experiences have been with the younger 4-H members,” said Ashburn, “I love helping out the fourth-grade participants who are just getting started with their projects and teaching them about the many opportunities available to them through 4-H if they stick with it.”

At school, Ashburn serves as vice president of the Beta Club, is a member of the high school volleyball team, participates in Fellowship of Christian Athletes and is a four-year member of the Student Council.

The leadership, public speaking, interview and interpersonal skills developed through 4-H and other community involvement were key to Ashburn’s selection as the Tennessee representative on the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Youth Leadership Council (YLC) last summer. On the youth council, she has traveled back to D.C. with delegates from 42 other states to participate in a leadership conference focused on teaching the electric cooperative business model and training the delegates to become youth ambassadors for electric cooperatives and the NRECA “Co-ops Vote” campaign. She also traveled to New Orleans to participate in the NRECA annual meeting where YLC members assisted with the opening ceremony and the business meeting.

“It was very interesting to hear what other co-ops around the country are doing and to see my YLC friends from across the country again,” said Ashburn. “I have made some great and lasting friendships through my Washington Youth Tour and YLC experiences.”

“Maddie is smart and goal-oriented,” said Vicki Lofty, Marion County Extension director. “She sets goals and works diligently to achieve them. She ranks among the top of all the 4-H’ers I have worked with in my 30-plus years as an Extension agent. I am very confident she will be successful in college and in her career.”

Maddie’s career goals include attending the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, majoring in animal science, then going on to become a large-animal veterinarian.

“I don’t know exactly where my career will take me, but I would like to come back home to practice,” she said. “There just aren’t very many large-animal vets out there anymore, and there is a need I can fill.”

SVEC is proud to honor this young community leader.